New Delhi (Sputnik): India's main opposition Congress party has demanded that the India-Pakistan dogfight pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's gunslinger moustache be declared as the “national moustache” of the country.
Speaking on Monday in the ‘Budget Session’ of the Indian parliament, the leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha - Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury - said “Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman should be awarded (for his bravery) and his moustache should be made the 'national moustache'".
Congress Lok Sabha leader, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in Lok Sabha: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman should be awarded and his moustache should be made 'national moustache'. (file pic of Abhinandan Varthaman) pic.twitter.com/0utFf61wwl— ANI (@ANI) 24 June 2019
The iconic gunslinger moustache has gained popularity in the country ever since the Indian Air Force pilot was captured by Pakistan on 27 February when his MiG-21 allegedly crashed in their territory after reportedly managing to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 in a fierce dogfight. The pilot was released by Pakistan two days later "as a peace gesture", with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stating that the gesture would prevent the tensions prevailing between the two South Asian countries from “getting out of hand”.
Today wasn’t the first time that talks of honouring the Wing Commander have surfaced.
Earlier in May, the pilot's squadron donned the name of "Falcon Slayers", as they received special uniform patches made to commemorate the aerial fight. The "Falcon" term was used to refer to the F-16 that the pilot reportedly shot down.
The 27 February dogfight was an escalation following the 14 February Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir state, claimed to have been carried out by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), in which more than 40 Indian soldiers were killed.
India responded with airstrikes against alleged JeM terror camps on Pakistani soil on 26 February. Pakistan's Air Force responded with its own airstrike, during which the dogfight involving Wing Commander Abhinandan took place. Pakistan released an image showing four missiles which it claimed were proof that the MiG-21 flown by Wing Commander Varthaman did not fire any missiles.