नंदा देवी का दफन रहस्य ? On February 7, 2021, a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in the Uttarakhand Chamoli district. It caused a flood in the region. Many casualties were reported. While many people suspected that the glacier might have broken off due to global warming. Some locals in the region said otherwise.
A rumor spread that it was not due to global warming, but because of a nuclear device. People suspected that the nuclear device that was buried in the Nanda Devi mountain had exploded. This incident brought into focus a government’s secret mission. This involved high altitude espionage, radioactive materials to run a spy system, and the world’s top climbers.
During the 1960s many things were happening around the world and within India. There was a cold war between the two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union. In 1962 two major events took place. One was the Cuban missile crisis, which almost pushed the entire world on the brink of World War III.
The other was, China attacked India’s Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962 China unexpectedly attacked India. Due to China’s huge military force, India lost the battle. China captured Aksai Chin. Both the events were somewhat related to the planting of the spy device on Nanda Devi.
The Mission of India and the USA
In 1965 China conducted its first nuclear tests near Lake Lop Nur in Xinjiang Province. During the 1960s the Cold war hysteria was at its peak. The US wanted to monitor the Chinese nuclear activities. But the problem was, the place where China was conducting these tests, US satellites did not have access to the region.
The US was specifically concerned, so they turned their eyes to India. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reached out to India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB). The CIA asked for IB’s help in setting up a spy device which will help in keeping an eye on the Chinese nuclear activities. As India too had an interest in this, they agreed.
For setting up the device they had to choose a Himalayan mountain as China was visible from here. So Nanda Devi was chosen for setting up the device. Nanda Devi is the second highest mountain peak in India. It is about 25,000 feet above sea level. The US and India could not send their normal spies or paramilitary forces on such a mission.
So for carrying the device and setting it up on top of the peak a team of elite mountaineers was made. The team had not only mountaineers but porters, sherpas, nuclear experts, intelligence officers, signal experts, and specialized agents like communicators. The team was headed by Manmohan Singh Kohli.
He has a special contribution to Indian mountaineering history. He led India’s first climbing team which successfully climbed Mount Everest. The team had to carry the spy device to the summit of the mountain. To tell you more about this device. The device alone weighed 56 kilograms.
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Along with the device, there was a 6- 9 feet antenna, transceivers, and a snap generator that had seven plutonium capsules. All of this was to be carried to the top of the summit. The team climbed the mountain in October 1965. When they were about to reach the summit, there was a powerful blizzard.
Kohli was faced with the option of either continuing the mission or taking everyone back to safety. According to Kohli if he had continued the journey many lives would have been lost so he decided to turn back and come when the weather was favorable. But there was another problem, they could not carry the heavy device in such conditions.
So Kohli suggested making small caves and hiding the device and all the other equipment there and they can come later to retrieve them. Everyone agreed to that so they climbed down the mountain. When the team later arrived to retrieve them they found that some things were missing which included the plutonium capsules.
Later in 1967, another device was successfully installed at the Nanda Kot Peak which had a lower altitude. But there is no sign of the 1965 device. Many helicopters were flown over the region but the device was still not found.
The Problem (नंदा देवी का दफन रहस्य ?)
After this incident everyone was worried. As Rishiganga flows from Nanda Devi, the water of the river could be contaminated. Plutonium is a very dangerous element. This could be understood from the fact that the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945, Plutonium was its main ingredient.
As this was a secret mission it was not known to the world. But this could remain a secret only till the 1970s. The international media was told about the mission. The then Prime Minister Morarji Desai also acknowledged the mission. Search for the device went on for another 7 or 8 years but to no success.
Teams were set up near the water sources around the area to check for radioactivity. A team researching in the Nanda Devi Sanctuary found a steel round case. This is the same case in which the Plutonium capsules were enclosed. The steel was empty, it is assumed that the Plutonium capsules have escaped the steel case.
Now the plutonium used in this mission was Pu 238 and the time taken by one-half of a radioactive isotope to decay is 88 years. This has led to the concern that due to this river Ganga might become contaminated. In India, Ganga is not only a water body but is also worshipped by millions of Hindus in the country.
So the government should actively take action and should start checking for radioactivity. Today we have the technology for searching the missing plutonium capsules. If this is not checked it might lead to a bigger problem as Ganga goes through many states and it is also used to supply water in many households.