There was a sense of closure when the Siachen Glacier released the body of Hav Gaya Prasad after nearly two decades. As memory serves, 15 RAJPUT commanded by Tony Bardalai (recently retired as a general officer) had taken over the responsibility of this vast tract of snow with troops mostly deployed over 18000 feet. It was an excellent battalion with as fine a set of officers as any (the second in command is now a serving Major General) full of espirit- de- corps. For a new commander of the brigade I was lucky indeed to have the unit deployed in this most hazardous of areas.
The Khanda Dropping Zone (DZ), above 17000 ft, serviced one of the forward companies and Gaya Prasad was responsible for collecting the drops and distributing them to the forward troops. The DZ was a wide, gently sloping branch of the glacier, giving no indication of any crevices. I had already been there several times and moved about it freely.
The glacier is like a living entity constantly moving and shifting. One rarely has an idea of the natural forces operating beneath its smooth surface and troops are mostly roped up and follow a beaten track. The DZ was checked every morning by a team and nothing untoward was noticed. Unknown to Gaya Prasad a hidden crevasse was waiting very close to the distribution centre, an area constantly walked and driven over by snow scooters.
Once the drop was over, Gaya Prasad was in the process of collecting the stores, when he dropped through the snow. The crevasse was narrow but deep. He eventually got wedged into the crevasse many feet down as it narrowed. Those in the know are aware that temperatures in a crevasse are much colder than outside.
The men immediately reacted as per procedure, fully knowing that exposure would kill the man if he was not rescued immediately. A man slithered down on a rope to bring him up. It was then realized that Gaya Prasad had slipped in deeper than thought and also he had got wedged below an overhang, which would have to be chipped out before he could be brought out. Easier said than done as blue ice is harder than rock and room for maneuvering even a hand was very restricted.
Bardi immediately contacted me and I ordered helicopters to fly in the officer in charge and the best instructor of the Siachen Battle School. By the time they moved in an atmosphere of frantic desperation had set in as the cold had started its deadly effect on the NCO, whose voice was getting weaker. To cut rest of the story short, Gaya Prasad could not be rescued. Bardi and his men refused to give up till I had to firmly tellhim to desist as the rescue operation, itself was in danger of producing more casualties.
Gaya Prasad’s voice got weaker and weaker till it stopped. Then only did the rope moved up. It was terrible for the Unit but in those dangerous spaces life had to go on and it was Bardi’s responsibility to ensure that the Battalion did not lose its aggressive edge.
After Gaya Prasad’s body was recovered, Bardi rang me up. The ache in his heart was in some way assuaged but the sorrow would always linger in the memory of those who knew this brave man and served with him.
Maj Gen Randhir Sinh joined the 4th
Battalion 3rd Gorkha Rifles in Jun 1968.
And now his son is the 3rd generation
serving in it. After commanding a
division on LC, the General officer
retired from Infantry School in 2005.