Tag Archives: gallantry awards

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.

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.

The Officer Who Waged Valliant Battle Against Terrorists on 26/11

“Don’t come upstairs. I will handle this.” Those were Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s last words as he went up a flight of stairs of the Hotel Taj Palace on the fateful night of November 26th, 2008. He knew he was walking into danger but that didn’t bother him. He was there to save the day and that’s exactly what he did.

Sandeep Unnikrishnan (born in 1977) came from a Nair family residing in Bangalore, where they had moved from Cheruvannur, Kozhikode District, Kerala. He was the only son of retired ISRO officer K. Unnikrishnan and Dhanalakshmi Unnikrishnan. After graduating in 1995 in the ISC Science stream, he joined the National Defence Academy, Pune, Maharashtra in 1995, as that was his passion. He was a part of the Oscar Squadron (No. 4 Battalion) and a graduate of the 94th Course of NDA. He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts.

He was commissioned as a lieutenant to the 7th Battalion of the Bihar Regiment (Infantry) on 12 July 1999. After serving the Indian Army in different locations in Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan during counter insurgencies for two terms, he was selected to join the National Security Guards. On completion of training, he was assigned to the Special Action Group (SAG) of NSG on January 2007 and participated in various operations of the NSG. During the ‘Ghatak course’ (at the Commando Wing (Infantry School), Belgaum), the most difficult course of the Army, Unnikrishnan topped the course, earning an “Instructor Grading” and commendation. He opted for the NSG commando service which he joined on deputation in 2006.

During Operation Vijay in July 1999, he was regarded positively at the forward posts in the face of heavy artillery firing and small arms fire by Pakistan troops. On the evening of 31 December 1999, Unnikrishnan led a team of six soldiers and managed to establish a post 200 metres from the opposing side and under direct observation and fire.

On the night of 26 November 2008, several iconic buildings in South Mumbai were attacked by the terrorists. One of the buildings where hostages were held was the 100-year-old Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Major Unnikrishnan, who was then at the NSG hub in Manesar, Haryana had just learned about the death of the ATS Chief Hemant Karkare. Major Unnikrishnan, who had topped the Ghatak course, was already an instructor for the NSG. He volunteered for the Mumbai Operation (Operation Black Tornado) when the NSG men informally assembled at the NSG hub.

He entered the hotel in a group of 10 commandos and reached the sixth floor through the staircase. As the team descended the stairs, they suspected perpetrators on the third floor. A few women were held as hostages in a room which was locked from the inside. After breaking open the door, the round of fire by the perpetrators hit Commando Sunil Yadav, who was Unnikrishnan’s colleague. Unnikrishan engaged the perpetrators in a firefight. He arranged for Yadav’s evacuation and gave chase to those he had engaged in the firefight who, meanwhile, escaped to another floor of the hotel. He continued firing and charging at the terrorists as if nothing had happened. Unni finally managed to rescue all the 14 hostages trapped inside that wing of the hotel but the terrorists were escaping. Not worrying about his own safety, he charged upstairs after them. He managed to shoot down a couple more terrorists before he was shot from the back.One of the terrorists hid behind a statue and shot Unni from behind. He continued firing even as he fell, until he stopped breathing. His death did not go in vain as very soon, the SAG managed to eliminate all the terrorists hiding in the hotel. For his bravery, Unnikrishnan was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra in 2009. As a tribute to him, an important road in the city was named after him immediately after his death. In honour of his supreme sacrifice, a film was made titled ‘Major’.