14 killed in tragic clash; nation shocked by the incident
Pragativahini News, New Delhi – Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika Rawat, died on Wednesday, along with 11 other persons, after an Army chopper carrying them crashed in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu.
Confirming the news, defense minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that he is ‘Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defense Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country.’
Around noon on Wednesday, an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN. All 14 persons including Mrs. Madhulika Rawat who were on board were killed. Wing Commander Prathvi Singh Chauhan was the pilot of the place, the news agencies said.
The helicopter which took off from Sulur air base, where they had a brief halt, was on its way to Defense Services Staff College in Wellington, Tamil Nadu.
Gen Rawat was India’s first chief of defense staff, a position that the government established in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 63-year-old was travelling with his wife and other senior officers in the Russian-made Mi-17 chopper, which crashed near its destination in Tamil Nadu.
“Gen Bipin Rawat was on a visit to Defense Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the staff course today,” the Indian Air Force (IAF) said on Twitter.
Footage from the scene showed a crowd of people trying to extinguish the fiery wreck with water buckets while a group of soldiers carried one of the passengers away on an improvised stretcher.
The chopper was already making its descent at the time of the crash. It came down around 10 kilometers from the nearest main road, forcing emergency workers to trek to the accident site, a fire official was quoted as saying by AFP.
Meanwhile, Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh termed Gen Rawat’s death an “irreparable loss” to the country and its armed forces.
The flying coffin
The Mi-17 helicopter, which first entered service in the 1970s and is in wide use by defense services around the world, has been involved in a number of accidents over the years.
Fourteen people died in a crash last month when an Azerbaijani military Mi-17 chopper went down during a training flight.
In 2019, four Indonesian soldiers were killed and five others wounded in central Java in another training accident involving the aircraft.
Gen. Rawat: A brief Introduction
CDS General Bipin Rawat was the highest-serving official in the Indian armed forces, who was appointed to the newly created post of CDS, a day before he was set to retire as the army chief on December 31, 2019. As part of his new assignment, Gen Rawat was heading the new Department of Military Affairs in the Defense Ministry.
In Dec 2015, the Modi government had appointed Gen Rawat as the army chief by superseding two senior officers.
Rawat came from a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces.
The general joined the army as a second lieutenant in 1978 and had four decades of service behind him, having commanded forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China.
He is credited with reducing insurgency on India’s northeastern frontier and supervised a cross-border counter-insurgency operation into neighboring Myanmar.
Rawat was considered close to the Modi government and turned heads last month when he reportedly made an approving reference to “lynching terrorists” in occupied Kashmir.
Ugly display of rejoice
Even as the helicopter crash broke out there was rejoice by some people who included some retired high raking Army officer has shook the country.
Some people who could not hide their glee commented with rejoice on social media. This invited wrath and general condemnation from the people of the country and there is demand to identify these people and punish them.