Friday, January 31, 2014

1984 anti-Sikh riots: what a young army officer saw

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
- A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens 

In November 1984, I was barely 18 months into the profession and was in that heady phase when one enjoys one's work thoroughly. Those were--as Charles Dickens said--the best of times and the worst of times. India winning the Cricket World Cup in June 1983 brought immense joy to the country. But 1984 was something else.

 Operation Blue Star, Mrs Gandhi's assassination, anti-Sikh riots and Bhopal gas tragedy, one after the other in the space of less than 6 months, brought nothing but misery. As a young desk hand on a young newspaper (The Sentinel), I had the opportunity to handle these events closely. Looking back, I vaguely remember being horrified by the violence in Delhi as reported by news agencies. There was no private TV news, only Doordarshan, remember in those days.

In later years, I read books and articles about the horrors that the Sikhs faced in the immediate aftermath of Mrs Gandhi's assassination. But nothing prepared me for what my friend retired Colonel Bhupinder Malhi has described below. 

Bhupinder, was commissioned in 70 Armoured Regiment of the Indian Army. He left the Army some time in 2009-10.  Being based in Assam in those years, I had never come across an eyewitness account of those horrible days in November 1984. Bhupinder has been kind to allow me to share his thoughts which he penned down this morning.

That the Sikhs as a community have largely overcome the scars of those horrific days and no longer appear to be bitter, is testimony to their large heartedness, but reflects very poorly on the perpetrators of brutal and--dare I say--mindless violence.

Read on and feel ashamed for the society we lived in and who knows continue to live in.

At least I feel so.

 An eyewitness of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots

By Col (retd) Bhupinder Malhi
A young Bhupinder Malhi
We, a group of young Army Officers of Armoured Corps were on board Jhelum Express to attend Young Officers Course at Armoured Corps Centre and School (ACCS) at Ahmednagar and happen to witness anti Sikh riots from very close quarters.

I boarded AC 2 Tier of Jhelum Express at Ambala Cantt early morning on 01 Nov 1984 along with few other course mates of mine. By the time our train reached outer Delhi near Sabji Mandi area around 1000h we spotted that Delhi was burning. Lots of trucks were on fire and smoke could be seen rising from the buildings owned by Sikhs . When the train reached New Delhi Railway Station , we got down to enquire about the situation. We spotted many Sikhs lying injured on the platform and no one was willing to provide any first aid or help. We tried to help few of the injured but our train was immediately moved out of railway station. The train was forcibly stopped near Nizammudin Railway Station by an unruly mob. They started pulling out Sikhs from the train and there was a chaos all around. We all quickly put on our uniforms and got down to help the Sikhs. We managed to save a few but could not save majority of Sikhs as the mob was huge. We tried our best to douse the fire of many Sikhs who had been set on fire by putting cycle rubber tyres around them.

Some of us tried calling police using railway phone but there was no response. We also tried calling Army headquarters Duty Officer but could not reach them. We spotted a an injured Sikh who was thrown on the railway track and two of us rushed to help him but by the time we reached him, an approaching train overran him and we saw his body cut into pieces. We collected his body parts in a bed sheet and brought it to railway platform to be handed over to police .

The train moved a bit and was again stopped near Okhla slums . Another group of mob entered our AC 2 Tier compartment by breaking the window glass as there are no iron grills in AC compartment. The mob systematically started searching the compartment and started pulling out Sikhs out of the train. We tried to reason out with rioters and managed to save few fellow Sikhs. Unfortunately we could not save all. Capt Gill of 89 Armoured Regiment was stabbed at a distance of 1 ft from me in spite ofour best efforts we could not save him from the rioters. We requested rioters to spare his life as he was a soldier but the rioters argued that the person who killed Mrs Indira Gandhi was also a soldier.

We carried the dead body of Capt Gill along with us and handed over to Army authorities at Mathura Raliway station at night. Another Sikh officer named Sahota from GREF (General Reserve Engineer Force) was made to hide under the berth in our compartment . He was spotted by the mob and was killed there itself by hitting him with iron rods.

We were lucky to save my course mate Harinder (86 Armoured Regiment) who was being pulled out of the train but some of us held on to him and managed to free him from the clutches of death.

Another young officer from Artillery who was travelling with his newly wedded wife was saved by us by shaving his beard and shorning his hair.

We repeatedly requested railways authorities for help but no one was willing to oblige. On the contrary, one TTE was seen indicating to the mob about the location of Sikhs hiding in the compartments.

Two officers Yadav (75 Armoured Regiment) and AP Singh(9 Horse) managed to get hold of a 12 bore rifle which was being carried by a soldier proceeding on leave. They fired few rounds at the mob and mob retreated. They were awarded subsequently for this bravery.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Should the military brass get so many awards--Part II

In the first month of 2014, only this blog entry, 'INS Vikramaditya comes home...'( has evoked more page views than my latest piece,
'Should the military brass get so many awards?' ( But the latter article has also triggered heated and passionate debate over the practice of granting awards in the Indian military. 

Some of the responses are already posted in the comments section of the piece on awards. But many serving and retired officers and remarkably, one retired JCO, have written in with their views. I can't name most of them. 

In any case, individuals are not important in policy issues. So here's a sampling of the views.


Totally endorse your views....these are NOT awards....these are rituals on every Republic Day....every general officer being humoured prior to retirement...a complete fresh look is warranted where the number of awardees in terms of recognition(not related to bravery) should be proportionate to the contribution by the troops on my view it should be the Jawans, NCOs, JCOs and then Young Officers and a very very miniscule general/flag officers(who in any case over a period of time would have been felicitated earlier in life).

But the biggest hurdle is the mindset and the comfort zone.

