Author Archives: kuldeepjha

Sandhu’s Family – The Only Family in the Country to be Awarded Four Shaurya Chakras

Tarn Taran was among the worst-hit districts during militancy in Punjab. The family of Balwinder Singh Sandhu fought against terrorism in the state for decades, facing at least 16 terror attacks during height of Khalistani militancy in Punjab and subsequently 28 other terror attacks but had been able to repudiate them all while fighting militants along with his brother and their wives. Inspired by Sandhu and his family, many people followed him and defended themselves from terror attacks.

Balwinder Singh Sandhu, his wife Jagadish Kaur Sandhu, his older brother Ranjit Singh Sandhu and his wife Balraj Kaur Sandhu were awarded Shaurya Chakra for their bravery by the President in 1993.  His is the only family in the country that has been awarded four Shaurya Chakras for showing unique courage and valour. Documentaries have also been made on their anti-terror feats.

The citation for the Shaurya Chakra Award to the above four mentions, “Balwinder Singh Sandhu and his brother Ranjit Singh Sandhu are opposed to the activities of terrorists. They were on the hit lists of terrorists. The terrorists so far have made 16 attempts to wipe out the Sandhu’s family within in about 11 months.

The terrorists attacked them in groups of 10 to 200, but every time Sandhu brothers with the help of their brave wives Jagdish Kaur Sandhu and Balraj Kaur Sandhu have successfully failed the attempts of militants to kill them. Militants had attacked the family on January 31, 1990 for the first time.

The family had faced the deadliest attack on September 30, 1990 when around 200 terrorists surrounded their house from all sides and attacked them continuously for five hours with deadly weapons including rocket launchers. In this well-planned attack by terrorists, the approach road of the house was blocked by spreading underground mines so that no help from police could reach them.

Undaunted, Sandhu brothers and their wives fought terrorists with pistols and sten-guns provided by the government. The resistance shown by Sandhu brothers and their family members forced the terrorists to retreat. All these persons have displayed courage and bravery of a high order in facing the attack of the terrorists and failing their repeated murderous attempts.”

Unfortunately, in October 2020, Shaurya Chakra awardee Balwinder Singh Sandhu was shot dead by unknown assailants in Tarn Taran, months after the government withdrew his security cover. The motorcycle-borne men pumped four bullets into 62-year-old Sandhu when he was at his office adjoining his home in Bhikhiwind near Tarn Taran and escaped. He was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him brought dead.

As per his wife, who stood by him to fight against terrorism, over 40 FIRs have been registered in attacks on their family. The previous one was in December 2018 when unknown persons fired at their house. Balwinder is survived by wife, two sons, Gagandeep Singh and Arshdeep Singh, and a daughter. They have expressed suspicion that Balwinder’s killing is a terror attack. “We don’t have any kind of personal enmity. This is a clear-cut attack by terrorists. I have fought against terrorism. Now, when he has been martyred, I will give a tougher fight to get the justice,” said Kaur, his wife.

Colonel DPK Pillay – The Unique Saga of a Soldier Who Manipur Loves

In an emotional reunion, an Army officer who nearly died in an encounter 16 years ago returned to the Manipur village where the fire fight took place and met a girl whose life he saved as well as the militant who shot him thrice. The officer, Colonel Dr. Divakaran Padma Kumar Pillay (D P K Pillay), who was then a young Captain, made the journey back to the remote Longdi Pabram village in Manipur in March 2020 as part of an Army goodwill gesture.  The village had not forgotten his act of kindness and, in gratitude, the entire village gathered around him. He was inducted as an important member of the local community and was felicitated in a big way.

His last visit to the village was in January 1994 when he was leading a patrol to the remote village on the trail of dreaded NSCN militants, at a time when insurgency was at its height in the state. Tracking down the militants and finding them cornered in a locked room, Col Pillay broke open the door, only to be welcomed with a burst of bullets from AK-47s. The first bullet hit him in his shoulder and was followed by three more, with one hitting him in his chest. A grenade was hurled at him at that very moment too.

“I don’t know how I saw the grenade in the darkness but instantly, I kicked the grenade and the grenade blew on my leg, taking a portion of my leg away,” he says. In the ensuing crossfire, Col Pillay noticed two children who were severely injured. Despite having taken four bullets, when the helicopter arrived to evacuate him, he refused to be moved and insisted that the young children be taken to safety first. A fatally wounded Col Pillay had the option to either evacuate himself at the earliest or save the two children who had been hit in the crossfire. He chose the latter and hung on for two hours, waiting for the next evacuation.

“The nearest hospital was about 6 hours away. There’s no way the children would have survived. I think I knew that I had 5 minutes of life left in me and I can hang on for a little bit. So I told the pilot not to worry about me,” he says.

