On 15 August, HQ Northern Command of the Indian Army disclosed that they have recovered the mortal remains of Lance Naik Chander Shekhar who had been missing since 29 May 1984. The Army shared a video of soldiers in all white walking through the snow-clad mountain holding onto a rope. The Army said that Chander Shekhar had been missing since 1984 when he had been deployed for ‘Operation Meghdoot’ at Gyanogla Glacier in Siachen. The Indian Army found the army tags of the late soldier which helped them identify the body.
A patrol of #IndianArmy recovered the mortal remains of LNk (Late) Chander Shekhar who was missing since 29 May 1984 while deployed at #Glacier due to an #Avalanche.@adgpi@DefenceMinIndia@IAF_MCC@easterncomd@westerncomd_IA @IaSouthern @SWComd_IA @artrac_ia pic.twitter.com/NJybIHYdfI
— NORTHERN COMMAND – INDIAN ARMY (@NorthernComd_IA) August 15, 2022
Operation Meghdoot: 1984
Operation Meghdoot is an ongoing operation along the North-Western Border region of India in high altitude area of Siachen Glacier, ranging above 21000 feet. Launched on 13 April 1984, this unique military operation was the first assault launched on the world’s highest battlefield. The military action resulted in Indian troops gaining control of the strategically located Siachen Glacier. It’s considered a feat unparalleled in the history of high-altitude warfare where soldiers of the Indian Army and Air Force operate under the most adverse weather conditions with sub-zero temperatures of minus 500C.
Saga of ‘The Gallants of Gyongla’
19 Kumaon, as a part of 15 Corps, was located at Khrew near Srinagar. Tasked in February 1984 to move for Operation Meghdoot on Siachen Glacier the entire battalion was to move 630 km on foot across the Zojilla Pass to the Siachen Glacier. Having achieved the task successfully and without any casualties, the battalion was poised at the base camp for further operational orders.
Subsequent to the launching of Operation Meghdoot on 13 April 1984 the battalion was tasked to carry out extensive reconnaissance of the Gyongla Glacier to ensure no interference from Pakistan onto the Northern Glacier from the western axis. On 19 May 1984, the Commander 36 Sector landed at the battalion headquarters and directed that the Ridgeline on the Saltoro Ridge was to be occupied by the battalion owing to enemy movement as observed and confirmed by aerial reconnaissance. The patrol under 2/Lt. PS Poondir with 17 other ranks was tasked to ascend to the Ridgeline on the Gyongla. The patrol left on 27th May 1984 and went out of communication on 29 May 1984. It was later learned that the entire patrol was buried under a massive avalanche. Immediate rescue operations were conducted by the battalion however no survivors were found from the avalanche site that extended approximately over 2 km.
Most of the bodies in the avalanche were recovered and accounted for before the battalion’s de-induction from Siachen Glacier. The body of Lance Naik Chander Shekhar not being one of them.
19 Kumaon, the first battalion to have been inducted on the Glacier, had the unenviable task of operating on the Gyongla Glacier Left, an unfamiliar terrain to any army troops before them.
Gyongla remains snow-covered around the year due to extreme conditions with the mercury levels dropping to -50 to -70 degrees celsius coupled with high-velocity winds, blizzards, and white-out conditions on a terrain full of crevices and icicles. It was in such conditions that the patrol stepped out, never to return again, as the Kumaonis fulfilled their vows regardless of the severity of the weather conditions.
On 12th August 2022 the mortal remains of Lance Naik Chander Shekhar were recovered by a patrol operating in the area. Wounds of family, friends and comrades reopened after 28 years bringing little comfort; the only solace being a heart-breaking chapter as yet open, now brought to close.
‘Lance Naik Chander Shekhar your courage in combat on those icy slopes, unparalleled collective valor and unshakable determination to fight the weather, enemy, inhospitable and barely accessible terrain will always be remembered as a pioneering step in the history of warfare.’
A final goodbye with full military honours and an entire Nation reaching out to the families of Chander and all those whom we lost along with him, that day. Your Gallantry Will Forever Be Remembered.
‘The Gallants of Gyongla’
A rich tribute paid by the Indian Army.