I am of the opinion that distinguished service awards should be scrapped for 'peacetime'. Earlier, the Sena Medal used to be only for gallantry. I was actually galled when a Sena Medal (Distinguished) was introduced, which makes no sense. Perhaps distinguished service awards in field could be retained.

The higher level distinguished service awards are on the whims and fancies of the Chief - the question on News Warrior why the CISC has not been given PVSM despite Uttrakhand Disaster ! The usual excuse is that "he still has time to retire" but then again it depends on whims and fancies of the Chief.
To that end, I am dead against the prevailing quota system for gallantry awards. Why should there be a quota? With this quota, lot many deserving cases miss out and to my mind the axe falls more on below officer rank though I may be wrong. Concurrent is the idiocy of linking the award to number of kills. I have attended Honours and Awards Committee where officials from MS (X), who represent MoD, were arguing things like that a recommendation for Ashok Chakra must have proof of the individual having had minimum five kills - some weird concept of bravery !

There is case also to rationalize cash awards to gallantry award winners pan-India. Presently, there is vast difference between what States are giving them. The straight logic is that when these guys are Central Govt employees and their pay, allowances and pension too are given by GoI, why should everyone not get the same cash allowance for the same award.
Serious re-look is also required to review the quota of Honoray Commissions to JCOs and NCOs and accompanying perks. Here again, a quota should be lifted with focus on deserving cases. then, many other ranks get conferred with a Honorary Havaldar rank after he has retired, which in any case does not have any financial benefit - so why this crap?

Finally, the desire to have more ribbons on the chest actually went up when interaction increased with foreign armies, especially US where a ribbon is even awarded for every course of instruction one attends. Perhaps the Chiefs themselves felt some sort of complex - which is a myopic. But then thank God we didn't follow the North Korean Generals whose medals cover there entire coat front!

Thank you very much for the "Thought Provoking" paper on the subject which will attract both positive, negative and and neutral reactions; Unfortunately these awards have been linked to ranks;I am touring for the present. Will send you my "honest" views for what ever they are worth soon.


I would like to put across my views on how the transition in “Dilution of Awards” and “Honorary Ranks” has taken place.   Every one in the chain of command is responsible for these dilutions in the name of earning laurels for the unit, formation and individual glory to earn awards and higher ranks and nominations. One main cause now is also the rat race to earn Unit Citations.   This trend has also resulted in earning a bad name by our Army – False Encounters, Ketchup Brigadiers/Colonels, Sadbhavna Brigadier(s) and HMV (His Masters Voice) SOs.   A dangerous trend is also on increase of the breed of officers (including couples!) who are capable of pocketing some of their IOs & ROs towards earning good reports and awards...I would like to talk about the plethora of Awards which have been introduced over the years.  I do not want to give the impression that I am against awards but what I want to discuss with the environment is “Was there a need to introduce new series of awards when for the similar acts awards existed”?   The awards which existed earlier were PVC series, AC series and PVSM series, Sena Medal, Mention-in-Dispatches and COAS’s Commendation Cards (CC).  New introductions are SYSM series, GOC-in-Cs CC, CIDS CC and we now have SM (distinguished service) to add to the confusion.    Wonder how many more are likely to be introduced in the years to come.  Let us revisit the issue and stop introducing new awards for the sake of introducing something new.  The following suggestions merit deliberate considerations:-

Ø    Stop awarding the SYSM series.

Ø    Stop awarding the SM (Distinguish Service).

Ø    COASs CC and other CCs be only awarded to Capts and below.

Ø    Need to ensure greater transparency. Let the names being recommended in the chain of command be circulated within the Division for a true feedback with veto/enhancement/reduction. 

While serving in a Corps HQ a decade back I had analysed and brought to the notice that 60 percent of the CCs had gone to the personal staff/clks, peons and various categories of gladiators.  The same year during command a GOC, Cdr and myself the CO were awarded GOC-in-C’s CC.  I had echoed my views that it is a shame for awarding CCs to offrs above Cols.   It is better not to award if not found suitable for the award recommended than to dish out CCs as a consolation.  
Your message in the morning was like a breath of fresh air. Thank God someone out of uniform has woken up to it. 
Some facts first about the awards

The Army is permitted 19 PVSMs, 32 AVSMs, 40 SM(Distinguished) and 75 VSMs every year. The Navy and IAF get commensurately less but the quota is fixed and in fact the all three Services have asked for more because of the increase in senior ranks in recent years as the full implementation of the AVSC has been completed. The Chakra series and Sena Medal (Gallantry) do not have any limit. The Yudh series (SYSM, UYSM, YSM) also do not have any limit; which is why you find the scope being expanded for the recipients; earlier only officers from the CI areas were the recipients of this and that too based upon performance; now these are being dished out to create scope for officers from the peace stations to get the VSM series from the quota thus effectively diluting the Yudh series.
In my opinion, since so many three stars are being adjusted in the PVSM, UYSM, AVSM list two stars have to be pushed into the YSM, SM and VSM list therefore effectively ejecting one star and Cols/ other officers or deserving jawans and JCOs from these lists.
Not more than five or six Lt Gens should get the PVSM and it need not be the Army Cdrs and Corps Cdrs alone. It could go down to Maj gens too, just like it was many years ago. Very deserving performance by Lt Gens which made a difference at National level should be considered for civil awards like Padma Bhushan.
The UYSM and YSM series must be scrutinized very carefully; the problem is that when the custodians of probity in such affairs are themselves not clean then which other committee can be placed over them. I find no solution to this problem except a greater sense of honour among those who are to perform this sacred duty. At present it is done in a most pedestrian way. If no better way can be found let us do away with all awards. 
While I feel it is good to have decorations for as operationally deployed Army as ours we need to cut down the numbers and ensure that these decorations are not given as a matter of routine, for having reached a particular rank and appointment. It is the performance in each rank which must make the difference. However, who is to bell the cat; that is the million dollar question. This is where the moral fiber of the Army will be put to test; an appeal to its sense of balance and image would be necessary because otherwise the whole concept is becoming questionable and for the sake of the undeserving why should the deserving be faulted.

