Rip, Lance Naik, U will inspire millions

New Delhi :  The miracle that the nation was waiting for with bated breath never happened. Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, who was buried alive in the world’s highest battlefield, the Siachen glacier, died on Thursday.

Koppad found a mention in the nation’s prayers and among his first visitors at the Army hospital was the Prime Minister. Among those who paid tribute to him on Thursday at Brar Square in the national Capital were Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and the three service chiefs.

Koppad’s wife Mahadevi Ashok Bilebal sat silently through the somber proceedings with wails of their two-year-old daughter Netra reminding the nation of their loss.

The doctors had said in the morning that the Lance Naik was extremely critical, with worsening multi-organ dysfunction. “We tried our level best to fight the odds but this morning his blood pressure dropped and he had a cardiac arrest,” Director and Commandant Army Hospital Lt Gen S D Duhan said.

Koppad’s family had been ferried to Delhi the previous day so that they could be at his bedside.

The last rites will be performed at his home town in Karnataka, said an army spokesperson. He hailed from Betadur village in Dharwad district.

It was in fitness of things that Modi had the last word on Hanumanthappa’s grit and courage; the PM tweeted: “He leaves us sad & devastated. RIP Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. The soldier in you remains immortal. Proud that martyrs like you served India.”

Hanumanthappa (33) was posted in the high altitude Siachen glacier since August 2015 where temperatures plummet below minus 40 degrees Celsius and winds touch speeds of 100 km per hour.

Koppad had, in fact, served in difficult and challenging areas for 10 out of the 13 years of his total service.

His postings included Jammu and Kashmir from 2003 to 2006, where he was actively involved in counter-insurgency operations.

He again volunteered to serve with the 54 Rashtriya Rifles (Madras) in Jammu and Kashmir from 2008 to 2010, and later in the northeast from 2010 to 2012 where he took part in operations against militants.

Siachen glacier is the world’s highest battlefield with both Indian and Pakistani troops engaged eyeball to eyeball.

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