Category Archives: Nation

General Arunkumar Sridhar Vaidya – An Outstanding Military Leader Who Served the Indian Army Religiously for More Than Four Decades

General Arunkumar Sridhar Vaidya assumed charge of the Indian Army, as the 13th Chief of Army Staff, on 31 July 1983. Born on 27 January 1926, he was commissioned into the Indian Armoured Corps in 1945 and saw battle during the Second World War. He was the seventh post-independence commander of the 9th Deccan Horse, one of the oldest armoured regiments in the Indian Army.

During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, then Lieutenant Colonel Vaidya was in command of the Deccan Horse. From September 6th to 11th, his unit fought a series of actions in Asal Uttar and Cheema, both in Punjab. He showed inspiring leadership and remarkable resourcefulness in organising his unit and fighting against heavy odds and inflicted severe casualties on the Pakistan Army’s Patton tanks. For his exceptional bravery he was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (India’s second highest medal for gallantry).

During the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, then Brigadier Vaidya was commander of an armoured brigade in the Zafarwal sector on the western front. He moved his brigade swiftly to get to grips with the Pakistan Army and took the enemy tanks by surprise. He employed his tanks relentlessly & aggressively and helped the division to maintain constant pressure & momentum of advance against the Pakistan Army. In the battle of Chakra and Dahira, the going was difficult due to hostile terrain combined with minefields. In a cool and confident manner, he undertook the crossing through the minefield and moved forward, disregarding his own personal safety. Through his inspiring leadership, the entire squadron pushed through the lane and quickly deployed itself to meet the Pakistan Army’s counter-attacks.

During the Battle of Basantar in the Shakargarh sector, also during the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, Brigadier Vaidya again displayed his professional skill and superb leadership. He got his tanks through one of the deepest minefields, expanded the bridgehead and repulsed a strong enemy counter-attack. In this battle, 62 Pakistan Army tanks were destroyed. Throughout, he displayed outstanding courage, great professional skill, indomitable will, foresight and imagination in fighting against the enemy in keeping with the best traditions of the Indian Army. For this he was awarded a second Maha Vir Chakra (known as the Bar to MVC).

He was elevated to various ranks and he proved his mettle in all such ranks. His tackling of the insurgency problems in his command has been particularly praiseworthy. He was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) in 1983 for distinguished service of the most exceptional order.

General Vaidya took over as the Chief of the Army Staff from 01 August 1983 to 31 January 1985. During his tenure as Army Chief, he planned Operation Bluestar in 1984 – a controversial military action against militant Khalistan separatists who barricaded themselves in the Sikh’s most holiest shrine – the Golden Temple in Punjab. He described the operation as the most difficult and painful decision of his career. He retired on 31 January 1986 after completing more than 40 years of service and retired to a quiet life in Pune.

Shortly before he retired, his staff had warned him of the danger to his life from Sikh militants who, in several letters that landed in South Block almost every day, threatened to assassinate him for leading Operation Bluestar. His response was straightforward and soldier like: “After seeing two wars I can’t run away from danger. If a bullet is destined to get me it will come with my name written on it.”

As predicted, he was assassinated by Khalistan separatists on 10 August 1986, in retaliation for the Indian Army’s attack on the Golden Temple. He was posthumously awarded the Padma Vibhushan – India’s second highest civilian honour – for his tireless service to the nation.

An outstanding military leader, General Vaidya gave the Indian Army a very sound leadership and brought with him an aura of gallantry, valour and remarkable reservoir of combat experience befitting the head of the army. He had the distinction of being among the most decorated soldiers in the defence services.

Edul Jahangir Dhatigara – Who was Awarded for Undertaking a Very Hazardous Supply Dropping Mission Despite Receiving Many Bullet Hits

Air Marshal Edul Jahangir Dhatigara (1899) was commissioned in Flying (Pilot) Branch of the India Air Force in June 1942. He served with distinction during the operations in North West Frontier Provinces in 1943-44, J&K in 1948, Nagaland in 1956, Goa in 1962, Ladakh in 1962 and Indo-Pakistan of 1965 and 1971.

Early in his career, as a flight Commander of a Transport Squadron, he successfully organised relief operations during the earthquake and flood catastrophe that had struck Assam in 1950. In October, 1954, he was assigned the command of an Air Force Station in the Eastern Sector. In this capacity he planned and executed counter-insurgency operations in 1956. During these operations he undertook a very hazardous supply dropping mission in which his aircraft received many bullet hits from ground fire. For this act of courage and leadership he was awarded the Kirti Chakra. 

