Grateful Nation Applauds Gallant Heroes

Col J P Singh
Great nations are those which profoundly honour their heroes who do something extraordinary to make it great. A casual glance at our history will reveal that Indian nation has been continuously under attack since ancient times and continues to be bled by Western and Northern neighbours. Despite that India is a great nation because culturally it is accustomed to acclaim the services of its heroes. We saw our national heroes Col Santosh Babu of 16 BIHAR, acclaimed Galwan Tiger & Gp Capt Abhinandan Varthaman of the Indian Air Force, an iconic Fighter Pilot, being rewarded by Hon’ble President of India on 22 November 2021 for the services rendered for the nation. Armed forces investiture ceremony, unlike civil awards investiture, is an event of solace yet acclaimed because it shows that the nation stands as one with those who risk their lives for the sovereignty of the state. While Col Babu was awarded Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award posthumously, Gp Capt Abhinandan received Vir Chakra, the third highest. Closely following them was Sub Narinder Singh, son of the soil, who received his bravely earned Shaurya Chakra in the counter insurgency operations on the LoC earlier in July 2019, which the people of J&K saw with pleasure with eyes glued on the TV screens.
Gp Capt Abhinandan was rewarded for chasing and shooting down a Pak Air Force F-16 Fighter Falcon on 26 February 2019 with his MIG-21 Bison which intruded Indian Airspace to avenge the IAF stunning Balakote Surgical Strike days earlier. His aircraft was shot down in an aerial dog-fight but he managed to bail out in Pak territory where he was taken captive. He was kept in captivity only for 60 hours. Pakistan decided to release him on 28 February visibly under Indian threat. Videos and images showing nose bleeding Pilot Abhinandan being rescued by Pak soldiers from its violent village mob, receiving first aid and being questioned while blind folded drew immense public compassion. Hence his early release was noticed world over. He returned to India via Wagha Border on 1st March. His ram-rod style of walking during release ceremony and distinctive style of moustaches gained massive popularity in the public through the media projection. Same style reverberated in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. On the contrary, emotions ran high and hearts melted when wife of Galwan Hero, Mrs Santoshi Babu along with Col Babu’s mother, received the award on behalf of her husband. Such solidarity of the nation with families of the martyrs in general and Mrs Santoshi in particular is massive morale booster for the soldiers.
Sub Narinder Singh of 9 Para SF belongs to village Tanda, Akhnoor. (Tanda already has the tag of nationalism because of Tanda Tiger Force). Student of Army Public School Tanda Cantt & K V Akhnoor, he became Paratrooper in 1999. Moving up the career ladder, now he is Subedar. His citation states, “when deployed on the LoC, N/Sub, now Sub, Narinder Singh got intelligence report that a strong enemy ‘Battle Action Team’, equipped with heavy weaponry and explosives was to surreptitiously cross over to capture our post. Undeterred of the enemy strength, he used his military knowledge and tactical skills to foil the enemy action. He deployed his sub-unit as per the terrain conditions on the suspected entry point. When the enemy Battle Action Team came in the effective killing zone, he ordered fire as a result their surprise attack was foiled. By his valour and tactical ability, he himself shot dead two intruders and wounded the third thus making his mission a great success. For his presence of mind, bravery, tactical skills and successful operation, he is awarded Shaurya Chakra”. Now recipient of Shaurya Chakra, given by Hon’ble President Sh. Ram Nath Kovind in a solemn but glittering investiture ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 22 November 2021, like many others, this brave son of the soil has done the Duggerland proud by joining the ranks of distinguished soldiers like Hony Capt Bana Singh, Param Vir Chakra; Hony Capt Surinder Singh, Ashok Chakra and Col C D Singh, Sena Medal of his own village.
Pakistani Battles Action Teams have been crossing over and attacking our posts in the past too. They comprise of highly armed and well equipped commandoes of ‘special operations group’ (SOG) and have sometimes succeeded in their mission. Consequently N/Sub Narinder Singh has been part of many most successful retaliatory surgical strikes and is a battle casualty of one of them.
All the awardees and their families were hosted by the Hon’ble President same evening, followed by dinner hosted by Raksha Mantri Sh. Raj Nath Singh same night and in a Tea Party hosted by Gen M M Naravane, Chief of the Army Staff on 24th November. Sub Narinder Singh’s accomplishment, like his predecessors, is an inspiration for all, particularly the Dogra Youth who should chose army as career and defend the motherland from the enemies of the nation and a morale booster for the soldiers to see that their service to the nation is recognized.
Dogras of Jammu have a strong sense of nationalism. We see them always in the forefront to defend the nation. Irrespective of their caste/religion, Dogras of Jammu were classified as ‘martial-race’ by the British. Even before British did so, Jammu had produced great Generals and soldiers who under the legendary Gen Zorawar Singh conquered Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan and Western Tibet in the nineteenth century. Handful of Dogras under Brig Rajinder Singh saved Kashmir in 1947.
Dogras being inhabitants of harsh terrain like Kandi, rugged mountains and barren areas of Shivaliks are very hard working by temperament and hence make good soldiers. Lack of employment opportunities also exhort them for military service. Jammu has contributed soldiers of finest mettle to the Indian Army. During the Kargil War, 13 JAK RIF became the ‘Bravest of the Brave’ by winning two Param Vir Chakras and give the slogan for all times to come, “Dil Mange More”. Unfortunately inherent strengths of Dogras have not been fully utilized. In the trouble torn UT civil society knows that our survival in J&K with dignity is dependent upon our security forces. We sleep peacefully because they ensure our safety and security. If it were not for the nationalism of soldiers like Col Babu and Sub Narinder, we would be a sitting duck for our enemies across the border. ‘Women Meri Pehchan’ (WMP), an NGO of Jammu is in the forefront in Jammu to recognize the sacrifices of gallant soldiers. It honours battle casualties and Veer Naris with ‘Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra Saman Award’. This year the solemn event is on 30th November 2021 at 3 PM in Royal Retreat Jammu Palace. Ms Sandhya Gupta is its Chairperson. Narinder being a battle injured will be honored in this function. Hence the Kohima Epitaph, “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our Today”; which inspires WMP, should continue to guide the spirit of our nation.