MiG-21 crash victim’s wife still hoping for safe return

Shimla, Nov 8: Nine long years after the crash of an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 in which her husband had gone missing, she still hopes he is safe and will some day return home.

‘Still I am quite optimistic. I have a strong belief that my husband and his co-pilot are safe,’ Farah Khan, wife of Squadron Leader T.J.A. Khan who went missing in a MiG-21 air crash in Assam in 2002, told IANS.

The recovery of the remains of the pilot of a MiG-29 combat jet that crashed in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul Valley after a fortnight-long massive combing in snow-capped peaks Nov 5 has brought distress for his family but Farah Khan is not keen to get her husband’s remains.

‘I am still hoping for a miracle. I don’t want to get his remains now. That will be more painful for me right now,’ she said.

In an interview, the mother of twin boys said: ‘If there is anything worse for a family than the pain of losing a dear one then it’s not getting to know what exactly happened.’

Khan and his co-pilot Flying Officer Deepak Dahiya were on a training mission when their aircraft went missing in the thick forests of Tezpur adjoining the border of Assam and Bhutan.

A number of subsequent combing operations were carried out in the area but still there is no word about the pilots of the ill-fated combat jet and its wreckage. After several weeks of search, the Eastern Air Command gave up hope.

Likewise, a massive search operation is still on to retrieve the wreckage of the MiG-29 jet that crashed in Lahaul Valley Oct 18.

Moved by the trauma of the family of Tomar, Farah Khan, who is now settled in Nanital in Uttarakhand, is keeping a close watch on the ongoing search operation.

‘Dangling between hope and despair and utter helplessness at not being able to do anything is a tortuous terrain that families of pilots in such cases tread on for days and in some cases for years,’ she said.

‘Official procedures and endeavours do little to mitigate the trauma being undergone by the family. But still I am quite optimistic.’

Farah Khan, 40, whose husband had been awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal, said: ‘How is it possible that despite so many search operations, no wreckage was traced? We were not informed much about the results of combing operations. We were only told that heavy rains in the forests could have washed away much of the debris.’

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

IANS