Nachiketa is raring
to go on next sortie
days in Pakistani captivity have failed to dampen the spirits of Flt Lt
K Nachiketa, who was handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah
joint check post this evening. ''I am ready for the next sortie'', the
pilot of the MiG-27 fighter jet which went down in the Kargil sector last
month, quipped in a voice choked with emotion. In brief comments to the
media, Nachiketa said, "I am not a hero, but a soldier. Every soldier in
Kargil would have done just what I did."
Air Vice Marshal
Sashi Tyagi, along with senior officers of the air force, army and Border
Security Force were present at the border to welcome Nachiketa with bouquets
and garlands. The flight lieutenant was brought to the Pakistani side of
the check post in two cars belonging to the Indian high commission at Islamabad
at 1700 hrs. He was accompanied by J N Rai, a senior high commission officer,
group captain S K Jaswant, and Captain Srikant, the air and naval attaches
at the high commission.
The Indian officials,
after signing the necessary release documents on the Pakistan side of the
JCP accompanied Nachiketa to the zero line and put him in the safe custody
of the Indian officers at 1715 hours. As soon as he crossed the zero line
Air Vice-Marshal Tyagi shook the flight lieutenant's hand and handed him
a bouquet of flowers. Brig S Arora, representing the 15th Infantry division-incharge
of the Amritsar sector was the next to greet the air force officer who
was dressed in a half sleeve shirt and grey trousers.
The flight lieutenant,
with his head held high, told waiting reporters in a choked voice: ''I
am fine and happy to be home'' as soon as he crossed the border line. The
officer was immediately escorted to the BSF meeting hall where he was offered
tea before being taken to Raja Sansi airport, from where he was flown to
New Delhi. At the capital, he spent 15 minutes with the defence minister,
George Fernandes, and is currently meeting the prime minister and President.
Air Vice-Marshal Tyagi, who had flown to Wagah from the national capital, accompanied the
flight lieutenant back to Delhi in an air force plane. When the air force
convoy was leaving the JCP, a large number of spectators, who had come
to witness the retreat ceremony shouted 'India zindabad, Nachiketa zindabad'.
The flight lieutenant, who managed an occasional smile when talking to
mediapersons and his fellow officers, appeared surprised by the fairly
large number of people who had come to welcome him home.
about his treatment at the hands of Pakistan, Nachiketa said it was fine
but he refused to go into any further details.
Courtesy: Rediff India
begin with a timeless tale, one that has been passed down from generation
to generation in the great land of India. The hero of this tale is a young
man by the name of Nachiketa. According to Indian history, he is the youth
who goes to Yama, the Lord of Death, in order to discover the true meaning
of Life. The dialogue between Nachiketa and the Lord of Death is contained
in the immortal work, the Katha Upanishad. This work explains the most
timeless question of all existence, "What lies beyond Death"? And it was
Nachiketa who had the courage to confront even Death in his pursuit of
the answer. In India, the mere mention of Nachiketa's name is instantly
recognized as synonymous with the feeling of indomitable spirit, spiritual
bravery and insurmountable courage in every human being.
It is no coincidence
that the brave young soldier who is currently in the clutches of our enemy,
holds the same name; Nachiketa. ( Nachiketa was released from Enemy captivity
on 4th June 99)
Nachiketa Rao turned 26 today. He had no fatherly blessings, sisterly hugs
or sweetmeats to celebrate the event. Nachiketa probably spent his birthday
in a dark and dangerous Pakistani prison, mocked by jeers of Jihad and
insults. He is probably remembering the moments before he crashed onto
Pakistani ground and felt the clammy grip of Pakistani fingers as they
held him down.
It was a gloomy
day when Nachiketa had set out with his squadron to carry out another air
strike against the Islamic terrorists who were holed up in the treacherous
snow-clad terrain of India's Kashmir. The landscape is littered with dangerously
rocky ridges and shadowy valleys, which greatly hamper maneuverability
and ease of flight. The objective was simple; to repulse the attempt by
Pakistani troops lurking on the mountains along the Line of Control. For
almost a week they had been trying to infiltrate into sovereign India's
territory. As he flew over the mountains an ominous mist surrounded his
plane and Nachiketa realized that he was right on the edge of the Line
of Control. As he began veering his aircraft back towards Indian territory
a sudden sputtering clued him to the fact that his engine had died out
in a burst of flame as his MiG-27 combat Jet developed mechanical failure.
Was it mechanical failure or Pakistani fire that had disrupted the engine?
