March 18, 2020
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first_imgA day after the February 26 Balakot air strike, as Indian and Pakistani fighter jets were engaged in combat over the Naushera sector in Jammu and Kashmir, news filtered in of an Mi-17 crashing in Budgam. Six IAF personnel on board and a civilian were killed; among them was sergeant Vikrant Sherawat. With preliminary probe findings suggesting that the helicopter was shot down by India’s own ground-based air defence systems, Vikrant’s family feels cheated over being kept in the dark all these months — the IAF officers who brought his remains home had alluded to a “technical fault”.‘Facts hidden from us’At their house in Bhadani village here, Vikrant’s father Sri Krishan, 62, lies on a wooden bed, anguish writ large on the farmer’s face. “We had the right to know the circumstances in which he died. We don’t understand the politics. But it could be because of the elections that the facts were hidden from us. The way the Pulwama attack was politicised to seek electoral mileage, it seems the matter [friendly fire] was hushed up to avoid embarrassment to the government in election season,” says Mr. Krishna.Vikrant’s widow Suman says that a week after the incident, she had stumbled upon an article in a Hindi daily suggesting that the chopper was possibly hit by friendly fire. Kanta Devi, the late sergeant’s mother, says that a couple of his Air Force friends from neighbouring villages had also hinted at it, but advised her to keep mum in view of the political situation.Court of Inquiry The Court of Inquiry probing the incident is expected to submit its report in the next couple of weeks but until a definitive official version is shared with them, all Vikrant’s family has is information through the media.“News reports suggest the senior-most officer among those guilty is being transferred as punishment. I demand that all officers responsible for it be given strict punishment,” said Ms. Devi.last_img