Siliguri: A pall of gloom descended at the Indian Army’s 158 Base Hospital at Bengdubi near the Bagdogra airport on the outskirts of Siliguri on Saturday morning.
Hundreds of people, including family members of nearly a half dozen army personnel who lost their lives in a landslide that hit the under-construction Tupul railway station yard in Noney district of Manipur early on June 30, were flown to Bagdogra in a special Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft.
The caskets containing the mortal remains of the army personnel were wrapped in Tricolour and brought in army vehicles from the airport to the Base hospital.
The deceased Bravehearts from the region belonged to different regiments of the Indian Army, including Gorkha Rifles –including 2/1 5/9 and 2/1 Gorkha Rifles—the 18, and 19 Dogra Regiments, Assam Rifles, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles as well the Rajasthan Rifles, army sources said.
Senior army commanders from the Indian Army’s 33Corps Headquarters in Sukhna and former Gorkha soldiers paid full honours to the departed soldiers, and then their mortal remains were handed to their family members.
According to Indian Army veterans from the region, this was possibly the highest peacetime casualty from the region.
“This is possibly the highest peacetime casualty from the region,” said a former secretary of the Darjeeling Zila Sainik Board Col (retd) Keshab Rai.
Most victims were attached to the 107 Indian Territorial Army (ITA) on duty at the under-construction railway station yard. They were asleep when the landslide struck.
The number of casualties could be higher as more than a dozen soldiers from the region posted at the ITA camp on that fateful night, are still missing, the former Gorkha soldier said.
Though the army has released a list of 11 names that were to reach Bagdogra on July 2, 2022. At the time of filing this report, the mortal remains of six soldiers were flown into Bagdogra.
Unofficial and unconfirmed reports said that “first-hand reports gathered from the ground suggest that at least 14 people from the region, including Darjeeling hills, Bengal Dooars, Terai, and Sikkim have been confirmed to have died in the mishap.”
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) chief Anit Thapa, who won the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Sabha election, results for which were announced on June 29, 2022, decided to postpone the oath-taking ceremony as a mark of respect to the departed soldiers from the region.
The BGPM chief also instructed party supporters not to organise or hold any victory rallies or celebrations, saying that “It was not a time to celebrate but a time to mourn the death of our Bravehearts.”
Army sources said the family members of the victims were informed about the tragedy by Friday evening.
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