Politicians from almost all the major parties have welcomed Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who is returning home after being in Pakistan's custody for two days.
While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi welcomed him at a rally, his party's leader Shashi Tharoor poured his tribute on Twitter. Trinamool Congress's Mamata Banerjee, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray, Union Minister VK Singh, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav were among the leaders who praised the Wing Commander for his bravery in the face of adversity.
The Wing Commander shot down a Pakistani F-16--part of a package of 24 jets violating Indian air space-- before his MiG 21 suffered a hit. He ejected in time, but his parachute drifted to the Pakistani side of the Line of Control. He was captured after being attacked by a mob.
Wing Cmmdr. Abhinandan's family will feel great joy at being reunited with him. Sadly 4 more service families have been robbed of that joy today.— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) March 1, 2019
Everyday the number of martyrs rises. This Govt. has proven incapable of stabilising Kashmir and preventing further loss of life.
Welcome back Wing Commander Abhinandan. I salute your bravery and the courage of your family.— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 1, 2019
India is proud of you
Wing Commander Abhinandan, a true Bharat Ratna in every sense. Awaiting his return with a huge sense of pride, not just relief, like every Indian today. Jai Hind! 🇮🇳— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) March 1, 2019
I wholeheartedly welcome #AbhinandanVartaman back home. Though I would have loved to go and receive him, I did not do so in view of the existing Defence protocols. Hope to see you soon officer! #WelcomeHomeAbhinandanpic.twitter.com/MIcvipqvzH— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) March 1, 2019
Welcome home #AbhinandanVarthaman Welcome home sweet home— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) March 1, 2019
Despite being injured, the senior pilot was not nervous in Pakistan's custody and politely refused to answer queries on his mission. A number of videos of the Wing Commander in custody were tweeted from Pakistani handles.
He is asked in one of the videos about the aircraft he was flying. "I am sorry, Major. I am not supposed to tell you this but I am sure you have found the wreckage," he replies.
What was his mission? "I am sorry, I am not supposed to tell you this".
Meanwhile, celebrations began on Twitter as a host of hashtags bearing his name are trending on the social media website.