The citation of the Kirti Chakra Award read: “During the operation in the Naga Hills, the outpost garrison at Sakhai was cut off on 27th March 1956 and the hostiles kept up the attack on the outpost throughout the night. Next morning an emergency message was received that unless an immediate airdrop of water and ammunition was carried out at Sakhai, the garrison would have no means of defence. The aircraft which had flown on a normal sortie earlier that day had reported fast deterioration of weather and had suggested stoppages of further flying. The garrison commander pressed that the airdrop was absolutely essential. In the circumstances Wing Commander Dhatigara decided to make the attempt himself. There was also the requirement that the airdrop should be made in a zone of 40 yards by 20 yards. On reaching the spot Wing Commander Dhatigara found that dropping zone was partially covered and the air was very turbulent. After the first run-in, the outpost informed the aircraft that dropping circuit should be changed as the aircraft was being fired upon when passing over the villages of Sakhai, Vishyepu and Khivi. But due to clouds no other circuit was possible. Wing Commander Dhatigara, disregarding the advice from the outpost continued the airdropping operations in spite of bad weather and automatic fire from the hostiles. The supply of water and ammunition was successfully delivered to the garrison in good time and good condition.

By volunteering to carry out the airdrop under very adverse weather conditions and in the face of heavy automatic fire Wing Commander Edul Jahangir Dhatigara displayed initiative, courage and skill which was in the best traditions of the I.A.F.”

After the Goa operations in 1962, he was entrusted the task of clearing Dabolim airport of unexploded bombs and repairing the damaged airfield. He accomplished this heavy task in a short span of six days. For this valuable service he was commended by the Chief of the Air Staff.

In 1964, he was assigned the Command of an operational Wing in the Eastern Sector. In this capacity, he was responsible for the successful operations carried out by Fighters and Transport aircraft against Pakistan in September, 1965. During the Indo-Pak war of 1971, he was the Air Officer Commanding of an operational Wing in the Western Sector and under his inspiring leadership the Wing made conspicuous contributions towards the achievements of Fighter and Bomber squadrons during the operations against Pakistan.

Air Vice Marshal Dhatigara took over as Assistant Chief of the Air staff (Operations) at Air Headquarters in June, 1972. He has successfully tackled intricate operational problems and has established a very amiable and most satisfactory rapport with his counterparts in Army and Naval Headquarters.

Air Marshal Edul Jahangir Dhatigara retired after rendering a distinguished service of the most exceptional order. He passed away on 4th October 2010.

Captain Vijayant Thapar – Besides Being A Soldier with Nerves of Steel Was a Fine Human Being with a Golden Heart

22-year-old Captain Vijyant Thapar, though lived a short life was one crowded with equal measures of valour, victory and kindness; one that best summed up the adage — “live life king-size” 

Capt Vijayant Thapar was born on 26 Dec 1976 in a military family to Colonel V N Thapar and Mrs Tripta Thapar. Having brought up in the army family Capt Thapar always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father. He pursued his dream and worked hard to get selected in IMA Dehradun. He did exceedingly well in his training and was commissioned into 2 Rajputana Rifles on 12 Dec 1998. Capt Vijayant’s first unit 2 Rajputana Rifles was at Gwalior in 1998. He stayed there for a month before the unit moved to Kashmir to undertake anti-insurgency operations. Here Capt Vijyant was involved in two fierce encounters. While talking to his mother on the telephone he described how he lived through a live encounter in which about thirty bullets were fired at him. Later his unit was tasked to move to Drass in Kargil sector to undertake operations against Pak forces who had occupied Tololing, Tiger Hill, and adjoining heights.

On 11 June 1999, Capt Vijayant’s battalion under the command of Col M.B. Ravindernath, was tasked to capture the feature Tololing. After the initial assault by Major Mohit Saxena was held up, on the night of 12th June’99, Capt Vijayant Thapar led his platoon to capture a Pakistani position called Barbad Bunker which proved crucial for the onward battle for Tololing. During this attack 2 Pakistani soldiers were killed in the melee of fire from sides and behind. Tololing was the first victory for Indian army on 13th June 1999 and was the turning point in the war.

Later on 28 June, 2 Raj Rif was given the task of capturing Three Pimples, Knoll and Lone Hill area. The attack started with Capt Vijayant’s platoon leading on a full moon night along a razor sharp ridge with no cover to offer. There were intense and accurate artillery shelling and heavy enemy fire. He lost some of his dear men and some more were injured causing the attack to be disrupted. However, with his indomitable spirit and strong determination, he moved ahead along with his troops through a ravine to face the enemy. It was a full moon night and was a very difficult position to capture. The troops of enemy’s 6 Northern Light Infantry had all the advantages.

