THIRUVANTHAPURAM: A month after the Indian Air Force (IAF) sent a coffin to the family of Flt Lt S Achudev saying that it contained his mortal remains, the family continues to reject the official version that the fighter pilot died when his Sukhoi crashed in Assam. They think he is still missing.
It is alleged that the coffin was only symbolic, and that it did not in fact contain Flt Lt Achudev’s remains. The family is demanding a probe by an external agency into the incident. The ruling CPM in Kerala is backing the family in this matter.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Achudev's father Sahadevan VP urged a simultaneous investigation by an external agency such as the CBI/NIA/RAW/IB to unravel the mystery behind the incident.
In his letter, Sahadevan said "in the absence of any consistent, corroborative and conclusive material evidence of the bodily remains," the family is unable to accept his son's demise as informed by the authorities. In a detailed submission, he sought to know on what basis the IAF reached a conclusion in the matter.
Also, he wanted to know whether the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the Sukhoi aircraft were retrieved and what were the findings after the analysis of the flight data. He asked for details of the two pilots’ last recorded conversation and demanded to know why no search and rescue operations were carried out based on the findings.
"What material evidences have been used to conclude that both the pilots could not initiate ejection, as stated by the Defence Ministry," he asked.
Sahadevan also wanted to know what's the current status of the search operation in the case.
Was ISRO's foreign satellite imagery employed for surveillance during the search operation? Sahadevan requested that effective search activities should be continued till the missing pilots are located.
In a press conference in New Delhi Tuesday, A Sampath, MP, said he has taken up the issue with the President, Prime Minister and Defence minister. He said he got a reply from the Air Marshal on Monday but found it unsatisfactory.
According to Achudev’s father, the coffin was only symbolic; there was nothing belonging to Achudev in it.
The family is also intrigued that the Indian Air Force has not issued any statement about the disappearance of the two pilots. The Assam police did not register a case of a missing aircraft in Tezpur.
Officials said a fragment of the pilot’s wallet was found. However, it was not returned to the family.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said a high-level probe should be carried out into the mysterious incident and the search operation should continue.