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33 jawans drifting to Pak in Leh floods: Concern in LS

August 13, 2010 16:44 IST

Members in the Lok Sabha, including from ruling Congress, on Friday questioned the government's silence over reports that 33 soldiers had drifted away to Pakistan during last week's flash floods in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.

Raising the matter during Zero Hour, Manish Tewari of the Congress said 33 jawans of 15 Bihar Regiment, posted on the Line of Control, were washed away in the flood and mudslide following a cloudburst.

"Whether these reports (on being washed away) are correct or what happened to them (soldiers), we do not know," he said.

The role of Pakistan army has been questioned several times as 'we saw what happened to Lt Saurabh Kalia who was tortured by them,' he said.

Kalia and his patrol party of five jawans of the Indian Army, who had reported Pakistani intrusion during the Kargil conflict, were captured alive on May 15, 1999, from the Indian side of LOC.

They were kept for three weeks and subjected to unprecedented brutal torture, evident from their bodies handed over by Pakistan Army on June 9, 1999.

Tewari said the government should inform the House on the matter immediately. He drew support from members from all sides, including the opposition benches.

Shahnawaz Hussain of the Bharatiya Janata Party said it was a major tragedy in which 600 people had died and 33 soldiers posted along the LoC had drifted away in the floods to Pakistan.

Questioning as to what the government was doing about it, he asked whether relatives of the deceased should themselves go to Pakistan and look for them.

"There is no statement by the government. The defence minister has not even expressed sympathies," he said.

Amid chants of 'shame, shame,' he said nobody in the government seemed to be concerned about the fact that the soldiers guarding the border had drifted to Pakistan and their bodies were untraceable.

"They were not tourists, they were guarding the border but the government is silent," the BJP member said and sought a response from the government.

Making a brief intervention, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said though the subject related to the defence ministry, he had information that 25 soldiers and three loaders had drowned.

The incident happened near the Line of Control in an area which had been retrieved from Pakistan during 1971. He said it was not true that the government had done nothing in the wake of the disaster.

He said he along with his Cabinet colleague Farooq Abdullah had gone to Leh immediately after the tragedy and visited the affected areas.

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