At 8 PM the attack commenced when 120 guns opened fire and rockets lit up the sky. In this heavy exchange of fire 2 Raj Rif moved with Capt  Vijayant Thapar leading the attack. Among the first to fall in this battle was Sep Jagmal Singh, Capt  Vijayant’s very dear orderly. Finally, Capt Vijayant’s company secured a foothold on Knoll. By this time his company commander Major P Acharya had been killed.  Enraged at this news, Capt  Vijayant surged ahead with his comrade Naik Tilak Singh. Both of them started engaging the enemy merely 15 meters away. There were three enemy machine guns firing towards them. After about an hour and a half of fierce exchange of fire Capt  Vijayant realized that the enemy machine guns had to be silenced to continue their advance towards their objective.

The ridge beyond Knoll was very narrow and sharp and only 2 or 3 soldiers could walk abreast. The danger of getting killed here was very real and therefore Capt Vijayant decided to go ahead himself with Naik Tilak Singh. Capt  Vijayant in a daring move surged ahead to do that but was hit by a burst of fire that struck him on his head. He fell in the arms of his comrade Naik Tilak Singh. Capt  Vijayant, who was just 22 years old, was martyred but motivated by his daredevilry and leadership, his troops later charged at the enemy and fully captured Knoll. The victory at Knoll on 29 June 1999, is a saga of unmatched bravery, grit and determination. 

Capt Vijayant Thapar was awarded, “Vir Chakra” for his gallantry, unyielding fighting spirit and supreme sacrifice.

Though Vijayant Thapar has left the world, he has left a touching legacy which exemplifies his golden heart. In 1999, a six year old Kashmiri girl named, Ruksana had lost her speech when her father Mohammad Akbar was brutally murdered by militants in front of her eyes in her village in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. In the same year that Ruksana’s father was murdered, Captain Vijayant Thapar, who was posted in the district learnt about Ruksana from her aunt and started loving the child immensely. This beautiful relationship developed into trust and Capt Thapar’s persistent efforts paid off when Ruksana started speaking again. Capt Thapar would contribute a small amount of money each month to the girl’s poor family towards her education.

In the letter that Captain Thapar wrote to his family before the Tololing assault, he passionately declared that if he were to be reincarnated as a human, he would join the Army and fight for the nation again. He also urged his family to donate his organs, and continue to take care of Ruksana. Describing their bond, he requested his family to keep sending her money every month. Colonel Thapar, who is Captain Thapar’s father, stated that although the family lives in Noida, they have honoured the wishes of their late son, stayed in touch with Ruksana, and send her money on an annual basis. In fact, Colonel Thapar had met Ruksana and her mother in 2015 and was happy to see that she was going to school regularly.

Lance Naik Shanghara Singh – Who Displayed Unparalleled Gallantry by Single Handedly Destroying Enemy Machine Gun Posts

Lance Naik Shanghara Singh was born on 14th January 1943 to Shri Ranga Singh and Smt Dhan Kaur in Chola Sahib village of Amritsar district in Punjab. Lance Naik Shanghara Singh joined the Army at the age of 20 years on 14th January 1963. 

He was enrolled into 2 Sikh battalion of the Sikh Regiment, a regiment well known for its gallant soldiers and various battle honours. By 1971, Lance Naik Shanghara Singh had served for about eight years in the Army and had grown into a disciplined and committed soldier. 

Indo-Pak war : 17 Dec 1971

In the last month of 1971, India had to go to war with Pakistan as genocide in the eastern side of erstwhile Pakistan had posed an unprecedented problem of influx of millions of refugees. India had to fight with Pakistan at its northwestern as well as eastern border which finally resulted in the creation of a new country Bangladesh. Though the war ended on 16 Dec 1971 on the eastern front with Pakistani forces surrendering to Indian Army, the skirmishes continued on the western front. During the war Lance Naik Shanghara Singh’s unit was  deployed in Amritsar sector on the western front. The Pakistani forces during the war attacked and captured the Indian village Pul Kanjri located on a high ground close to the International Border. Indian forces led by 2 Sikh battalion decided to recapture the village but the attack could not be launched before 17 Dec 1971. 

