K. Sanal Kumar has been missing since a week before Independence Day in 1992.
Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unfurls the tricolour from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Thursday, a family here is reminded of the fact that a member, an Indian Air Force (IAF) corporal, has been missing since a week before Independence Day in 1992.
The last communication between K. Sanal Kumar and his family was an inland letter written by him from the Jamnagar air force base in Gujarat dated August 3, 1992, addressed to his father, C. Damodaran Nair, Govindapuram, Palayad, Thalassery, Kannur. The letter reached the family on August 7. The translated version of the staccato sentences are: “My dear father and mother. Reached here safely. Nothing much [to write about]. There was rain. And the heat has come down. Journey was fine. Affectionately Sanal.”
Sanal’s elder brother K. Harindran, a resident of Peruvayil on the outskirts of the city, says that a few days after Sanal left for Jamnagar, a team of the Air Force police and the Thalassery police reached their ancestral house looking for him. They told him that Sanal had not reached his unit of the 481 Mobile Observation Force. His father then showed them the letter.
“We are sure he reached the air force base. Why should he abscond? He was soft-spoken but strong-minded . We are still in the dark about the developments that might have taken place at Jamnagar,” he says.
An official communication from the Wing Commander (Officer Commanding) stated that “Sanal has been absenting himself from his unit with effect from August 10, 1992.”
The 29-year-old corporal had been on leave from May 1992. Shortly after his 60-day annual leave, he had sought a month’s extension citing a marriage proposal for his sister. He should have joined duty on August 5. But he reached Jamnagar two days earlier.
The official version is that Sanal did not join duty. After a court of inquiry, the authorities informed the family that Sanal had been dismissed from the IAF. The termination order came into effect on September 8, 1992. Then came a bunch of communications from the IAF that the family will not been entitled to any pension or any other benefits.
Even today, Sanal’s whereabouts are unknown to his family and his friends.
The only piece of evidence that Sanal had reached Jamnagar is his letter. His Malayali friends had seen him at Jamnagar.
“He had joined the IAF at a young age when he was doing his final year B.Sc. at Government Brennen College, Thalassery,” Mr. Harindran says.
Their father C. Damodaran Nair, a lawyer-clerk at the Thalassery Bar for 62 years, tirelessly took up his son’s case for four years till he died in 1996. Subsequently, the mantle fell on their mother Kalyanikutty Amma, but that too lasted till her death in 2002.
Mr. Harindran then took up the task of finding his brother. His sister, Vasanthi, a teacher in Bangalore, assisted him. “All these years, I have been knocking on many doors. The IAF has not given a clear reply till now. Perhaps a thorough probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation will unravel the mystery,” he says.