While Pillay did recover from his wounds and went back to join the Army after a gap of one year, his life hung in the balance for almost two hours that the chopper took to come back and evacuate him. At a young age of 24, Colonel Pillay was decorated with the Shaurya Chakra – India’s highest peacetime gallantry award.

However, the bigger surprise was that Pillay got to meet the militants who had fired at him 16 years ago. While one militant was killed in the encounter, the other three surrendered and have since reformed. They now work as farmers and came for the reunion after hearing that Pillay would be present. Perhaps the most touching moment for him was the gift he received when he was about to return to the capital —- a bagful of oranges that Kaine Bon presented to him, fruits that he had grown as a farmer after shunning guns 16 years ago.

Today, Colonel Pillay overseas livelihood programmers for the village and is instrumental in bringing a motor-able road to the village. He organizes developmental activities in the region. Prompted by Pillay’s initiatives, the BRTF has started the groundwork to construct a new 28-km road connecting the village with Tamenglong district headquarters. No wonder he has aptly earned himself the title ‘Hero of Manipur’ and ‘Savior of Longdipabram.’ D P K Pillay (Retd.) has seen action in several disturbed areas of the country. Col. Pillay has held several assignments in his 29-year career in the Indian Army. Besides several field assignments, he was selected by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to serve at the Military School, Bangalore to inspire cadets to join the Armed Forces. In 2003, he was selected for Project Beta which delivered a handheld PDA for use by the Infantry in counter insurgency operations. This was a very unique military-funded IT enterprise. For his contribution to the project, he was awarded the COAS Commendation Card in 2005. Currently, Col. Pillay is pursuing research on violent extremism at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis as well as a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) project on Action Plan to Counter Radicalisation of Indian Youth.

The Officer Who Literally Lived & Died on the Lines of Immortal Verses of Bharatiyar “Fear I have Not, Fear I have not”

There is a video in which Mukund and Arshea, his daughter, have sung a song of Subramanya Bharatiyar “Achamillai, Achamillai” meaning, “Fear I have not, fear I have not, Even if the entire sky breaks, And falls on my head Even if they judge me as the worst,
Fear I have not, fear I have not.” Truly, Mukund Varadarajan lived and died on the lines of immortal verses of Bharatiyar.

Major Mukund Varadarajan was born on 12 April 1983 to R.Varadarajan and Geetha and had two sisters Swetha and Nithya. Maj Mukund married his longtime friend Indhu Rebecca Varghese on 28 August 2009 and had a daughter Ashreya born on 17 March 2011. He received his Bachelor of Commerce from Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya at Enathur and a diploma in journalism from the Madras Christian College, Tambaram. His grandfather and two of his uncles also served in the army and that motivated Maj Mukund to join the army. He cherished this desire right from his tender age of 6 years.

Major Mukund worked in a call centre for a month before passing the SSB, though I encouraged him to study MBA,” recalled his father. He was an alumnus of Officers Training Academy and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Rajput Regiment (22 Rajput) in 2006. He served at the Infantry School in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh and was also a part of United Nations Mission in Lebanon. In December 2012, he was deputed to the 44th Battalion of the Rashtriya Rifles and posted in the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir.

During 2014, Maj Mukund’s unit was deployed in Shopian district of J & K and was engaged in counterinsurgency operations on a regular basis. On 25 Apr 2014, information was received from the intelligence sources about the presence of some hardcore terrorists in Kaajipathri village in Shopian district. It was decided to launch an operation to flush out the terrorists under the leadership of Major Mukund Varadarajan. As planned Maj Mukund swung into action along with his troops and cordoned off the suspected area. The intelligence information also suggested that the same terrorists were responsible for killing election officials 24 hours earlier with the intention of disrupting the electoral process in the valley.

The heavily armed terrorists opened fire at the assault team on being challenged. Maj Mukund in a swift action shot and killed one terrorist, simultaneously directing the fire of his troops. During the heavy exchange of fire, Maj Mukund got seriously injured but with total disregard to his injuries, he crawled forward and shot one more terrorist down. He showed remarkable courage and leadership despite bleeding profusely and continued to direct his troops. However, Maj Mukund succumbed to his injuries and was martyred.

For his brave actions during the operation, he was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award in 2014, for displaying valor beyond the call of duty. The citation by the Government of India during the declaration of the Ashok Chakra read: “During the operation, before attaining martyrdom, Major Mukund displayed exemplary leadership skills, raw courage, planning and swift action, which culminated in the elimination of the three top ranked Hizbul Mujaheddin terrorists”.  The bust of late Major Mukund Varadarajan was unveiled at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) on June 1, 2015 by the late Major’s wife Indu in the presence of his parents and Lieutenant General Ravindra Pratap Singh Sahi, Commandant, OTA among others. “There lived a man who loved me with all his heart……There lived a man who fathered my child……..There lived a man who believed in integrity…..There lived a man who loved his profession…There lived a man who never feigned to be a hero….There lived a man who was my soul….There lived a man with a heart full of generosity….There lived a man who revealed all to me….There lived a man who loved me with his life….But… now I wait … for he is with god…I know for sure…One day I will meet him…. I know for sure…And he will give me that warm strong hug of his… I know for sure…And I will not complain that I can’t breathe…You can hug me…. Hug me all you want…” This poem was penned by Indu Mukund, as a Eulogy to her late husband Mukund Varadarajan who died in a battle, protecting the country. Written on the night she heard of his death, her love poem will leave anyone teary-eyed.