On 17th December 1971, during the attack of Pul Kanjri, when the enemy position were surrounded by anti-personal anti tank mines and number of Machine guns, Lance Naik Shanghara Singh along with his unit came under heavy enemy fire. He was in second of command of the left flanking section which had got pinned down by continuous fire from these machine guns. Lance Naik Shanghara Singh realized that the enemy machine guns were posing great threat to his comrades and had to be neutralized somehow to continue the advance towards the assigned objective.

In complete disregard for his personal safety, Lance Naik Shanghara Singh decided to attack the posts manning the machine guns. He made a charge through the minefield towards the first machine post and hurled a grenade inside the bunker successfully. Then he charged to the second Machine gun post, crept over the loop-hole and succeeded in physically snatching the Gun. In doing so, he received a burst of fire in his abdomen, but undeterred he continued to hold the Machine Gun. The enemy was completely unnerved and fled from the bunker leaving the Machine Gun in Lance Naik Shanghara Singh’s hands. Elimination of these Machine Guns enabled our troops to overrun the enemy post, but Lance Naik Shanghara Singh succumbed to his injuries and was martyred. He also killed eight enemy soldiers in this attack.

He displayed exemplary dedication to duty in the face of the enemy and made the supreme sacrifice in the highest traditions of the Army. For his raw courage, indomitable spirit and sacrifice, Lance Naik Shanghara Singh was given the nation’s second highest gallantry award “Maha Vir Chakra”.

Irfan Ramzan Sheikh – 14-year-old boy who fought 3 militants in J&K awarded Shaurya Chakra

Irfan Ramzan Sheikh, a Class 10 student, was at the centre of a rare occasion at the Rashtrapati Bhavan — as the first Kashmiri teenager to receive the Shaurya Chakra, the peacetime gallantry award in 2019, for fighting terrorists who attacked his residence in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking to The Indian Express after the function, Irfan said: “I came to know only recently that I have been selected for this award. Today, the President and all the others present at the function appreciated me.”

The award citation read, “During the intervening night of October 16/17, 2017, some local militants of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen outfit cordoned off the house of Mohd Ramazan Sheikh, S/o of Ab Ahad Sheikh, a political activist and was acting as “Halqa President PDP” for quite a long period of time. After lying cordon around the house, a few militants knocked the door of said PDP worker.  Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh, elder son of the PDP worker, aged about 14 years opened the door.  He found three militants in the Verandah of the house holding AK series rifles and wearing pouches carrying magazines and grenades. These militants questioned him about the whereabouts of his father and also asked him for the key of the vehicle lying in the compound of PDP worker.  Sensing that the militants could harm his family particularly, his father, he exhibited highest degree of courage and faced the militants for some time to dodge them so as to avoid their entry inside the house.” 

“In the meantime, his father namely Mohd Ramazan Sheikh came out from the house and as the militants sighted him, they pounced upn the PDP workers resulting in scuffle between him and the militants. Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh knowing that the militant could cause damage to any extent, did not think for a moment for his personal safety and pounced upon the militants while exhibiting highest degree of bravery and used his full muscle power to overpower the militants for safeguarding the life of his father and other family members.  The militants resorted to indiscriminate firing resulting in severe bullet wounds to Mohammed Ramzan Sheikh. On seeing the father in a pool of blood, Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh did not lose courage and continued to engage one of the militants in scuffle who resorted to indiscriminate firing upon his father resulting in severe injuries to the militant as well who later also succumbed to his injuries and identified as Showkat Ahmad Kumar S/o Ab. Ahad Kumar.”

“The militants, on seeing that one of their associates also got injured, tried to flee away from the spot. However, Irfan Ramzan Sheikh chased them and they left the body of their associate militant.  While covering some distance in chasing the militants, Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh got a sense that his father is seriously injured and needs medical attention, he immediately returned back and with the help of other family members, shifted their injured father to hospital where he unfortunately succumbed to his injuries and passed away.

On the next day, some people from village and from adjoining areas accompanied by few militants marched towards the house of slain PDP worker and torched his house. Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh exhibited the extraordinary show of bravery and maturity exhibited in such a small age.”

Irfan is the eldest of four siblings, and his mother is now employed with the J&K government. Since the protesters from neighbouring villages set fire to Irfan’s house in Imam Sahib Shopian, a volatile area in south Kashmir, the family has since moved out. Soon after receiving the Award, the 16-year-old disappeared into hiding, in a house where the family has been living in fear of reprisal from the jihadists.  Shri Irfan Ramzan Sheikh, now studying XI Std., aspires to join the police force.