The monetary awards attached to these honors must be uniform throughout the country. It is not uncommonly heard that since a particular state gives more to its awardees why not give a greater quota to that state.

Sir, I just read your blog. It is unfortunate that our defence forces choose to follow pyramidal structure on command and control and inverted pyramid system when it comes to welfare/ amenities. Majority of journos are aware of this but won't point it out like you did because they don't want to strike their name from the good books of Armed Forces. Majority of news programmes aired on news channels are aimed to project the officer cadre. It is good to see that unlike the sister services the Army is willing to give gallantry awards to JCOs and other ranks.
 Some thing to ponder over for us defence journalists!

And before I close, this debate is not limited to India alone. Read this (sent to me by another General) about an American debate

Monday, January 27, 2014

Should the military brass get so many awards?

This is an unusual blog entry for me. Instead of my usual musings, below is an exchange of emails between me and a retired senior army officer. Self-explanatory. Read on

Dear Nitin,

I write this email on an assumption that you will, like you have done during our earlier sporadic interactions when I was in service, keep my identity concealed for reasons that would become clearer as you scroll down this mail.

Like me, you have seen the list of awardees for gallantry as well as distinguished service in the Army released on the eve of Republic Day, 2014.

In fact, I read your blog which posted photographs and brief description of each of the recipients' bravery that fetched them Kirti and Shaurya Chakra or other medals for gallantry. I was also following your tweets throughout 26th January. Sometimes I feel you are more fauji than the faujis themselves! The photographs you posted of the tri-colour flying at Dras and in Siachen brought a lump in my throat.

Then in the evening, I saw you and heard your brief intervention at the Flags of Honour Foundation function which had a theme: "Do we Care for your soldiers?"

If you had not introduced yourself to the audience, most would have mistaken you for a former military officer. So passionate and genuine was your view about the mistreatment meted out to the soldier by this country at large. You aptly described the fact that today the soldier has slipped to a lowly position in the social hierarchy in India for various reasons, not the least because senior military leaders, among others have also let the soldier down. Your remark, in the first instance, did hurt me. For I was, till the other day, a senior military leader. I meant to confront you at the end of the function but you left early. I had made up my mind to write a stern email to you especially negating your contention that senior military leaders often let the soldier down.

By the time I returned home and got onto my computer, you seem to have started a new thread of discussion on twitter. One of them read: "Something to ponder. 184 distinguished service awards in Army: Lt Gen-51, Maj Gen-37, Brigs-43, Col -45, Lt Col -5, Majs-3, Capt/Lt -nil." Once again, my first thoughts were: "Why is this man grudging us the awards." Even as I was collecting my thoughts, came an email from another retired fellow officer with this link to a blog:, which confirmed your statistics. For all I know, you may have taken the figures from there. But that is not my point at all. Clearly written by a current or former soldier, the blog pushed me to write this email to you. As I mentioned, I was to challenge your assumptions on the military leadership being weak

That this email has taken a completely different turn is thanks to the list ( of awardees for distinguished service I obtained from that blog.

Let's take a closer look at that list. Among the awardees for PVSM are: the Vice Chief of Army Staff, both the Deputy Chiefs of Army Staff, the DGMO, a former DGMO (and GoC Bengal Area), two Army Commanders, DGMI, the MS, the AG, DGs of Mech Forces and Infantry, two AMC officers, GoC Delhi Area and a couple of others I can't recognise. Those who got AVSM include: Two Army Commanders, DG Arty, DG MT, Commandant, OTA, among others. I can go on but the blog I mentioned earlier has expressed enough anguish about this 'wholesale' awards to senior most officers.

As a former senior officer, I too got one of these decorations and I writing to you not to complain that I got only one but to lament the fact that we have started devaluing them by handing them out by the shovel.

What extraordinarily distinguished service we senior officers do to deserve this? If these awards are for exceptional and well-coordinated operations then how is the former Central Army Commander Lt Gen Anil Chait missing from the list? After all, he coordinated the Uttarakhand relief operations, didn't he? What about the hundreds of other officers and men who rendered selfless service during that tragedy? Pray, what work does the Vice Chief, Deputy Chiefs, PSOs and even Army Commanders do beyond their assigned responsibilities? Are they not are expected to lead the force and work for the welfare of their subordinates? What is so 'distinguished' about their day to day responsibility? Why can't we have more younger officers being recognised for their courage and their commitment? For their hardships and their leadership in the face of adversity?

Nitin, you, as someone who writes and reports with rare empathy about the armed forces (you said during that brief intervention that you are a fauji kid. Are you?), must raise these question, howsoever uncomfortable they may be. Media today has the power and reach to alter many decisions. It hardly uses its influence to bring a positive change. Will you dare to buck the trend? I do not know you enough to say with certainty that you will but a man lives on hope. I will understand if you decide not to 'rock the boat' for I myself am guilty of not showing the moral courage to come out openly and criticise what is happening. Instead I am writing to a journalist--the last thing a fauji should do, serving or retired.

I wish you the very best in your profession and pray that the top brass of the Indian Army does some introspection for its own good and the benefit of the glorious institution that we all have either served or are serving!

Jai Hind!   

Yours truly



Dear xxx,

The first mail I read at 4 this morning was your anguished and angry missive. Let me first thank you for all the good words that you have for me. Yes, I am a fauji kid and proud of that. I have written elsewhere how grateful I am to my parents AND the fauji upbringing. But I digress.

