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Assam: Soldier cremated 40 years after death
K Anurag in Guwahati | August 21, 2007 16:49 IST
Thousands of people on Tuesday were witness to the cremation of soldier Mahendra Nath Phukon who died about 40 years ago in an AN-12 clash at Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh along with 101 others while he was flying to his post at the Indian Army base Leh from Chandigarh on February 7, 1968.
The soldier was cremated in front of his ancestral home at Deodhai village of Amguri in Sivasagar district of Upper Assam with full military honours given by personnel from 316 Field Regiment of Indian Army in the presence on senior army officials including the GoC of the 21 Mountain Brigade.
Three rounds were fired in the air by the soldiers in the honour of long dead Mahendra.
The funeral pyre was lighted by all the four brothers in front of thousands of people who flocked to the village on Tuesday morning to witness the 'unique funeral' of a soldier whose body arrived 40 years after his death.
The frozen mortal remains of soldier Mahendra was recovered by an army expedition team under the icy exterior near the site of accident on August 11.
The brass identity disc that Mahendra was wearing helped the army to identify his frozen remains after about four decades.
The gravity of the occasion weighed down on all the siblings of the soldier.
Their blurred memory of a long lost brother, news of whose tragic death was conveyed to the family by the Indian Army way back in February 8, 1968, came back to haunt them after they heard the news of the recovery of the mortal remains of Mahendra about 10 days back, again from the army.
Forty years later, all the brothers met at Mohanbari airport in Dibrugarh on Monday -- Mahendra frozen in a flower bedecked coffin, his brothers waiting in the tarmac to receive him with heavy hearts.
The coffin wrapped in the tricolour was brought down in a Delhi-Dibrugarh Air Sahara flight by a battery of armymen.
The body was kept at Sivasagar Civil Hospital on Monday night and the armymen from 316 Field Regiment took the body to the soldier's native Deodhai village at 10 am on Tuesday for cremation.
Mahendra was born in 1942 and joined the Indian Army in February 1963.
Two of his brothers were also in the army. One of his brothers Tuben retired as a subedar from the 7 Assam Regiment in 1985, while another brother Durganath retired as a havildar from the 5 Assam Regiment in 2002.