Almost a year after the fierce gun battle in Hajin area of Bandipora in North Kashmir, which left him almost dead, CRPF’s Chetan Kumar Cheetah has finally resumed active duty as Commandant in Force Headquarter in Delhi last week. Donning a Khaki uniform, wearing an eye-patch on his right eye, and metal glasses, Cheetah told India Today, “I am proud to resume my duty again. It is good to be back.”
Referring to the uniform, he laughed and said, “This is my second skin.” Cheetah’s survival was nothing short of a miracle. The brave soldier took 9 bullets in an encounter between terrorists and security forces in the wee hours of February 14, 2017, in Hajin area of Bandipora. Cheetah was conferred the Kirti Chakra for his bravery. The Citation of the Award read:
“On 13th February 2917, Shri Chetan Kumar Cheetah, Commandant, 45-Bn, CRPF received an intelligence input, from SSP Bandipora about the presence of two LeT foreign militants in Parry Mohalla, Hajin under PS-Hajjin, Dist. Bandipora, J&K. Based on the intelligence, an operation was planning jointly by Shri Chetan Kumar Cheetah, Commandant, 45-Bn CRPF, CO 13 RR, and SDPO, Sumbal. It was decided that the troops of 13 RR will lay the initial cordon and Commandant 45 Bn, CRPF along with his troops of 13 RR will carry out the assault on the hidden militants. Accordingly, on 14.2.2017 at 0500 hrs, a Cordon and search operation was launched by troops C, D Coys and QAT of 45 Bn CRPF under the overall commandant of Shri Chetan Kumar Cheetah and SOG, J&K Police, Bandipora, in Parry Mohalla, Hajin.
Since the input of the presence of two foreign militants was very reliable, Commandant 45 Bn and CO 13 RR decided to check and ensure that cordon of the support of the local populace. Later, the slain terrorist was identified as the dreaded LeT ‘A’ category terrorist Abu Haris. Troops recovered 1 AK Rile with 04 magzines and 71 rounds of ammunition and hand grenade from the slain terrorist.
During the operation, Shri Chetan Kumar Cheetah, CO, displayed exceptional leadership qualities, rare grit and moral courage risking his own life in neutralizing the dreaded terrorist before he could cause further fatalities to his fellow troops. Undaunted to the pestilent attack by the second terrorist, and, despite being severely wounded he stood his ground and continued to fire leaving the terrorist with no option but to flee. Shri Chetan Kumar Cheetah emplaced indelible example of chivalry, spirit of selfless sacrifice and sterling qualities of leadership.”
Doctors who attended on Cheetah said he has shown a steely resolve to respond to their intensive medical care that went on for close to about two months. “Cheetah was in coma for 16 days and spent a month in the ICU before being discharged. He had suffered bullet injuries in his brain, right eye, abdomen, both the arms, left hand and in the buttock region. According to doctors, the hopes for vision returning to Cheetah’s right eye are “bleak” although his left eye which was also injured due to splinter injuries has been restored. The bullet wounds are still visible on his hand, where the flesh seems to have been cut off.
After he was discharged from AIIMS, Cheetah was desperate to rejoin the CRPF, seeking a posting with the CoBRA battalion, which fights Maoists in Chhattisgarh. However, senior CRPF officials have said that Cheetah will require another two years before he can resume combat duties. However, Chetan Cheetah’s fighting spirit seemed every bit alive, “If my force and my country want me to go to field area and do operations, there will be no hesitation.” His return, post his recovery, truly shows the willpower of the Indian soldiers along with their unconditional commitment to the nation.