How do I respond to your letter? To begin with, I am 100 per cent with you when you say more younger officers--and in my view even men--need to be recognised early in their career. Awards in the initial stages of their career will motivate them to further improve their work.

In fact, you perhaps missed my later tweet wherein I said: "One way to prevent mass distinguished awards to senior most military offrs is not to give them after 1star. Aren't they already distinguished?"

In a way our thought process is similar. My argument is officers from Major General upwards should rarely be given these awards. After all, if they have reached two and three star ranks, they are distinguished enough; they have attained these ranks by being better than their peers. Also, I wonder if these awards mean anything outside the military world. Have you ever come across civilians giving you more respect just because you have a VSM and a PVSM? They don't. May be we need to educate the civilians about military traditions, ethos and culture for them to understand the importance of awards. That's a topic we can discuss separately perhaps. 

I also want to say this to you: these issues have been raised in the past, but fleetingly. The answer I have always got is that everyone needs awards and rewards from their peers. The distinguished awards are born out of that need. You can argue about it but there is certainly a major section within the military which does not see anything wrong in these awards being given only to senior most officers! I will also not get into a debate with you whether A deserved the award or B did not! 

You have asked me if I will dare to raise the points you have mentioned. Since I am not sure how much interest my organisation will have in this subject at a time when the looming elections in the country hog all the air time and print space, I am going to do the next best thing: Put this exchange up on my Blog (NewsWarrior: for whoever cares to read and react without revealing your identity. I am sure there would be varied--and angry--voices on both sides of the argument, although, admittedly, my blog is certainly not among the most widely read.

Thank you very much for your email. I hope to receive your response soon.

Warm Regards



Saturday, January 25, 2014

IAF, Indian Army bravehearts awarded gallantry awards--full list with photos

A large numbers of pilgrims had been stranded in the narrow valleys of Kedarnath, for over five days without food and water. The Mi-17 V5 helicopter with crew rose to the occasion and promptly commenced rescue operations from 21 Jun 2013 onwards. They were charged with an onerous responsibility of saving as many lives as possible under extremely challenging conditions. The crew flew over 22 critical rescue missions, resulting in saving more than 190 pilgrims who were stranded in the worst affected areas of the Kedarnath valley.

Wing Co. D. Castellino
Flt. Lt K. Praveen

            On 25 Jun 2013, the captain and Crew of the Mi-17 helicopter were tasked to move essential supplies and National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) teams to Kedarnath, located at  an elevation of over 11000 feet and rescue stranded pilgrims from Kedarnath during the return sorties. Fully aware of the criticality of the mission on that particular day involving some of the more grievously wounded / traumatized  pilgrims.  Inclement weather, frequently drifting clouds and poor light conditions prevalent  in the  unforgiving  terrain of the narrow valley led to frequent delays in the operations and this made his task extremely demanding. Realizing the gravity of  their task and the criticality of evacuation for some of the stranded pilgrims, volunteered for the critical mission and got airborne in the first available window of opportunity to position his helicopter at Gupkashi.

Fl Lt. Tapan Kapoor
JWO AK Singh

            On that day the helicopter carried out three sorties which were undertaken under deteriorating weather conditions. During these three sorties, they successfully saved 80 precious lives. During the return leg  from Kedarnath to Guptkashi the helicopter impacted on the steep slopes off valley resulting in their supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. For their acts of conspicuous courage, professional competence and successful execution of a risk mission to save precious lives in hostile weather conditions in an extremely inhospitable environment the following personnel have been awarded :-
Sgt S. Yadav


(a)       Kirti Chakra (Posthumously) -  Wing Commander Darryl Castelino        Flying (Pilot) - Captain

(b)       Shaurya Chakra  (Posthumously) -  Flight  Lieutenant        Krishnamoorthy     Praveen  Flying (Pilot)  - Co Pilot

(c)       Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry)  (Posthumously) -  Flight Lieutenant Tapan Kapoor  Aeronautical Engineering (Mechanical) – Technical Officer

(d)       Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry)  (Posthumously) -  Junior Warrant Officer Akhilesh Kumar Singh -  Flight Engineer

(e)       Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry)  (Posthumously)  -   Sergeant Sudhakar Yadav -  Flight Gunner 

            Wing Commander Aditya Prakash Singh Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of a  Mig-21 Bison Squadron.

            On  30 Apr 13, he was authorized to fly a practice diversion sortie by night on a MiG-21 Bison aircraft to Halwara as a part of his syllabus. Approximately 60 Km inbound to Halwara, the battery heavy discharge light came on along with the Master Blinker indicating a failure of the electrical system of the aircraft. This resulted in all the cockpit lights slowly fading away and it became difficult for the pilot to read the instruments which are required for safe operation of the aircraft. Maintaining his composure and understanding the gravity of the emergency, Wg Cdr Aditya Prakash lowered the undercarriage and flaps  to take off position as this would not be possible once the electrical system failed totally. The officer had only the pressure instruments and the global positioning system to help him execute the landing. At this stage, disregarding his personal safety, he took a decision to take off his mask and hold the torch in his mouth to  illuminate the instruments. In this manner, he was able to view the instruments, execute a flawless partial flap landing and recover the aircraft without any damage.

            Once again on the night of 29 Jul 13, a Captain of MiG-21 T-69 trainer flying  from the rear seat of the aircraft, the officer experienced a total loss of engine power after a bird hit during the landing phase. In spite of all these constraints, Wg Cdr AP Singh was able to successfully establish an engine off glide and land the aircraft safely without any damage. In this manner, the officer because of his ability to maintain his composure in a grave emergency situation, courage, creative thinking and professionalism has been able to successfully recover two aircraft at night in limited visibility conditions without any damage and has  set an excellent professional example for other to emulate.