The IAF Commando credited for eliminating Lashkar-e-Toiba top leadership

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.

Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami Gunned Down 10 Terrorists in 11 Days

Lance Naik Goswami displayed courage and patriotism that is seldom seen even in the bravest of men. He put his troops and their safety above his own and defended his country with his very last breath. His actions were the truest form of patriotism and his legacy will live on forever. 

Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami hailed from Lalkuan village in Nainital district of Uttarakhand. Son of an Army veteran, L Nk Goswami always nursed the dream of joining the Army. In 2002, he had joined the 9th Battalion, of the Parachute Regiment, a special forces battalion known for its fearless soldiers and daredevil operations in most challenging conditions. Within short span of time, Lance Naik Goswami had earned the reputation of being one of the toughest men in the unit. Lance Naik Goswami volunteered for various operational missions undertaken by his unit and was a part of numerous successful counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

He actively participated in three successful counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir in August/September 2015, within a span of 11 days. Among the countless stories of unparalleled courage in the Army the story of  L Nk Goswami is legendary. His saga of gallantry is regarded with awe and disbelief among his unit personnel.

First operation: 22 Aug 2015

On 21 Aug 2015, a Para(SF) squad under the leadership of Capt Dipesh Mehra was deployed to hunt terrorists in a remote village named Khurmur in Handwara district of J & K. As per intelligence reports 3 terrorists were expected to arrive at a designated spot to receive 6 more infiltrators. On the night of 22 Aug the squad spotted the infiltrators, who on being challenged fired at the troops. During the exchange of fire, Capt Mehra got injured. On getting this information L Nk Goswami who was at the 9 Para(SF) HQs at that time volunteered to rush to the rescue of Capt Mehra’s squad. L Nk Goswami joined the squad of Capt Mehra and helped the injured Capt out of the area. L Nk Goswami continued with the operation till the next day and consequently all the infiltrators were eliminated making the operation code named as “Operation Khurmur” successful.

Second operation : 26 Aug 2015

On 26 Aug 2015, an information was received from the intelligence sources that 5 terrorists had infiltrated in Uri sector. The troops of 35 RR who were deployed to tackle them managed to kill one terrorist on a remote ridge line on the Shamshabari range. The other four terrorists escaped under the cover of darkness. A drone was deployed by the Army to track the movements of fleeing terrorists. Also 12 commandos of 9 Para(SF) including L Nk Goswami were air dropped to take on the terrorists. The landing area was about 4 Kms away from the last known location of the terrorists. Eventually the drone guided the commandos to the cave where the terrorists were hiding. L Nk Goswami again leading from the front managed to kill 3 terrorists along with his comrades and captured on terrorist alive. Thus L Nk Goswami once again played a pivotal role in successfully completing the operation code named as “Operation Lidder Panzal”.

Third operation: 02/03 Sep 2015

On 02 Sep 2015, the intelligence reports suggested that 6 infiltrators were on their way across the remote Sutsalyar forests of Kupwara, one of the densest jungles of Kashmir. The visibility thorough the foliage was never more than 3 meters making the task of the troops much more difficult. 6 squads of 36 men were deployed to take on the infiltrators in a planned operation of 96 hours. At 2030 hrs L Nk Goswami’s squad detected the terrorists in the suspected location, who fired at them on being challenged. In the first few minutes 1 of the 4 terrorists was hit by L Nk Goswami’s bullet but not killed.

The guns fell silent afterwards as it began to rain. Bur shortly after midnight, the terrorists fired at the troops with grenade launcher and injured L Nk Goswami’s two comrades. L Nk Goswami along with his buddy Havildar Mahendra Singh moved towards the injured soldiers but as they did so, his buddy was hit by bullets form the terrorists paralyzing his lower half of the body. In order to save his buddy, L Nk Goswami sprang from his cover position firing furiously at the terrorists. But during the exchange of fire L Nk Goswami was hit by two bullets and he crumpled sideways with a roar. But L Nk Goswami killed the two advancing terrorists before crashing on the ground. L Nk Goswami was martyred setting a fine example of gallantry, unyielding fighting spirit and sacrifice.For his bravery and enormous courage, he was given the nation’s highest peace time gallantry award, “Ashok Chakra”posthumously. The road going to the martyr’s home at Lalkuan village about 30 Kms from Nainital has been named in his honour.