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The Rediff Special/ Chindu Sreedharan in Srinagar
Casualties rise to 50
They still lie where they fell.
Dead. Killed In Action. Victims of a war they never wanted.
The bodies of Acting Major Mariappan Saravanan and a soldier can be seen on the snow where they were killed on May 28 night. But their colleagues have not been able to recover them yet. Heavy firing from the heights -- the very heights that the major was trying to free from intruders -- makes the task difficult.
"We made several attempts to retrieve the bodies of our dead colleagues," says an army officer, "We will have to get their (that of the intruders) heads down a bit before we can try again. We don't want more casualties."
The army's concern about casualties is stronger since Monday. "Heavy casualties" have been reported in the Batalik region in overnight operations on Sunday, which spilled on to the next day and is still continuing.
The official casualty figures are "33 plus five" on Monday -- 33 soldiers and five officers. But army sources admit on Tuesday that the figures have "crossed 40, around 50."
"Saravanan was leading a small assault group when he fell," sources say, "We hope to recover the bodies shortly."
Ironically, if it had not been for the war, the 26-year-old major, would have been either readying to travel to Trichy, his hometown, or already there -- he was to get engaged in June. From 1 Bihar regiment, he was a short service officer commissioned in March 1995.
Acting Major R S Adhikari, another officer killed belonged to 2 Mechanised Infantry. He had been deputed for a year to the 18 Grenadiers, now fighting a battle in bitter terrain. His deputation was about to end. May be, if the action had started a little later, he would be alive now...
Major Adhikari has much in common with Major Saravanan. He too was 26. He too fell in the same area. And he too considered June a good month -- the 9th was his first wedding anniversary.
Army officers say over 30 bodies have been recovered till now. The majority has already been flown out, while the most recent ones are on their way to Srinagar. And the air-strikes are still on, with the Chorbatla area, where fresh intrusions were reported a few days earlier, coming in for attention.
Meanwhile, Major Saravanan and the jawan continue to lie in the snow.
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