38 Years On, Haldwani Soldier’s Body Reaches Home; Family In Tears

HALDWANI (UTTARAKHAND) | Updated: 17 August, 2022 2:14 pm IST


Shanti Devi is overwhelmed with mixed feelings of joy and renewed pain as she receives the mortal remains of her husband, an Indian Army soldier, 38 years after he went missing in Siachen, the Himalayas.

The 64-year-old ‘Veer Naari’, as widows of Army men are known, was just 26 when she received the tragic news that Lance Naik Chandrashekhar Harbola along with four others could not be traced after an avalanche along the India-Pakistan border in 1984.

A pall of gloom has descended on her Saraswati Vihar home in Haldwani city of Nainital district. As social and political activities decorate the locality with Tricolur and play patriotic songs, Shanti Devi is unable to gather her emotions as a group of reporters at her residence tries to elicit a response from her.

“I don’t know what to say. I am not able to think or speak. On one hand, there is a sudden burst of happiness of him being finally found but on the other, I am still not able to come to terms with the fact that he is gone forever,” she says, with her eyes welled up.

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Friends and relatives of the Harbola family, locals, Army veterans and members of the ‘Operation Meghdoot’, of which the soldier was a part when the incident happened, are making a beeline to pay their homage to the hero.

‘Operation Meghadoot’ was launched to capture the strategically-important Siachen Glacier.

“After the 18-member patrolling party remained untraced for long, we were sent to locate and bring them to safety. We searched for them but instead found a rifle buried in the snow,” recounts Captain (retd) Madan Singh Rathore.

“Gradually, we did succeed to find many bodies, but not all. We are glad that at least the Army has found our brother and now he will get the well-deserved tribute,” he says.

Along with Harbola, bodies of two other team members, have also been found recently.

Vimla Joshi (63), wife of Nayak Daya Kishan Joshi, another team member who is still missing, tells The New Indian, “The discovery of his (Harbola) body has suddenly rekindled our hope.”

“I am unable to sleep at night. I wake up murmuring my husband’s name. Even my grandson asks me about his Dada Ji. I don’t know what to say to him,” Joshi says.

Radha Joshi, daughter-in-law of Daya Kishan Joshi, breaks down. “Our family is going through hell right now. We don’t know what to think or to do. Such helplessness and feeling of not able to find Papa Ji is so painful.”

“We are happy for Harbola Ji’s family that at least they got a closure,” she tells The New Indian.

Among some well-known names in the Uttarakhand politics, who are scheduled to arrive in Haldwani, is chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. He will participate in the last rites of martyr Harbola at Chitrashila Ghat in Haldwani on the banks of Gaula river.

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