After 45 years, armyman cremated in Haryana village

Rewari (Haryana), Sep 4 (IANS) Over 45 years after he died in an air crash in Himachal Pradesh, armyman Jagmal Singh was cremated with full military honours in his village Meerpur of Rewari district Wednesday.

Jagmal Singh, a havaldar with the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME), perished in the snowy heights of Dakka Glacier in the Chandrabhaga ranges of Lahaul and Spiti region in Himachal Pradesh in 1968.

His mortal remains, recovered Aug 22, were flown to Chandimandir Cantonment, near Chandigarh, aboard an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter Tuesday.

Hundreds of villagers turned out for the last journey as his body was brought to his house and taken in a procession to the cremation ground. Amid the beating of drums, slogans rent the air. People threw colour in the air to celebrate the recovery of the body.

Singh was 28 years old when he died. His son, Ramchander, 52, lit the pyre.

An army rescue expedition recovered the mortal remains last week. However, the body could not be transported back from the Dhakka Glacier earlier due to inclement weather.

"True to its commitment of recovering the mortal remains and giving the long lost soldier a befitting farewell, the Indian Army ensured the mortal remains reached Manali by road from where tghe body was transported by an Indian Air Force helicopter," a defence spokesman said in Chandigarh, 300 km from here.

A total of 98 army personnel and four crew members were killed when an Indian Air Force AN-12 aircraft crashed on the 17,400-feet high Dhakka Glacier in the Chandrabhaga ranges of Lahaul and Spiti district Feb 7, 1968.

Despite three search missions till 2009, only four bodies could be recovered.

An identity disk, an insurance policy and a letter from his family retrieved from Jagmal Singh's pocket helped identify him, an army statement said.

The ill-fated aircraft had taken off from Chandigarh for Leh.

Halfway, Flt.Lt. H.K. Singh decided to pilot the plane back due to the inclement weather over Jammu and Kashmir.

The last radio contact was near the Rohtang Pass and thereafter the aircraft disappeared.

The disappearance remained a mystery until 2003 when an expedition team accidentally discovered the debris at the Dhakka Glacier.

The Indian Army Aug 16 this year embarked on another expedition to try and locate the mortal remains of its fallen comrades as also to recover the flight data recorder (black box).

The expedition of the Dogra Scouts of the Western Command comprised the finest mountaineers of the country, including an Everester.

"The glacier where the operations are underway lies at an altitude of approximately 17,000-18,000 feet, is avalanche-prone and dotted with innumerable crevices. The site itself is at an 80 degree gradient from the base camp," the statement said.

The high-velocity winds and sub-zero temperatures restrict the search window to about 15-20 days a year and that too only for a few hours during the day. The team braving all odds and in the face of extremely hostile weather conditions continued its mission till Aug 30, it added.

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