Tearful farewell to soldiers who died in Siachen

Andhra Pradesh: A tearful final farewell was given on Tuesday to four soldiers from Tamil Nadu, two from Karnataka and one from Andhra Pradesh who were buried alive in an avalanche on the hostile Siachen glacier on February 3.

All of them belonged to the Madras Regiment and their last rites were performed with full military honours. The bodies of Havildar M. Elumalai, Sepoy G. Ganesan, Sepoy N. Ramamurthy and Lance Havildar S. Kumar were brought to Chennai on Monday night and later taken to their native places.

Elumalai was laid to rest with full military honours in Adukumparai village in Vellore district. Ganesan was cremated in his native village Chokkathevanpatti in Madurai district, while Kumar was laid to rest in his home village in Theni district, while the last rites of Ramamurthy were performed in Krishnagiri district.

The Tamil Nadu government announced a solatium of Rs.10 lakh each to their families. In Andhra Pradesh, Sepoy Mustaq Ahmed waslaid to rest with full military honours in his native village in Kurnool district. A pall of gloom descended on Parnapalle village in Bandi Atmakur mandal of Kurnool as people bid tearful adieu to the soldier.

Military, police and civil officials and politicians paid their last respects to Mushtaq, who was buried at a village graveyard. Andhra Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister K.E. Krishna Murthy and YSR Congress party chief Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy were among those who attended the last rites.

The deputy chief minister later presented a cheque of Rs.25 lakh to the family of deceased soldier. The body of Mustaq reached the village late Monday night from Hyderabad, where it was brought from New Delhi on Monday by a special aircraft of Indian Air Force (IAF). Mustaq, 30, is survived by his wife and aged parents, according to a defence statement.

He had enrolled in the 19th Battalion the Madras Regiment in 2004 and served as part of his battalion in counter insurgency operations in the North East and in Jammu and Kashmir. He had also served in the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) force in Jammu and Kashmir. A keen sportsman, Mustaq volunteered to be part of one of the most crucial posts in the icy Siachen Glacier.

In Karnataka, hundreds of people paid homage to two more victims from the state as they were laid to rest with state honours in Mysuru and Hassan districts on Tuesday. Sepoy P.N. Mahesha of H.D. Kote in Mysuru district and Subedar T.T. Nagesha of Tejuru in Hassan district were given a 21-gun salute to the sound of bugles before their bodies were buried at their native places.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who hails from Mysuru district, laid a wreath on the flower-decked casket of Mahesha and consoled his bereaved family. "The chief minister has assured Mahesha's family of compensation, free farm land and a government job to one of its members soon," an official told IANS.

Home Minister G. Parameshwara was present at Nagesha's last rites amid heart-rending scenes as his family was inconsolable. A junior commissioned officer (JCO) and nine other ranks (ORs) were buried under nearly 30 feet of ice and snow when the avalanche hit the Sonam Post on the Siachen glacier at an altitude of around 20,000 feet.

Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad was the only one found alive even though he was trapped under the snow for about six days. He succumbed to multi-organ failure at the Army Hospital Research and Referral in New Delhi last Thursday. Koppad was cremated in his home town in Karnataka on Friday.

The bodies of the remaining nine soldiers were retrieved a week after the tragedy, and flown into New Delhi from the frontier Ladakh region on Monday. The mortal remains were later flown in IAF planes to Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Madurai, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, for sending them to the native villages of the deceased soldiers.

The other soldiers were Lance Naik Sudheesh B. of village Monroethuruth in Kerala's Kollam district and Sepoy (nursing assistant) Suryawanshi S.V. of village Maskarwadi in Maharashtra's Satara district.

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