The last words
that his colleagues heard before he faded out were: " Nachi - engine flame-out,
relighting.... Nachi ejecting now." and then an ominous silence. As Nachiketa
parachuted down the dark ragged edges of the snow-clad mountains, the sky
was lit a brilliant red by the giant explosion of his hapless aircraft.
And then suddenly as he landed on the rocky surface, Nachiketa observed
a speck in the sky. It was his fellow pilot, a daredevil squadron leader
by the name of Ajay Ahuja, hovering over in his MiG-21 straining his eyes
to catch sight of the landing area of his colleague.
Suddenly an explosion
reverberated across the horizon, as Nachiketa recoiled in horror. A missile
from the Afghani Mujahideen stockpile found its mark and hit Ahuja's plane.
Ahuja frantically radioed his team leader Hercules one, "missile hit" his
voice crackled and then again a deathly silence.
have watched in anticipation as Ajay parachuted out of his aircraft to
escape the flames. There was a resounding crack as Ajay broke his left
knee during the fall, and then all of a sudden menacingly dark shadows
dressed in Pakistani Army uniforms, were lifting their guns and shooting
Ajay at point blank range. They fired not once but twice straight through
his head and heart. As Ajay and the rules of the Geneva Convention lay
in a pool of blood, Nachiketa raised himself to his feet and put all his
strength into a break for escape. When the menacing outlines of the Pakistani
soldiers started looming closer in pursuit, he drew out his 9-mm pistol
and fired eight straight rounds at them with unfailing accuracy. How the
Jehadi blood must have boiled at this intolerable insolence! There were
far too many to run from and Nachiketa must have steeled himself to accept
his fate with determination as the rough callused hands of the Islamic
Jehadis grabbed him.
He was thrown
into the dank confines of a Pakistani prison. On Friday, the Pakistanis
in a venomous display of cruelty paraded him in front of journalists, including
representatives of international news channels like BBC and Voice of America.
As the obscene parade continued, he was not allowed to speak to the reporters
as Pakistani army personnel kept him at least at a distance of about 30
feet. "There are certain procedures which have to be followed," the Pakistani
officials told journalists, who waved at the Indian pilot. He was touted
as a "Prisoner of war" regardless of the fact that no war had been declared.
Journalists observed a huge large red welt deepening across his forehead
as Nachiketa faced them with calm serenity and strength etched into every
line of his face. "He is being treated well and taken care of" sneered
the Muslims as the journalists' attempts to communicate with Nachiketa
were rebuffed by them. Pakistan's Information Minister Mushahid Hussain
's face wore the same sneer as he commented on how Nachiketa was "safe
and sound" and being treated according to "Islamic traditions of hospitality".
Indeed the same traditions of Islamic hospitality must have been aroused
in Pakistani breasts as they shot Ajay Ahuja at point blank range, in an
act of utmost cowardice and depravation.
It is these same
Islamic traditions of hospitality which translate into cruel extremes of
torture and inhuman treatment. Was it not Prophet Mohammed who set the
standard for these traditions when he had killed and murdered millions
of Jews and Pagans taken prisoner by his terrorist army? But remember it
is no coincidence that the young man who is in Islamic custody right now
is named Nachiketa in the tradition of that ancient brave soul of India.
Just as that Nachiketa walked calmly into the jaws of death and walked
out unscathed, so too will this warrior.
is described clearly in the Katha Upanishad. As Nachiketa asks Lord Yama
the secret of death, he sees the brilliance inherent in the youth and replies
in a voice filled with wisdom.
"The wise, realizing through effort
The Timeless Self beyond all perception,
Hidden in the cave of the heart,
Leave pain and pleasure far behind.
Those who know they are not mere
body or mind,
But the infinite Self, the Divine
The essence of existence, they discover
of all joy and live in the truth
of it forever.
I see the doors of joy are opening
for you, O Nachiketa...."
So too have the
doors of joy and fame immemorial been opened for our brave Nachiketa of
Indian Air Force. So too have the doors of joy opened for Ajay Ahuja who
gave up his life in the Supreme sacrifice for his motherland. The name
Ajay means "undefeatable" and even in his death squadron leader Ahuja has
shown us the true meaning of this word. He was cremated with full military
honors in a cremation ground in village Kili Nihal Singhwala near Bisiana
air force station today. His brave four year-old-son Ankush helped by his
relatives lit the funeral pyre in the presence of his widow Alka and a
large number of Air Force personnel and civilians. His memory will spur
us on to punish those cowards who try in vain to usurp our territory.