            For his acts of exemplary courage and professional handling of aircraft under difficult circumstances Wing Commander Aditya Prakash Singh is recommended for the award of Shaurya Chakra.

            Wing Commander Abhay Satish Parandekar  Flying (Pilot) was commissioned in the Helicopter Stream of the Indian Air Force on 17 June 1995. He is a Category ‘A’ Qualified Flying Instructor and a Helicopter Combat Leader. He is presently posted as Commanding Officer of a Mi-17 V5 Helicopter Unit  at Air Force Station Phalodi.

            On 23 Jun 13, he was informed about a group of foreign nationals stranded in the middle of gushing Bhagirathi river near Harsil, which had already crossed the danger mark. The river was swelling by the hour and delay could have cost precious lives. On receipt of this information he took on the onerous job of rescuing these people.

            With utmost precision and dexterity, he manoeuvred the helicopter so as to affect hover with one wheel in light contact with the ground. All 17 foreign nationals and three Indians stranded were rescued safely. Wg Cdr AS Parandekar displayed exceptional courage in effecting a successful rescue despite extremely challenging conditions. He continued the flood relief operations for next one month during which he flew 255 sorties which  in   effect saved 2344 lives and led to the induction of 78.6 tonnes of relief load.

            For his act of exceptional courage, dedication to duty, unflinching determination beyond call of duty and display of valour to save people and give them succor, Wing Commander Abhay Satish Parandekar has been recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry). 

            Wing Commander Felix Patrick Pinto, SC Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of Mi-17 helicopter Unit and in command of the unit since 15 Apr 13.

            On 18 Jun 13, during Op Rahat he evacuated of 76 survivors and continued with the gallant act thereafter and was instrumental in saving 892 survivors in the subsequent sorties.

            His exceptional professional acumen and meticulous planning led to valiant execution of challenging missions for evacuating of pilgrims of Kedarnath. Regardless of personal comfort and safety, he flew tirelessly throughout the Op Rahat in the challenging environment under hostile weather conditions and landed at hazardous sites. He also carried out drops of 24 tons of ration and medicines. To exploit the limited window of weather and to increase the load carrying capability, he modified his helicopter to carry out a free drop of wood for the mass cremation at Kedarnath bowl. His gallant and selfless efforts during the initial phase of Op-Rahat paved the way for launch of one of the greatest rescue operations by helicopter in history.

            For this display of extraordinary leadership and exceptional courage under adverse operational circumstances, Wing Commander Felix Patrick Pinto, SC is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Squadron Leader Vinay Bhal Accounts/ Garud is the Commanding Officer of an Indian Air Force Garud Unit since 04 Jun 2012.
The IAF was called to the aid of civil power to undertake rescue and evacuation operations during OP RAHAT after a massive cloud burst resulted in extensive flooding accompanied by landslides in the state of Uttarakhand.  The IAF Special Force Garuds, led by Sqn Ldr Vinay Bhal were inducted to undertake search and rescue operation in the affected area.
On 25 Jun 13, the IAF Special Forces Garuds were tasked to locate the crash site of a MI-17 V5 helicopter.  Sqn Ldr Vinay Bhal on board the search and rescue aircraft assisted in sighting the crash site in densely forested hilly terrain.  With no landing ground, he led from the front and lowered himself close to the crash site using a cable wire.  The entire operation lasted for three days and two nights during the course of which he operated in inhospitable terrain, inclement weather and on top of a forested hill with at a steep gradient.  He led the team in an exemplary manner and maintained the team’s morale and accomplished the extremely demanding mission with peril to his life.  He displayed astute professionalism, dedication and bravery.
For his professional competency, excellent leadership qualities, exceptional courage and selfless devotion to duty, Squadron Leader Vinay Bhal is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Wing Commander Nikhil Naidu Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of Chetak / ALH helicopter unit since 30 Jan 12.  He was among the first few respondents to the rescue operations and was specially chosen to undertaken the task due to his vast experience.  He has air transported more than 5200 Kg of relief material and saved 626 people in about 56 sorties flown by him during ‘Op Rahat’.   He has played a pivotal role on at least three different occasions wherein he undertook conspicuously daring missions while ensuring the safety of his aircraft and his team.
On 20 Jun 13, Wg Cdr Naidu winched down two civilian mountaineers on a small ledge surrounded by high obstruction and high tension cable near ‘Jungle Chatti’.  Subsequently, he also winched down another 10 ITBP personnel equipped with critical equipment required to prepare a makeshift helipad.  This courageous and skillful operation paved the way for other helicopters to land at the ‘Jungle Chatti’ ledge and eventually resulted in evacuating more than 700 stranded pilgrims. 
On 25 Jun 13, after an IAF helicopter went missing during the operations,  Wg Cdr Naidu volunteered for the search   mission and managed to locate the crash site.  Mindful of the need to access the crash site he winced down four Garud Commandos at almost 10,000 ft, under extremely inclement weather, once again demonstrating conspicuous courage and exceptional flying skill. 
On 11 Jul 13, while his helicopter was parked at  night at an ITBP helipad at Gaucher when an impending landslide alert was issued, he acted swiftly and with amazing alacrity despite it being totally dark in the middle of the night.  His courageous actions in the face of grave personal risks to his life resulted in saving a precious national asset which would have perished, if left unattended.  In all the above instance, the officer has displayed distinct gallantry and professionalism of an exceptional order while undertaking extremely critical missions in response to this grave national disaster.
For these acts of conspicuous bravery, Wing Commander Nikhil Naidu is recommended for the award of Shaurya Chakra. 

