Tawang chopper crash: If anyone is to be blamed of insensitivity, it's those who published video of soldiers' bodies

Let’s not be so hurtful. It is easy to judge people in dicey places on an inhospitable terrain and the things they have to do to survive. To accomplish an often grisly task of salvaging human remains is made much more difficult by the lack of resources.

Aircraft do not prang at our convenience and coffins and flags are not commodities that can be accessed and used on the site. There are no stores or warehouses or shops where you can buy the right stuff.

The first priority is to secure the area of the accident and the bodies and personal effects of those who have perished.

File image of bodies of soldiers' released by the Indian Army. Image courtesy: Twitter@ADGPI

File image of bodies of soldiers' released by the Indian Army. Image courtesy: Twitter@ADGPI

Contrary to popular opinion, human beings can be savage and if one has covered air safety for three decades like this writer has, one would have witnessed looting of the dead and dishonouring of bodies by civilians.

To get the seven unfortunate soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash in Tawang to the nearest base, or to a place where they can be given due reverence, calls for on the spot ingenuity. You do not have the luxury of options. If anyone has done a disfavour to the memory of the seven soldiers, it's the individuals who thought it appropriate to invade the privacy of the dead and try and make media capital out of it. Why take this video in the first place?

Not just that, look at the agony and pain that it caused to the loved ones of the seven soldiers. You really think that you are being salutary in watching the rescue operations that your comrades are doing in the best way possible to get their fallen colleagues to a place where they can truly mourn them. And tet you exploit it for cheap publicity.

Since the morbid fascination for kicking up righteous dust is so marketable, why did Firstpost not carry the video? What was the thought process that prevented its editors from being carelessly ghoulish and running the video? Because they felt it wasn’t done. There has to be restraint, and macabre isn’t always the norm. There is a decorum.

Sitting in the comfort of our homes, it is no hassle to whine and moan at the 'indignity' meted to these men by wrapping their bodies in plastic sacks and tying them up in cardboard. But that a former army commander thought it appropriate to comment adversely upon it was perhaps the most horrendous aspect of it all.

Do you really think, General HS Panag, that soldiers with a malafide intent took the shattered remains of these comrades into their arms, extricated them from tortured metal and then said: 'Oh! Let’s wrap them up in plastic because we don’t give a damn, do we?' You are a former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command, do you believe that men in uniform would be so callous? Who better to feel the loss of soldiers than another soldier?

If a three-star General can talk such rubbish, it only means that the services are now so knee-jerk in their dismay of being 'treated badly' by politicians and civilian street bureaucracy that even if they have to fire the gun from one of their own to underscore their sense of injury, they will do it.

We are so uncharitable now and the schisms so deep that outrage rules the mind.

Salute the fallen and leave them be.

I recall so vividly going out to the sea to rescue the bodies of the passengers of Air India flight 855, a 747, off Bandra on New Year’s Day in 1978. Imbued with the arrogance of youth, I okayed the carrying of pictures of the bodies stored like logs of wood on the deck.

I received a letter from a relative asking me how I sleep well at night after being so insensitive and thoughtless. He asked me how I would feel if that stack had someone I knew. Fifty years later, I still wake up in a cold sweat.

I was young and stupid, General. You have three stars. What's your excuse?

Updated Date: Oct 10, 2017 22:55 PM

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