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Monday, March 24, 2014

Martyr's Day - saluting the heroes of the Nation - from Bhagat Singh to Armed Services

On Sunday 23rd Mar 2014, Chennai edition of The Hindu had this photo on its last page…………….. and yesterday was Martyr’s Day…

In India, there perhaps are several days declared as Martyrs' Day – on 30th  January every year the President, Vice-President, PM, 3 Service Chiefs lay wreaths at Rajghat.    23rd March marks the death anniversary of great martyrs – ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru’ who were hung  on 23 March, 1931…. Bhagat Singh is well known perhaps Rajguru born at Khednear Pune is lesser known of the trio.  They played the major role in the murder of British police officer, J.P. Saunders, at Lahore in 1928. The reason behind the murder was to revenge the death of veteran leader Lala Lajpat Rai who died due to injuries sustained during excessive police beating. With elections nearing, there are reports of  rallies being held at Punjab where some leaders admitted that the country could not be "shaheedan de supneyan da Bharat" (the country could not be as dreamt by martyrs) but were quick to pass the buck to the opponents.

DNA reports that while the Nation remembered the heroes, the postal department seems to have forgotten the sacrifice of Shivram Hari Rajguru, on whom a postal stamp was released in New Delhi last year. President Pranab Mukherjee had released a commemorative postal stamp on Rajguru at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on March 22, 2013. After its release, the Pune post office sold 7,000 stamps in seven months till they went out of stock.

Getting  back to the photo … it is that of a proud mother receiving the award, sadly posthumously conferred.  The Hindu reports that Three officers, including an Indian Air Force officer who lost his life during a relief operation in Uttarakhand, a naval officer who sailed non-stop around the world, and an Army Major who was martyred during a terrorist attack, were presented the Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry award by President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday.

A Civil Engineer, Manish, of the Border Roads Organisation who lost his life while saving his three colleagues in an accident in Assam and a young IAF jawan who saved a village from burning were among the 10 personnel who were awarded the Shaurya Chakra. Wg Cdr Darryl Castelino received the award posthumously for his role in Operation Rahat in Uttarakhand where his Mi-17V5 chopper crashed with 20 personnel on board after he had helped rescue more than 80 people. His co-pilot, Officer K. Praveen, who also lost his life in the crash, was given the Shaurya Chakra for his service. (the photo is that of Ms Manjula, mother of Flight Lt K Praveen receiving the award)

Major Mahesh Kumar of the Punjab Regiment got the award for his gallant action in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, where he eliminated four terrorists in three separate incidents. Cdr Abhilash Tomy received the Kirti Chakra for completing world voyage on his sail ship non-stop without any external support in 151 days. The Shaurya Chakra awardees’ list also includes Lt. Col. Bikramjeet Singh, who lost his life in a suicide attack on 16 Cavalry Unit at Samba near Jammu. Rifleman Ran Bahadur Gurung of 5/5 Gorkha Rifles, who lost his life fighting a group of terrorists in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously. Army ADG (Public Information) Major General Bobby Cherian Matthews was awarded the Ati Vishist Seva Medal for distinguished service.

The Kirti Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the field of battle. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, including posthumous awards. It is the peacetime equivalentof the Maha Vir Chakra. It is second in order of precedence of peacetime gallantry awards; it comes after Ashoka Chakra and before Shaurya Chakra.

Trivia which we all should know : Only one Soldier has been awarded both the Kirti Chakra and the Ashok Chakra, making him the most decorated soldier (for bravery) in India.   It is Colonel Neelakantan Jayachandran Nair (popularly known as "NJ" ).

In 1983, in Mizoram, Col Nair engaged the insurgents in close quarter combat and he was awarded the Kirti Chakra in recognition of his exceptional gallantry. In December 1993, he was leading an advance party of convoy in Nagaland, when they were ambushed by about one hundred insurgents. The overwhelming fire from automatic weapons killed 1 Junior Commissioned officer and 13 jawans on the spot. Col Nair who was seriously injured did not lose his courage nor was unnerved. Unmindful of his serious injury, he organised his jawans in an assault line and charged at the insurgents when they broke ranks and fled. For his courage and gallanty he was awarded the Ashoka Chakra posthumously in 1994.

Salute the heroes of the motherland

With great regards to them all – S. Sampathkumar
24th Mar 2013.

Photo and news courtesy : The Hindu

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