            Squadron Leader Vipin Takawale Flying (Pilot) is Chetak/Cheeta type instructor and is posted in an operational helicopter unit since May 2012.
On 21 Jun 13, the detachment was tasked to drop food packets in the Kedarnath valley.  Sqn Ldr Takawale got airborne within minutes of getting SOS call and commenced his food dropping mission.  While dropping relief material, he heard a distress call from a civil helicopter which had crashed and was on fire in the treacherous terrain of Jungle Chatti.  Despite not being prepared for a casualty evacuation mission, the officer on receiving a SOS call displayed good leadership qualities and took a courageous decision to proceed to crash site.  Though this was his first sortie in the area, he was quick to correlate the map and displayed exceptional navigations skills in locating the crash site within 10 minutes of the crash.  He noticed that the crashed helicopter was at a site which posed many dangers like dense HT and LT cables, electrical poles, narrow valley, thick vegetation and absolutely no place to land.  The inhospitable terrain coupled with adverse wind conditions left him with no margins for error. However, he remained undeterred and after a quick in-flight briefing decided to winch up the casualty.  He did all this with extreme confidence and without compromising flight safety.  This mission definitely enhanced IAF’s image as being ever ready to provide succour to the affected.
For his exceptional courage, in the face of adverse conditions, and unparalleled dedication to duty, Squadron Leader Vipin Vilas Takawale is recommended for Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Squadron Leader Anupam Dey Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of a Chetak Helicopter unit since 04 Jun 12 and has been performing the duties of a Fully Operational Pilot.
On 26 Mar 13, he was authorized to ferry a Chetak Helicopter Z-422 from Pune to Jamnagar.  During hover for take off, at a height of approximately 5-6 feet above ground level, due to failure of the rudder control linkages, total directional control over the helicopter was lost.  Due to the loss of directional control, the aircraft started yawing viciously to the left with increasing amplitude and at such a low altitude above ground level spun for four 360 degree rotations.
His prompt decision making and correct analysis of the emergency coupled with ability to maintain his composure in such an uncontrolled state of flight of the helicopter led to the safe recovery of the helicopter, passengers and service equipment.
For this act of exceptional courage and professional handling of aircraft under difficult circumstances, Squadron Leader Anupam Dey is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Wing Commander Syed Muzaffer Yunus Flying (Pilot) is the Commanding Officer of a Mi-17 V5 Helicopter Unit  in northern sector wef 11 Jun 12.
On 17 Jun 2013, the unit was tasked for ‘Operation Rahat’ in Uttarakhand.  He was the captain of first rescue mission by a Mi-17 V5 helicopter to rescue distressed and injured pilgrims from an unprepared and restricted landing site adjacent to Kedarnath temple at an elevation of approximately 11200 feet.   He was quick enough to pick up the distressed pilgrims including 15 old women and exhausted men, in shortest possible time, catering for inclement weather.  Throughout that day, he braved and battled against the weather and executed daring landing at untried and unprepared sites rescuing more than 100 persons.
On 21 Jun 2013, once again, Wing Commander Yunus was part of the first Rescue mission at Badrinath, where thousands of pilgrims were stranded, at an elevation of 10,300 feet.  He displayed fearless determination and evacuated more than 350 pilgrims in one single day to Joshimath involving eighteen sorties.  During these operations, he flew a total of 96 sorties in 46:00 hours and rescued more than One thousand stranded pilgrims.
This act of exceptional courage and fearless determination, Wing Commander Syed Muzaffar Yunus is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

Wing Commander Kondam Munisubrayachetty Raghuraman Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of an ALH Mk III Helicopter Unit and has been performing the duties of the Flight Commander since 01 Aug 11. 

On 17 Jun 13, the unit was tasked to position three helicopters at Dehradun to undertake relief operations towards ‘Op Rahat’.  With a dedicated aim in mind, he and his team flew vigorously in the flood hit areas, averaging 15 sorties per day and rescued 490 stranded pilgrims/locals in addition to dropping over 50 tons of relief material in the Kedarnath Valley without an accident / incident.

           For his meticulous planning and execution of rescue and relief operations and exceptional courage, Wing Commander Kondam Munisubrayachetty Raghuraman is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Wing Commander Ravi Chandrashekhar Pathak, VM Flying (Pilot) was  commissioned in the Indian Air Force on 16 Dec 95 and  is Commanding the Sarang Display Team at Air Force Station Sulur. He is an Experimental Test Pilot and a Qualified Flying Instructor. He has flown over 4100 hrs o 21 different types of aircraft.

            On 20 Jun 2013, Wg Cdr RC Pathak was tasked to undertake Disaster Relief Operations (Op Rahat) in Uttarakhand as the Detachment Commander at Gauchar. He carried out  an aerial reconnaissance to assess the unique requirements to undertake this complicated task and realized that there were thousands of sick and injured people stranded in the valley and only quick air evacuation could save their lives.  Wg Cdr RC Pathak flew 41 critical missions, including winching down of Garud commandos at 9000 feet and evacuated 111 personnel.

            Wg Cdr RC Pathak had the challenging task of planning and executing Disaster Relief Operations in the backdrop of a huge natural calamity, from a makeshift base at a short notice with severe constrains in terms of fuel, administrative and logistics support. Through sustained intense operations under his command, the detachment airlifted 2700 personnel and inducted 20 tons of relief material. By leading from the front, in the service of the nation, Wg Cdr RC Pathak has displayed exceptional valor, professionalism and operational leadership.

            For the act of exceptional courage displayed in evacuating stranded personnel from Kedarnath valley during ‘Op Rahat’, Wing Commander Ravi Chandrashekhar Pathak VM is recommended for the award of Bar to Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Group Captain Mukesh Kumar Yadav  Flying (Pilot) is the First Commanding Officer of a newly inducted Mi-17 V5 helicopter unit since 23 Jan 2012 and has over 5300 hours of flying experience.

