Silkyara tunnel rescue: Will rat miners be awarded on Republic Day?

Terming their work 'heroic' Prashant Bhushan said "most of the rat hole miners were Dalits and Muslims, a fact largely ignored by mainstream media"

A 12-member team, ranging in age from 20 to 45,rescued 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel for 17 days (photo: @DPrasanthNair/X)
A 12-member team, ranging in age from 20 to 45,rescued 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel for 17 days (photo: @DPrasanthNair/X)

NH Political Bureau

In a heartening display of unity and selflessness, a diverse team of rat miners, comprising both Hindus and Muslims, rescued 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel for 17 days.

The 12-member team, ranging in age from 20 to 45, showcased exceptional skills in manoeuvring through narrow pipes and excavating soil, a craft integral to their work with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).

Commonly referred to as "rat hole miners", these individuals demonstrated exceptional courage and expertise when called into action, after all efforts to reach the trapped labourers failed.

They were hailed as ‘real heroes’ and ‘saviours’ by the nation, and were trending on social media after the rescue mission was over.

"One of them, Mohammad Irshad, prayed for everyone that love should be preserved in the country and humans should be loved as humans. When Nasir Hussain, the second rat hole miner, saw the first of the workers trapped on the other side of the collapsed tunnel, he immediately went near him and hugged him. This is love. Our country is built on this love. Jai Hind." wrote Congress general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi on X.

Vaqeel Hasan, the head of the team from Delhi-based Rockwell Enterprises, emphasised the collaborative effort of individuals from different faiths.

In an interview with the Indian Express, Hasan highlighted the significance of unity and harmony. His message serves as a poignant reminder to prioritise unity over divisive politics.

“In our team, there are both Hindus and Muslims and people from both religions worked hard to save these 41 lives. None of them could have done this alone, and this is the message I want to give to everyone… We should all live in harmony and not spread the poison of hate. We all want to give our 100 per cent for the country… Please convey my message to everyone,” Hasan told the Indian Express.

Will the country also recognise them? Many social media users are wondering whether the BJP-led Central government, which is perceived as a polarising influence in many quarters, will recognise their extraordinary feat on Republic Day. This came after many demanded that Australian tunnel expert Arnold Dix be conferred with a Padma award on Republic Day.

No doubt that in a political landscape often marked by polarisation, the story of the rat miners’ extraordinary mission stands out as a beacon of hope, emphasising the potential for unity and collaboration across religious lines.

The team's remarkable efforts serve as a testament to the power of collective action and selfless service, transcending societal divisions. Hasan further underscored the diversity within his team, emphasising that the challenging rescue mission required collective effort.

The rescuers, including Hasan, Munna Qureshi, Naseem Malik, Monu Kumar, Saurabh, Jatin Kumar, Ankur, Nasir Khan, Devendra, Firoz Qureshi, Rashid Ansari, and Irshad Ansari, worked tirelessly in four shifts of six hours each, ensuring continuous progress in the cramped and challenging conditions. They dug approximately 12 meters in just 26-27 hours, a task that would typically take 10-15 days under normal circumstances.

Hasan attributed their accelerated pace to the pressure of saving lives and the expectation placed upon them. Highlighting the difference between their routine work and the rescue operation, Hasan remarked on the heightened motivation stemming from the urgency of saving lives. He expressed, "Lives were at stake here. More than 140 crore people, along with the whole world, were counting on us."

Remarkably, these unsung heroes refused any financial compensation for their life-saving mission. Hasan clarified, "We did not want any money in exchange for this work."

Terming their work 'heroic', Prashant Bhushan wrote on X :"Most of the heroic rat hole miners who rescued the 41 trapped workers in the collapsed tunnel of 'Char dham highway project' were Dalits & Muslims, a fact largely ignored by mainstream media. They are the most oppressed & reviled communities of India".

Despite, the message that rat miners delivered is important, and challenge the prevalent narrative, showcasing that humanity and compassion can prevail even in the face of adversity.

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