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K Raka Sudhakar Rao asked: Do we have any memorial or a commission for missing army men on the lines of Fromelles war graves committee?

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  • Ali Ahmed replies: There is no commission for missing army men. Instead the matter is dealt with by the Adjutant General's Branch. There is the interesting case of an aircraft having crashed in the early sixties. The Army by sending expeditions to the mountainous area has recently retrieved bodies. This was done earlier in Himachal Pradesh as also recently in Arunachal Pradesh. On the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control, if troops go missing, flag meetings are held to ascertain if they have strayed across.

    There is no War Graves Commission. This owes to the policy of sending mortal remains of martyrs back to the native place, as was the case in the Kargil War and is the case in counter-insurgency operations. The transportation is done by the service and civil aviation. A solemn military ceremony is done at the native place in case military resources are close at hand. If not, then the local police and administration undertake the same. This has helped maintain the military's engagement in far flung areas in the public consciousness. The public gathering and presence of family gives a befitting farewell to the martyr. As to whether this is feasible in a high intensity war is debatable. In such a case, the military has procedures for collection and disposal of mortal remains with due dignity and care. The details are recorded and personal effects sent to Next of Kin. There is no equivalent of a War Cemetery, since in the Hindu tradition cremation is undertaken.

    Nevertheless, across India's borders and areas where the Army has operated, there are small memorials put up in memory of those who have departed. These could be individuals on the spot or as part of efforts of formation at headquarters. Many citizens committees across India, energised by veterans, have also erected memorials honouring those who have represented that locality or city in various battlefields and disturbed areas. A recent news report had it that the Chief is pursuing the issue of a memorial for martyrs in the central vista in Delhi. Apparently the case has been under discussion for some years. It would be very inspiring if the memorial were to materialise soon.