            Gp Capt Yadav was detailed as Detachment Commander at Dharasu during Op Rahat. On reaching there, he immediately took stock of the situation and correctly ascertained that the operations would be hampered due to shortage of fuel. Based on his analysis, he along with his team worked relentlessly through the night on 21 Jun 2013 to prepare the unused Advanced Landing Ground to enable the C-130J to land.

            On the night of 22 Jun 13, he was informed that there were approximately 3000 civilians at Harsil, some of whom were critically injured and required immediate evacuation. A total, 533 sorties were undertaken under his dynamic leadership, of which 97 sorties were piloted by him, evacuating 5488 people and airlifting 74000 Kgs of relief material in just six days. Despite  physical hardships as a result of non-stop work round the clock for all these days, he continued to inspire all with his extraordinary courage, spirit of selfless sacrifice and exceptional flying skills.

            For his exceptional courage to fly the mission in extremely inclement weather conditions and innovative technique adopted to reach inaccessible areas, Group Captain Mukesh Kumar Yadav is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Wing Commander Vijay Yadav was commissioned on 05 Mar 94. He took over command of an Advanced Light Helicopter Unit on 01 Aug 11.

            At a time when the unit was undergoing induction of ALH MK-III and with shortage of experienced aircrew for the new aircraft, he led by example and was one of the  first to fly the new machine in the treacherous operating  conditions of Operation Rahat. He flew extensively in the flood hit area in Kedarnath valley and rescued numerous stranded pilgrims while operating from Gauchar, Gupkashi and Joshimath helipads.

            On 01 July 2013, he was tasked with the mission of evacuating causalities from the Badrinath. He successfully negotiated the inclement weather and carried out shuttles top rescue stranded and sick pilgrims. All of these missions were carried out  in marginal weather where the aircraft was operating at the limits of its capabilities. With inclement weather hampering operations also in Kedarnath valley for almost a week, he displayed highest standards of courage, leadership and maturity and planned and executed missions in the limited window of clear weather to drop relief materials, Doctors and NDRF personnel.

As Detachment Commander at Gaucher, he exhibited exemplary maturity and skills in ensuring mission accomplishment in the most professional manner. Under his exemplary command and guidance, the unit flew more than 260 Hrs, 600 sorties, evacuated more than 1900 stranded pilgrims, tourists and foreign national and dropped more than 60 tons of relief materials in the inhospitable terrain of the flood affected areas of Uttarakhand.

            For this act of exceptional courage, Wing Commander Vijay Yadav is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

Wing Commander Vinod Negi Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of Sarang Helicopter Display Team at Air Force Station Sulur with effect from 19 Jul 10 and performing the duty of Unit Flight Commander.

On 21 Jun 2013, Wg Cdr Vinod Negi was tasked to evacuate stranded pilgrims from Kedarnath valley.  Having flown several rescue missions over the previous day, he realized that thousands of people were stranded at Jungle Chatti which is at an elevation of 7500 feet and their only hope of survival was through air evacuation.  During entire Op Rahat, he displayed exceptional courage, flew 102 sorties, rescued 584 personnel and inducted eight tons of relief material.

He was a positive influence on the unit personnel and guided relatively inexperienced crew in extracting performance beyond expectations. Under his guidance, the unit flew a total of 177 sorties, evacuated 917 personnel and inducted twelve tons of load during ‘Op Rahat’.  With his meticulous planning and leadership, Wg Cdr Vinod Negi ensured time critical mission accomplishment against all odds and proved to be a role model for both his peers and junior to emulate.

For his act of exceptional courage in evacuating stranded personnel from Jungle Chatti during ‘Op Rahat’, Wing Commander Vinod Negi is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).

            Wing Commander Sachin Gupta Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of an Advanced Light Helicopter Unit since 28 Jan 13.

On 18 Jun 13, at 0530h, he was tasked to proceed to Phata helipad in Kedarnath valley for evacuation of stranded pilgrims, Assessing the weather, he took off immediately and reached Phata.  Without switching off, he picked up relief packets and got airborne for Kedarnath valley.   Spotting a clear path near Rambada, with just enough space for rotor clearance and with only adequate space for one skid on ground, he boldly carried out a low hover to pick up old and injured pilgrims.  He ensured a quick turnaround and carried out continuous shuttles to rescue 45 civilians and drop 900 Kgs of ration on the first day.

Subsequently, he rescued pilgrims in treacherous areas like Gaurikund, Kedarnath and Garud Chatti.  Considering the hostile nature of the operating area, and difficulty of carrying out winch operations at the elevation of 2.9 Km, even a small error could have had disastrous consequences.  During Op Rahat, he flew 200 sorties / 70 hrs and rescued 237 casualties.  All of these missions required exceptional courage and professionalism for safe execution.

For his exceptional courage, focused and dedicated service, Wing Commander Sachin Gupta is recommended for the award of Vayu Sena Medical (Gallantry).  


On Republic Day - 2014, eight Army personnels were conferred with

Chakra series gallantry awards. One personnel was awarded the Kirti

Chakra, while seven others were conferred with Shaurya Chakras for

displaying conspicuous gallantry in operations.

Kirti Chakra

Nb Sub Bhupal Singh Chhantel Magar, 5/5 Gorkha Rifles.

Shaurya Chakra

Lieutenant Colonel Bikramjit Singh (Posthumous), 16th


Major Mandeep Singh Ghumman, 1 Assam Rifles.

Major Gaurav Thakur, 24 Rashtriya Rifles (BIHAR).

