Braveheart gets his arms back, salutes the tricolour after 12 years

Jan 26, 2014, 07:55 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Rifleman Jigmet Orgyan, who lost both his arms and vision in a landmine explosion in 2002 gets to salute the Indian flag once again on the eve of Republic Day after getting fitted with imported prosthetic limbs

Today is a red-letter day in rifleman Jigmet Orgyan’s life. The 35-year-old former Indian army rifleman will wake up in Ladakh and walk down to a Republic Day function in his town to salute the national flag. He won’t be able to see the flag. He’s completely blind now. But he says just the fact that he will be able to salute the flag again, makes him very happy. For Orgyan has just got his two hands back — 12 years after he lost both his limbs in a horrific landmine explosion as he prepared to fight for his country’s honour near the Indo-Pak border.

Jigmet Orgyan saluting the tricolour in Ladakh. Now, he works as a psychological counsellor

Speaking to Sunday Mid Day over the telephone from Ladakh, the former armyman said back then in 2002 he often thought death would be better than his condition — he had lost his eyesight and his arms in the blast as he was laying the mines during Operation Parakram — a massive military build up by the Indian army on the Indo-Pak border in retaliation against the cowardly terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.

Jigmet Orgyan
Former rifleman, Jigmet Orgyan had special German prosthetic limbs fitted recently. He can now use his hands for basic chores

An emotional Orgyan said, “I never thought I would be able to salute the tricolour again after I lost my arms. But these imported limbs have made it possible. Though I have lost my vision permanently, I could still visualise the flag fluttering high in the sky, as I raised my hands to salute the national flag.”

The Army and Care India undertook the fitting of the prosthetic limbs for Jigmet Orgyan
The Army and Care India undertook the fitting of the prosthetic limbs for Jigmet Orgyan

Black day in 2002
As part of various operations being undertaken by the Indian Armed Forces, there was a preparatory operation, which dealt with extensive mine laying near the Indo-Pak border. “A platoon of brave hearts from the Ladakh Scouts (also called Ladakh Tigers), were laying anti-personnel mines ahead of our own defences to prepare for an intricate battle plan. I was one amongst them,” he recalls.

On that fateful day of November 1, 2002, as Orgyan crawled quietly to lay anti-personnel mines, a loud explosion shattered the eerie calm of Partapur in the Siachen sector. The mine, which Orgyan had been laying, detonated accidentally and its fragments tore into his eyes and arms. Notwithstanding the grievous and debilitating injury, rifleman Orgyan crawled back to his post.

“A series of painful surgeries and rehabilitative measures followed. The explosion had changed Orgyan’s life forever as his eyes were beyond corrective surgery and both his arms had to be amputated below the elbows. However, he did not lose heart and continued to fight the odds,” recalled a senior army officer from the military base in Ladakh.

A series of prosthetic limb fitment procedures, including those by Army and Care India, were undertaken to improve the condition of his amputated arms. “He has since been adopted by the Ladakh Scouts Regimental Centre where he resides post his retirement from the Army in 2007. He will remain an integral part of the regiment centre,” said Colonel Sujeet Patil, Commandant, Ladakh Scouts.

“A follower of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Orgyan has also turned to meditation and spirituality and has now emerged as a pillar of strength for Ladakh Scouts. Orgyan is respected for his discourses and troops of all ranks and ages, serving in operational areas, flock to him for advice and psychological counselling,” said Colonel Patil.

Why me
Orgyan recalls he was unaware of his disability for the first few months after the accident, but the day when he learnt about it, he wanted to die. “A man without vision and arms is nothing more than a vegetable. I would always ask ‘Why me’? It was only after I started learning about spiritualism from the followers of Dalai Lama that I found the answer,” said Orgyan. “Today when injured soldiers meet me and listen to my experiences, they return with a ray of hope. ” he adds.

On January 15, 2014, when the country celebrated Army Day, he was awarded a certificate of appreciation by the Army Commander, Northern Command.

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