It is a story of an Air Force Officer who died in an air crash.
| WAITING FOR MISSING SON|
From 2002 to 2010 till my retirement on 30 November 2010, I worked in Air Headquarters, Ministry of Defence. I was a Section Officer and handling with family pension cases of Air Force Officers.
A 21 years old boy Dahiya joined flying branch of Indian Air Force as flying officer. After undergoing various rigorous training of flying aircrafts he was posted at Tejpur ( Assam). A youngster having aspiration to go high in Air Force, Dahiya was one of the selected flying Officer. All his seniors had a very high opinion about him. Really he was a cream officer of Indian Air Force.
It is an incident of 1990 when he along with a Squadron Leader took off from Tejpur air base in a mig-21 fighter aircraft as a routine flight. After few minutes fighter aircraft crashed in the forest about 200 kms from air base. In Assam around Tejpur, there are miles together dense muddy forest due to heavy rains through out the year. Their last message to Air Traffic Control was “ aircraft is out of control and going to crash in the forest”. After few seconds communication cut off. A search party having best AF Officers along with two aircrafts mounted with very high sensitive cameras flown to the accident site. After hours of best efforts, their search proved futile as there were dense forest. Neither the remains of crashed aircraft nor bodies of the Officers were located. The search drill continued for more than a week and ultimately two officers and the aircraft were declared missing.
Accordingly parents of Flying Officer Dahiya and family of other officer were informed about the tragic incident. Dahiya’s father and mother both were teacher in Delhi. They were having two children son and a daughter. Flying Officer Dahiya was three years older than his sister. When parents of Dahiya received message, It was a severe blow on their heart. Parents who were dreaming for happy and prosperous life for their son as an Air Force Officer were totally shattered. The condition of Dahiya’s mother was very critical and fell unconscious for hours together. By that time all relatives and friends gathered at their residence to sum them up.
Next day parents of Dahiya along with some of their relatives reached my office. Being defence office, no visitors were allowed to enter in the office hence I went to reception to receive them. After completing all official formalities, I took them to my Principal Director’s office who was an Air Commodore equivalent to a Brigadier in the Army. Dhiya’s mother Shashi was sobbing and her condition was still very alarming. It was very difficult to console a mother whose young son is no more.
They were made to sit in my Principal Director’s office and he started narrating the whole incident to them. In between Shashi mother of Dahiya screamed “ don’t say my son is dead he is still alive and will come back in a day or two”. My Principal Director told them that Indian Air Force is still trying their best to locate the aircraft and the officers. Trust in God our efforts will be fruitful. After briefing, the parents and relatives of Flying Officer Dahiya left.
It was a mourning atmosphere in my office and everyone looked very sad. In the afternoon my Principal Director called me and asked me to process a case for some interim financial help to parents of Dahiya. Same day I prepared case and forwarded to the Personnel Branch of Air Headquarters.
It is Armed Forces rules that a missing person is considered presumed dead after three years of incident. So other death benefits for Dahiya’s parents were not processed being not a confirmed death case.
Since I was the case dealing officer, I used to receive call almost every day from father of Dahiya Mr Dharam Pal. All the time he asked only one question “ is there any where about of my son?”. “ What is further development towards search of my son?”.
One day I rang up to Dahiya’s father shri Dharam Pal to collect a cheque of initial financial help. By chance My Dharam Pal was not at home and the receiver was picked up by Shashi Mother of Flying Officer Dahiya. When I told her that I am from Air Headquarters she immediately in one breath asked me “ is there any news about my son?”. “ Has he returned back to his unit ?”. For a while I was speechless. It was very difficult to say “No” to a mother. But after gathering some courage, I told her “ madam I have called you to deliver a cheque”. Please tell Mr Dharam Pal to come to my office tomorrow and collect the same. On hearing this, her throat choked and was sobbing. After few minutes she spoke “ Sir every day I am waiting for news that my son is alive and will be coming soon on leave”. One can very well imagine feelings of a mother whose young son is missing. She further added if there is any letter or someone ring call bell it immediately struck my mind that there is some message in the letter or someone has come to convey good news about my son. I was listening to her with tears in my eyes. I told her that “ madam trust in God your son will come back”. But I knew that it was a lie because all efforts of Indian Air Force to locate debris of aircraft and bodies of officers proved futile. One day one of the Air Force Officers who was posted to Tejpur ( Assam) two years back, told me that it was totally impossible to trace the aircraft and bodies of the officers very dense and muddy forest. The aircraft might had crashed far away in the dense forest and stuck in deep mud. Hence search teams on ground as well as by aircrafts mounted with highly sensitive cameras could not locate.
One day reception officer rang me up and told me that parents of flying officer Dahiya have come, should I send them to you? I told him please send them to my office. Mr Dharam Pal and Madam Shashi reached my office and I told peon to send them to my cabin. They were looking very weak in comparison when I saw them first time. I offered tea and when they finished I asked them the purpose to come . Madam Shashi sobbing told me that “ Sir last week I saw a dream that my son is alive and tribals captured him. There is one pond also from where these tribals drink water and fishing to eat. I saw my son with long beard and moustaches and in a very pitiable state. He said that “ Maa I am their captivity since my aircraft crash. They are very cruel people. I am in very miserable condition. They are torturing me, please save me”. After hearing Madam Shashi I was speechless. There were no words to tell a mother that this is your imagination far away from reality. So I asked them to meet my Principal Director. I accompanied them to his office. My Principal Director listened to her very patiently and told that “ Madam hope of your son’s survival is very remote. Indian Air Force authorities have tried their best but could not succeeded”. But Madam Shashi was reluctant to accept any argument and insisted upon one more effort by search party to the location she saw in dream. Ultimately it was decided that an appointment will be fixed with Chief of the Air Staff. My Principal Director rang up to Staff Officer of the Chief of the Air Staff to fix an appointment of parents of Flying Officer Dahiya.
Accordingly, within a week they got an appointment with the Chief of the Air Staff at his residence. The Chief of Air Staff and his wife listen to Madam Shashi very sympathetically. Being a woman and mother, wife of Chief of Air Staff was very kind hearted. On Shashi’s insistence Chief agreed to send a search party again. Two aircraft with latest highly sensitive cameras were deputed to locate the site as described by Madam Shashi in her dream. Alas! After putting their best efforts they could not locate that imaginary place. Parents of Flyig Officer Dahiya were informed of the result. I was informed that Shashi was still confident of survival of her son. It was a mother’s heart whose son is missing and you can’t defeat belief of a mother.
After a lapse of three years, a Casuality Report was published in which Flying Officer Dahiya was declared presumed dead. Hence financial benefits applicable in death cases and family pension were granted to parents of Flying Officer Dahiya. Alas! Our countrymen and politicians forget supreme sacrifices of our brave soldiers.