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Abhinandan Varthaman

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Abhinandan Varthaman
BornTamil Nadu, India
AllegianceIndia India
Service/branch Indian Air Force
Years of service2004 to present
RankWing Commander of IAF.pngWing Commander
Service number27981[1]
Battles/wars2019 India–Pakistan standoff
An IAF MiG-21 Bison

Abhinandan Varthaman is a wing-commander in the Indian Air Force.[2][3] In the 2019 India-Pakistan standoff, he was held for 60 hours under captivity in Pakistan after his aircraft was shot down in an aerial dogfight.[4]

Early life and career

Abhinandan's family hails from Thirupanamoor, a village about 19km from Kanchipuram.[5] His father, Simhakutty Varthaman, retired as an Air Marshal (OF-8) in the Indian Air Force while his mother is a doctor by profession.[6][7] Abhinandan is married to a retired IAF Squadron leader and lives in Chennai.[8][9]

A graduate of the National Defence Academy, he was commissioned into the combat (fighter) stream of the Indian Air Force as a flying officer on 19 June 2004.[10] He was trained at the IAF centres in Bathinda and Halwara. He was a Su-30 MKI fighter pilot before being assigned to the MiG-21 Bison squadron.[8]

Capture

On 27 February 2019, Varthaman was flying a MiG-21 as a part of a sortie that was scrambled to intercept an intrusion by Pakistan aircraft into Jammu and Kashmir. In the dogfight that ensued, he crossed into Pakistan territory where he was struck by a missile. Varthaman ejected and descended safely in the village of Horran in Pakistan administered Kashmir, approximately 7 km from the Line of Control.[11][12]

It was claimed by local villagers that Varthaman could be identified as an Indian pilot by the Indian flag on his parachute.[11] Upon landing, Varthaman asked the villagers if he was in India, to which a young boy replied in the affirmative.[11] Varthaman reportedly followed up with pro-India slogans and asked for drinking water while informing the locals of a back injury. The locals responded with pro-Pakistan slogans, after which Varthaman began to run while firing warning shots. He ran for approximately 500 metres, to a small pond, where he attempted to sink and swallow some of his documents. Subsequently, he was captured and manhandled by the villagers before being rescued by the Pakistan Army.[13][12]

Later that day, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that an Indian pilot was missing in action after a MiG-21 Bison fighter plane was lost while engaging with Pakistani jets.[14][15][16] A statement released by the IAF also said that prior to his MiG's crashing, he had managed to shoot down a PAF Lockheed Martin F-16.[17][18][19] On the 2nd of March 2019, nearly two days after the aerial engagement between PAF and IAF, in a media briefing the IAF displayed the parts of AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles which could be used only by the PAF's Lockheed Martin F-16.They also claimed that they had identified the electronic signatures of the aircraft and confirmed that it was the Lockheed Martin F-16 that was used. According to an agreement between the US and Pakistan, Pakistan is allowed to use the Lockheed Martin F-16 against terrorism only. [20] Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations Director General refuted the later claims and asserted that F-16s were not used at all.[21]

Videos

Videos and images released by Pakistani authorities showed Varthaman being rescued from a violent mob by Pakistani soldiers,[22] being interrogated while tied and blindfolded with a bloody face.[13][22] Other videos showed him receiving first aid and being further interrogated over tea.[23][13][22][13] The media received mixed reception with some criticising them as a "vulgar display" whilst others praised the intervention of the Pakistani soldiers when Varthaman was in the hands of the mob.[22] The release of these videos were suspected of being a violation of the Geneva Conventions and were deleted by Pakistani authorities after they went viral.[24] However experts differed whether the Geneva Convention applies in this case.[25] In the first few videos, Varthaman did not divulge any details other than his name, his rank and that he was a Hindu.[citation needed]

Repatriation and subsequent developments

Wagha border

On 28 February 2019, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan announced at a joint sitting of the Parliament of Pakistan that the government had decided to release Abhinandan the next day as a "gesture of peace".[26] A petition was filed before the Islamabad High Court seeking an injunction to stop his release but was dismissed by the court the same day.[27] Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan said that his government announced the release of the IAF Wing Commander out of a desire for peace and there was no compulsion or pressure on Pakistan; as was implied by the Indian media.[28]

Varthaman crossed the India-Pakistan border at Wagah on 1 March 2019.[29][30][31] Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the release of Abhinandan at a political rally, asserting that the nation was proud of him.[32] Hours before his release, a fresh video was released to the Pakistani media which showed Varthaman praising the Pakistani army while criticizing the Indian media. The video appeared to be heavily edited and the IAF later claimed that the video was shot under duress.[33][34][35][36] A medical check-up upon his return located multiple bruises and a fractured rib but no 'significant injuries'.[37] Abhinandan said that the Pakistani authorities did not physically torture him but subjected him to considerable "mental harassment". Pakistan maintains that he was treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.[38]

Akhil Bharatiya Digambar Jain Mahasamiti has announced that he will be awarded the ‘Bhagwan Mahavir Ahimsa Puraskar’ on April 17, on Mahavir Jayanthi.[39]

Moustache

Abhinandan moustache

Varthaman's moustache has become trendy in India. It is now widely called the "Abhinandan-cut" in India.[40][41][42][43][44] The style is similar to a combination old gunslinger moustache and mutton chops worn by Franz Joseph I of Austria.[45][43] It resembles actor Suriya's moustache in the Singam film series and Rajinikanth's moustache in Petta (2019).[45][46] Indian actor Ranveer Singh's barber, Darshan Yewalekar, was quoted saying that "the beard sported by the IAF pilot will soon be called India's very own Abhinandan style."[47] A number of companies used the moustache in their advertisements. Dairy company Amul produced a video with Jim Sarbh, featuring a little girl wearing an Abhinandan-shaped milk moustache.[48][49] The ad, posted on Twitter, received more than 170,000 views within 24 hours.[50][51] Pizza Hut also posted a tweet with the Abhinandan moustache on 3 March 2019.[52][53]

See also

References

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  2. ^ Dawn.com (28 February 2019). "2 Indian aircraft violating Pakistani airspace shot down; 2 pilots arrested". DAWN.COM. Archived from the original on 27 February 2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
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  7. ^ "Cheers, Claps For Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's Parents On Flight To Delhi". NDTV. 1 March 2019. Archived from the original on 1 March 2019. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
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  10. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Air Branch)". The Gazette of India. 30 September 2006. p. 1371.
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  20. ^ [1] Article in "India Today".
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  23. ^ Ashwani, S. (4 March 2019). "अभिनंदन के पीओके में गिरने के तुरंत बाद का नया वीडियो, इसमें दिख रहा है कि विंग कमांडर को पकड़ने के बाद कितनी दहशत में थे पाक सैनिक, जल्दबाजी में जमीन पर ही लेटा कर करने लगे खून साफ". Dainik Bhaskar.
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  42. ^ "Abhinandan's gunslinger moustache evokes awe, youngsters rush to replicate style". Asian News International. 3 March 2019.
  43. ^ a b "Abhinandan Varthaman's Gunslinger Moustache Is All The Rage In India". NDTV. S Shobana. 3 March 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
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  50. ^ Desk, India com Buzz (3 March 2019). "Amul Sets Twitter Abuzz With 'Mooch' Video, Pays Tribute to IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan". India.com.
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