By Jugal R Purohit
(As appeared on IndiaToday.in on January 19, 2013)
Even as Chhattisgarh Police’s wireless operator M Kumar Sahu, injured after Maoists fired upon Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Mi17 helicopter, continues to fight for his life, anger is building up among the police over what they perceive as IAF abandoning their injured.
Sahu, a member of the flight crew, was found alone in the helicopter even as the six IAF personnel made their way to a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp. The operator was finally rescued out of the chopper by a joint team of CRPF and its commando component, CoBRA.
On its part, the IAF has ordered an inquiry, maintaining that it did the best it could to safeguard the injured colleague and the helicopter.
The Director General of the Chhattisgarh Police, Ram Niwas, said, “We don’t think the Air Force personnel did anything wrong. They exercised the best option.”
However, not many from his force agreed. A senior IPS officer, who had coordinated the entire operation, mentioned, “The six, able-bodied IAF men left behind an injured colleague on the pretext of seeking help for him. They could have taken him along using a makeshift stretcher.” He added that they might take up the issue with the Air Force authorities. Another officer who had participated in the rescue efforts stated, “With the rebels in the area, our operator was lucky to be alive. I refuse to believe that the IAF men had no other option.”
Adding to the anger is the fact that Sahu’s condition worsened not so much on account of his injury but because of the blood loss he suffered. SP of Sukma district, Abhishek Shandilya confirmed this aspect. “He has suffered severe blood loss. He was in fact quite critical in the morning but is now showing signs of recovery,” he added.
Sources in the IAF hit out at the lack of security provided by the police and CRPF. Stated an officer, “It is a part of the procedure that whenever the helicopter flies, the landing area has to be secured by the ground forces. When our helicopter took 18 bulllet hits, it implies that they did not do their job well.”
Rejecting reports of the men abandoning the injured colleague, IAF spokesperson, Squadron Leader Priya Joshi said, “Our pilots not only managed to avert a disaster but also reached the CRPF camp in time so that exact coordinates could be provided to them of the site of the landing. This ensured that the injured operator could be located and attended to quickly.”
1545 hours – In an ongoing operation, one Chattisgarh Armed Forces (CAF) jawan is injured by Naxal firing and other is killed.
1645 hours – Mi17 gets airborne from Jagdalpur, the headquarters of the Bastar region for Tamilwada in Sukma.
1730 hours – Before landing, the Mi17 is fired upon multiple times; Still manages to land in a nearby field.
1930hours – Six IAF men, including pilot and co-pilot reach the 150bn camp of the CRPF, 3km from force landing site; Sahu is on his own.
2130 hours – Troops from CRPF & CoBRA reached close to the site and spot Sahu but are careful not to rush for the Maoists could have laid Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or an ambush.
2330 hours – Sahu is pulled out of the helicopter.
0045 hours – Additional troops from the CoBRA reach; location is secured
0500 hours – Troops move into the Chintalgufa camp of the CRPF alongwith Sahu and another injured CAF personnel.
Helicopter sent to lift Sahu out of Chintalgufa camp to Jagdalpur for treatment.
1340 hours – Sahu was airlifted in a special AN32 aircraft of the IAF to Raipur as his condition dipped further.