Jammu, Aug. 5 (AFP): Thirty-five years after Beli Ram, a soldier, went missing after a plane crash in the Himalayas, his body has been found.
Mountaineers found the body and the aircraft wreckage late last month in the sprawling Lahaul Valley of Himachal Pradesh.
Ram had joined the army in 1963 as a non-ranking soldier. He and four of his colleagues were on their way to deliver rations to troops in Ladakh when their plane crashed in early 1968.
Documents found on the partially preserved body, still clothed in an overcoat uniform, helped establish Ram’s identity.
Tando Devi, Ram’s mother, was heartbroken. She had hoped for his return all these years despite relatives performing his last rites soon after the disappearance. “Even after performing the last rites, I kept waiting for him,” said Tando Devi, who is now 82. She lives in a migrant camp in Devipur, 45 km west of Jammu.
“When more years passed, I waited, at least, for his remains so that fresh rites could be performed,” the mother said.
Giano Devi, Ram’s wife who was married off to his younger brother two years after the disappearance, broke down on getting the news. She said the family was “grateful to the trekkers for having found the body of our dear one”. Like her mother-in-law, Giano, 55, had hoped that Ram would “either return to his home or his body will be found”.
For a family put up in a tented accommodation with thousands of others, the news of the recovery of the body was the best it had received in a long time.
Tando and her family had abandoned their house in Pallanwala, 65 km west of Jammu, to escape the heavy cross-border shelling by Pakistan. Unlike many who chose to return to the unpredictable zone, they have stayed put in the migrant camp for fear of resumption of shelling.
“Beli Ram’s death was the most tragic incident in my life. We faced it and we thought God wanted him in heaven. But we have not come out of the miseries we have faced in the migrant camp for the last four years,” the mother said.
Two of Ram’s relatives and a former colleague have approached the army authorities in Jammu for help to bring the body to Devipur. Colonel Bhanwar Rathore, an army spokesperson, said: “We have taken up the matter with the authorities concerned and the remains of Beli Ram will be delivered to his mother.”
Overwhelmed by a flood of visitors after the news spread through the camp, Tando hoped for respite from the hardships of “this tented colony where basic amenities are missing”.