On January 26, 2018, India’s third highest peacetime gallantry award — the Shaurya Chakra — was awarded to nine people for their immense valour in combating terrorists. What few Indians know is that among the nine winners of this prestigious honour was gutsy IRS officer who thwarted an infiltration bid in Kashmir.
A 2004 batch IRS officer, Pradeep’s journey from his desk in Mumbai to defending the Indian border in Kashmir has been singularly noteworthy. Compelled by long-abiding love for the uniform, he decided to join the Territorial Army, India’s second line of defence after its regular Army. The Territorial Army (TA) is basically an organisation of volunteers who receive military training in order to be mobilised for the country’s defence in case of an emergency. Members of the TA — all able-bodied and gainfully employed Indian citizens are required to serve the Indian Army for two months each year.
In 2008, Pradeep was commissioned into the 106 Infantry Battalion Territorial Army (PARA) — also known as the Bengaluru Terriers— that is attached with the 4th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (Special Forces). In May 2017, Pradeep’s unit was deployed along the Line of Control (LoC). Appointed the mission leader, he and his team were given the task of creating an effective intelligence and defence mechanism that could be used against cross-border infiltration in Baramula district of Jammu and Kashmir. On the night of May 28, Pradeep was informed about a probable infiltration bid by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists around Chabuk region of the 19 Infantry Division area. Knowing the importance of preventing this from happening, the IRS officer immediately organised an ambush party and stealthily moved ahead to intercept the infiltrators.
According to an official statement issued by the Indian Army, “At approximately 2230 hours on 28 May 2017, Captain Arya detected movement of four to six terrorists moving 200 meters ahead in the nallah. Fearing the terrorists might slip away using the moonless night and dense jungle foliage, the officer showing pre-eminent valour moved ahead with his buddy in the mined area to intercept them and immediately initiated a firefight. Displaying intrepidity at the risk of his life and cold nerves, he closed in and sat over a fallen tree overlooking the terrorists.
Captain Arya showed heroic initiative and inspirational combat leadership and ran ahead from his concealed position, unmindful of his own safety and came directly in contact with the terrorists and eliminated them.” For his dogged determination and courage in the face of the enemy, Pradeep was awarded the Shaurya Chakra.
The father of two daughters, Pradeep says that his only regret is that he doesn’t get enough time with his family (who stay in Bengaluru) even when he is not on the front because he is currently posted with the International Taxation department in Mumbai. “The small sacrifice they make allows me to pursue what I am doing,” he tells Rediff. A proactive Income-Tax officer, Pradeep also tries to utilize his experiences in both the fields for the benefit of the country. For instance, he has used his tax investigation knowledge to prepare a special report on terror funding and money laundering activities of extremists operating in Kashmir valley, an effort that has earned himself commendation from the Chief of the Army Staff.