Twenty one years after he is suspected to have fallen into a crevasse in the Siachen glacier, a routine patrol of soldiers from 12 Madras regiment, on October 12, discovered the body of Havildar Tukaram V. Patil of the 4 Maratha Light Infantry in the Northern glacier.
In a quirk of fate, his younger brother Sepoy N.V. Patil, also a Maratha infantryman, went missing in an avalanche on the glacier in 1987. His body has not been found yet.
Havildar Patil went missing on February 27, 1993, while moving from his post to the supply point, and was subsequently declared missing and believed dead, sources in the Army said.
“Due to extreme weather conditions the body has shrunk and was not identifiable. His skin had turned black,” Army spokesperson Colonel Rohan Anand told The Hindu on Friday.
Patil was identified from a letter from home and an induction medical certificate found in his pocket.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
Incessant rains over the last three days on the glacier, “where it never rains but only snows” according to an officer, made the task of bringing down the body difficult.
The rain probably led to the surfacing of the body, he added.
Patrols on the Siachen glacier are usually roped and the path is marked. But it is believed that Havildar Patil deviated from it and slipped.
The strategically important posts on the glacier are located at heights exceeding 5486 metres and see sub-zero temperatures through the year, subjecting personnel on duty to extreme hardship.
Government figures peg the total number of deaths of military personnel on the glacier at 850 since 1984, when India began its domination over the Saltaro Ridge.