Category Archives: Inspiration

Lieutenant Hawa Singh – Despite Being Seriously Wounded, Courageously Cleared Five Enemy Bunkers and Killed Number of Enemy Personnel

Second Lieutenant Hawa Singh hailed from Mirzapur village in Hissar district of Haryana. Son of Mr Sheokaran Singh and Mrs Chand Kaur, 2nd Lt Hawa Singh followed his childhood dream and joined the Army after completing his studies. He was commissioned into 4/5 GR of 5 Gorkha Rifles, a regiment known for its valiant soldiers and numerous battle honours.

During 1971, 2nd Lt Hawa Singh’s unit 4/5 GR, got deployed in the Eastern sector and took part in one of biggest assaults on enemy forces before the 1971 war. The battle of Atgram complex, fought on 21 Nov, 1971 between the 5 Gorkha Rifles and the 31 Punjab of Pakistani Army, was one of the first engagements between the two opposing forces that preceded the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and also one of the first large scale assaults launched by the Indian army against East Pakistani forces before the 1971 war. The battle was fought on the border village Atgram, in the Sylhet district of then East Pakistan, approximately 35 Kms from Sylhet town. The village lay across the Surma river, which served as a de-facto border, separating East Pakistan from the Cachar district of Assam. The target of the Indian operation was the Atgram complex. Situated two kms inside the International Border across the River Surma, Atgram served as a major road communication centre , connecting it with Zakiganj to the south opposite the Indian Border town of Karimganj.

As per the attack plan 4/5 GR was tasked to capture the Atgram Salient by first light 21 November 1971 and advance further towards Charkhai and secure Sarkar Bazar, which lay approximately 4 Kms west of Atgram. The plans for the attack, drawn up by the CO, Lt Col  A B Harolikar, was aimed to surprise the enemy forces by infiltrating, and establishing road blocks to prevent reinforcements from Sarkar Bazar from the west Zakiganj to the south. This meant that to reach the Atgram, 4/5 GR troops had to cross the River Surma, infiltrating between Pakistani defences of Raigram and Amalsid, proceeding through four kms of marshes and launching the assault on Atgram complex from the rear. The force was then to proceed and clear the Border Outposts. The C Company and an Adhoc Force, was tasked to setup the road blocks and hold the approaches, while the main attack on Atgram was to be carried out by A and D Companies. To achieve maximum possible surprise, as well as a psychological factor, the main attack was planned with Khukris. 2nd Lt Hawa Singh was the  commander of one platoon of A company.

As planned 4/5 GR crossed River Surma in the earlier part of the night of 20 November 1971. C Company and Commanding Officers Group were first to cross with the help of pneumatic boats, established firm base across the river for battalion to pass through and move in between Pakistani BOP’s. The assaulting troops {A and D Company} including the platoon of 2nd Lt Hawa Singh neared the objective in the later part of the night. At about 0430 Hours on 21 Nov 1971, when A and D Company, led by their commanders, with CO in the centre, launched fierce Khukri assault and as the dawn broke captured Atgram. Pakistanis were caught by surprise and met their end with raw courage of Indian soldiers. The assaulting platoons led by 2nd Lt Hawa Singh and Capt Praveen Johri fought with gallantry and sheer dare devilry. However during the fierce fighting, 2nd Lt Hawa Singh got seriously injured and was martyred.

2nd Lt Hawa Singh was given the nation’s third highest gallantry award, “Vir Chakra” for his outstanding courage, unyielding fighting spirit and supreme sacrifice during the operation.

The citation of the Award reads:

“A Battalion of the Gorkha Rifles was given the task of capturing an enemy position in an area in the Eastern Sector. The enemy was holding a well fortified position supported by Medium Machine Guns.  During the assault Second Lieutenant Hawa Sigh was seriously wounded by enemy fire. Undeterred and regardless of his personal safety, he pressed his charge and cleared five enemy bunkers and killed a number of enemy personnel.  His daring example inspired his Company to capture the objective.  Later he succumbed to his injuries. In this action, Second Lieutenant Hawa Singh displayed commendable courage, initiative and determination.”

The inauguration of a War memorial to honour Lt Hawa Singh was held at his village Mirzapur, Hisar on 21 Nov 2019. A bust of the martyr was also unveiled.

Swaraj Parkash – As A Head Commander of INS Vikrant Ghosted Every Pakistani Ship Proving it to be a Game-changer for India in 1971 War

Swaraj Parkash was born on 3 September 1923 in Jullundur Punjab of British India. He was commissioned into the Royal Indian Navy in December 1942 as a Midshipman. He was posted as an acting Sub-Lieutenant on 3 September 1943. Swaraj also attended the Naval College of UK for the Ling Navigation and Direction Course. He got promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander in 1952 after which he attended the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington in 1955.

Lt. Com. Parkash commanded the INS Krisna, INS Khukri, INS Betwa and many more world-class ships of the Indian Navy. Co. Swaraj Parkash also attended the Naval War College at Newport in the US.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Parkash was the head commander of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (R11). They were tasked to create havoc in Pakistani harbours by eliminating threats of Pakistani ships and tons of cargo being shifted from West Pakistan to East Pakistan. Parkash devised a strong plan for a frontal attack on Pakistani warships and thus, the Alize and Hawker Sea Hawk fighter jets from the INS Vikrant launched multiple bombings on Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar. The constant airstrikes under the command of Lt. Co. Parkash resulted in the sinking of 11 Pakistani ships and destroying a huge amount of merchant cargo in Eastern waters. The new submarine of Pakistan, PNS Ghazi was also unsuccessful in defeating INS Vikrant despite multiple attempts. Commander Parkash beautifully played in the Indian waters causing a major loss to Pakistan and thus, protecting our coastline from possible dangers. INS Vikrant under Parkash’s strategic warfare strategies ghosted every Pakistani ship proving it to be a game-changer for India. The Bangladesh coast was dead scared of Indian troops due to battle skills shown by the Vikrant. For his exemplary bravery, meticulous planning and outstanding warfare leadership, Lt. Commander Swaraj Parkash was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.

The citation read: “Captain Swaraj Parkash Commanded INS VIKRANT which was the nucleus of the Naval interdiction and strike force operating against the enemy in the Bay of Bengal. Throughout the period of those operations, the ship was operating in most hazardous waters and was the principal target both for the enemy Submarines and Aircraft. With indomitable spirit, he launched ceaseless offensive operations against the enemy. The successful air strikes from the VIKRANT had devastating effect on Ports all along the Bangladesh coast and completely denied the enemy the use of sea and island waterways. The complete supremacy of our Naval force symbolized by the VIKRANT paralyzed the enemy, shattered his morale and considerably expedited the enemy’s capitulation in the Eastern Theatre. Captain Swaraj Parkash displayed conspicuous gallantry inspiring leadership, professional skill and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Navy.” After the war, Parkash was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1973 thus, presiding as the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff. He also assumed command of the entire Western Fleet of Indian Navy and became the Flag Officer. On 2 April 1976, Parkash rose to the rank of Vice-Admiral and took over the Eastern Command. In 1978, he was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal for his service. The Indian Coast Guard term came into action in 1978 and on 1 April 1980, Vice-Admiral Parkash became the Director-General of the ICG succeeding Vice-Admiral V A Kamath. He served there for two years finally retiring on 31 March 1982.

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.