C'garh police, doctor decry Air Chief's remark

A day after Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne appeared to belittle the injuries to the Chhattisgarh constable who was abandoned by Air Force personnel in an immobile helicopter in Naxal territory, the state police and doctors reacted strongly, describing the Air Chief's statement as "inhuman" and "extremely unfortunate".

At a press conference in Bangalore, Browne had remarked that wireless operator Yem Lal Sahu was "recovering well", and that an Air Force official had found him "sitting on a sofa having a cup of tea" last week.

Dr Sandeep Dave, director of Ramkrishna Care Hospital, where Sahu is admitted, told The Indian Express Friday, "What does he (Air Chief) mean by 'having tea sitting on a sofa'? We will have to give him something to eat... He is on a soft diet. Just recently we began giving him something."

"He (Sahu) remains in bed, we are trying some movements in his limbs. He is not in a condition to do anything. His police career is over. If they (IAF) do not understand his mental and physical condition, we cannot do anything. It is plain inhuman to make such statements," Dr Dave added.

Dave refuted Browne's claim that IAF officials had visited the hospital "last week". He added that the officials who came had not consulted any doctor about Sahu's condition.

"They were here just 2-3 days before, and left without meeting any doctor. Attendants requested them to meet us but they were not bothered, or probably did not have the time. How can you know a patient's condition by just seeing him, without bothering to even meet his doctors?" Dave said.

Doctors are yet to allow police to record Sahu's statement. ADG (Naxal Ops) R K Vij told The Indian Express that it was "extremely unfortunate" that Sahu's situation was being "ignored".

"Doctors communicated to me in writing yesterday that he (Sahu) is not in a condition to give a statement, and we should wait. Our officers visit him regularly to monitor his situation. He has lost his health and career. It is extremely unfortunate that his condition is being ignored," Vij said.

Sahu was hit by a bullet in the abdomen as the Mi-17 helicopter came under Naxal fire on January 18. After the chopper was forced to crashland, the IAF crew left him behind in the jungle, causing a delay in his treatment that Dave said led to "haemodynamic instability that caused a paralytic attack".

On Thursday, Browne said the "impression that has been created, that (the Air Force personnel) backed out, they abandoned (Sahu), they ran away, I think it is all nonsense". He insisted that in leaving the helicopter, his men had in fact tried to "avoid a hostage situation".

Sahu has undergone several surgeries and a portion of his small and large intestines have been removed. It will be 4-5 months before he gains some strength in his limbs, doctors said.

In Delhi, a top home ministry official denied that a letter from the home secretary to the defence secretary seeking action against the IAF personnel had been leaked by the ministry. In his press conference, Browne had expressed surprise that Home Secretary R K Singh's letter to Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma had been leaked.

Browne had warned that "sniping" was "not the (right) way to function". Asked if he was pointing to the home secretary, Browne said he was addressing "all the agencies".

On Friday, the home ministry official said, "We do indulge in washing dirty linen in the media. We have found that the contents of the letter were not leaked from the home ministry". In his letter to Sharma, Singh had described the abandonment of weapons, the helicopter and the injured policeman by the IAF as "extremely disturbing".

(With ENS, New Delhi)

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