Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala was born on 15 November 1986 in Balwadih village in district Rohtas in Bihar, and joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2005. During 12 years of service, he served in various Air Force stations across the country. He was the only son of Tej Narayan Nirala, and had four sisters, one of whom was married. The father had a small one bigha farm. Jyoti Prakash was supporting the education of his three sisters. In 2010, he got married to Sushma from Barun village in Aurangabad district.
He was a member of the Garud Commando Force. After the attack on the Air Force base in Pathankot in 2016, it was decided to train the Garuda Force along with the Army units in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), and Narula was attached to 13 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Jammu and Kashmir under the aegis of Operation Rakshak. Operation Rakshak had been launched as a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operation during the height of violence in J&K in June 1990. The operation adapted itself from being merely a “show of strength”, and achieved good results. The security forces had also incurred casualties. Attachment with 13 RR was part of on the job training for IAF commandos. On 18 November 2017, specific information was received about the presence of six terrorists in village Chanderger in Hajin area of district Bandipura, J&K.
Nirala joined the cordon and search operation along with the army personnel on 19 November 2017. They covertly approached the target house where the terrorists were suspected to be hiding, and laid an ambush. Nirala led from the front. Armed with a light machine gun, he took up a position close to the approach of the suspected hideout, thus cutting off their escape route. Laying ambush at such close quarters demanded a high degree of courage and professional competence. The militants rushed out firing and throwing grenades. Nirala killed two terrorists and injured two more in the exchange of fire. He was hit by a volley of fire. He was reported to have been shot thrice by the terrorists, but he kept on firing. All the six terrorists were eliminated. They were the top leadership of the local Lakshar-e-Taiba (LeT). The nephew of Pakistan based operation chief of LeT, Zaki-ur-Rahman, the master mind of the 26/11 Mumbai attack, was one of them. It was said to be the most successful operation of 2017. Jyoti had shown exceptional courage, undaunted by the danger he faced.
He displayed exceptional gallantry, and was awarded the Ashok Chakra posthumously, the highest honour in peace time. Nirala joins a very elite IAF club – only two other IAF men have received this Award. By virtue of being attached to the Army when he was killed, Nirala becomes the first ever IAF man officer to get the highest bravery medal for a ground combat operation.
He is survived by wife Sushma and a four year daughter, who live in Chandigarh, while the rest of the family lives in the village. His body was taken to Chandigarh airport where senior officers conducted a wreath laying ceremony and paid floral tribute. The body was then flown from there to Bihta airport near Patna, by the IAF. It was taken to his village after a salute by the IAF guard at the airport. As it reached the village, hundreds of people from the nearby villages also assembled at the funeral site shouting slogans, “Jyoti amar rahe” and “Pakistan murdabad.” Jyoti’s parents, siblings and wife were grief-stricken. After a salute by the guard of honour, his father Tej Narayan Singh performed the last rites.