Captain Sandeep Bhartiya, 17 JAT.

Captain Mahabir Singh, 9 PARA (SF).

Sepoy Lallawmzuala, 18 Rashtriya Rifles (RAJPUTANA RIFLES).

Sepoy Ran Bahadur Gurung (Posthumous) , 5/5 Gorkha Rifles.


Nb Sub Bhupal Singh Chhantel Magar, Kirti Chakra

Nb Sub Bhupal Singh Chhantel Magar of 5/5 Gorkha Rifles has been

awarded “Kirti Chakra” for displaying exceptional bravery, raw courage

and junior leadership beyond the call of duty, in successful counter

infiltration operations along the Line of Control in J&K. Nb Sub Bhupal

Singh Chhantel Magar is a resident of Rupendehi District of Nepal.

On 31 August 2013, while guarding a crucial gap along the Line of

Control in Kupwara District, Nb Sub Bhupal Singh Chhantel Magar spotted

movement of six heavily armed terrorists. Displaying remarkable presence

of mind, he immediately side-stepped his position in rugged and boulders

ridden terrain and closed in towards the terrorists, despite being under fire.

The gallant soldier displaying nerves of steel, fired a long burst, killing one

terrorist. Displaying raw courage, he pursued the second terrorist and

injured him. While the injured terrorist was hiding behind a boulder, the

Junior Commissioned Officer, unmindful of his personal safety, charged

towards the terrorist and killed him.

Lieutenant Colonel Bikramjit Singh, Shaurya Chakra (Posthumous)

Lieutenant Colonel Bikramjit Singh of 16th

been awarded “Shaurya Chakra” (Posthumous) for his speedy, tactically

sound actions, courageous and bold leadership in the face of mortal

danger and for acting swiftly without waiting for a weapon or protective

gear, acting well beyond the call of duty, in the highest traditions of the

Indian Army in Counter Terrorist Operations in Samba (J&K). Lieutenant

Colonel Bikramjit Singh is a resident of Chandigarh, Punjab.

On 26 Sep 2013 at approximately 07:15 AM, Lieutenant Colonel

Bikram Jit Singh on hearing the sound of automatic weapons near the

Officers’ Mess Complex, rushed to the site. He spotted a terrorist hiding in

a Nala, bringing down fire and attempting to break out towards the adjacent

family accommodation. Despite presence of armed terrorists, the officer

moved from one position to another, shouting instructions and directing

action against the terrorist. His prompt and fearless actions dislodged the

terrorist from an effective firing position, forcing the terrorist to seek cover

in a room, leading to his eventual elimination. While undertaking these

actions the officer was unmindful of his personal safety and the fact that he

was unarmed. The officer suffered fatal gunshot injuries during the period.

By his actions, the officer prevented the breakout of the terrorists towards

the Officers’ Married Accommodation Complex and provided time for the

Unit Quick Reaction Team to move into a tight cordon. His actions

prevented loss of further lives, especially those of unarmed women and

Major Mandeep Singh Ghumman, Shaurya Chakra

Major Mandeep Singh Ghumman of 1 Assam Rifles has been

awarded “Shaurya Chakra” for act of extraordinary bravery, conspicuous

courage and selfless devotion to duty of an exceptionally high order in anti

terrorist operations in the North East. Major Mandeep Singh Ghumman is a

resident of Pathankot, Punjab.

On 08 May 2013, based on specific intelligence, the officer led a

small team to a village located on top of a hill. On reaching the suspected

location, the column came under heavy fire from inside a house. The

officer did not retaliate immediately to avoid civilian casualty. One terrorist

who jumped out of the window firing indiscriminately was chased and

eliminated from close range by the officer with disregard to personal safety.

Another terrorist firing from the neighbouring house had pinned down the

officer’s party. Sensing danger to own troops, the officer, making use of the

undulating ground, rushed to the site. In a brazen act of valour, the officer

charged at the second terrorist and eliminated him.

Major Gaurav Thakur, Shaurya Chakra
Major Gaurav Thakur of 24 Rashtriya Rifles (BIHAR) has been

awarded “Shaurya Chakra” for displaying indomitable courage, tactical

acumen, exemplary leadership and selfless devotion to duty. He was

instrumental in generating actionable intelligence, innovative siting of

ambush and tactical deployment of various parties, which ultimately led to

elimination of five hardcore terrorists. Major Gaurav Thakur is a resident of

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.

On 30 August 2013, sensing suspicious movement near the bridge,

as assault team commander, he challenged the terrorists who opened

indiscriminate fire and lobbed grenades onto the ambush party and tried to

escape. The officer, displaying raw courage, grit and extraordinary field

craft, chased the fleeing terrorists in order to maintain contact. He came

under heavy volume of fire from one terrorist and chased him to a distance

of 50 meters in open terrain. In an act of conspicuous bravery, against

fearful odds unmindful of his own safety, he closed in and lobbed a

grenade from a very close range killing the terrorist instantly.

Captain Sandeep Bhartiya, Shaurya Chakra
Captain Sandeep Bhartiya of 17 JAT has been awarded “Shaurya

Chakra” for displaying exemplary bravery, courage and leadership in the

face of the enemy, showing utter disregard to personal safety in anti

terrorist operations on the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K. Captain Sandeep

Bhartiya is a resident of Munger, Bihar.

On 31 May 2013, Captain Sandeep observed movement of three to

four terrorists in a dense area. He immediately took a party of four other

ranks and occupied a suitable ambush point. At approximately 11:45 PM,

as the terrorists drew closer to the fence, Captain Sandeep opened fire.

The terrorists retaliated with heavy volume of fire and taking cover of the

thickly wooded area, tried to extricate themselves. Throughout the night,

Captain Sandeep ensured that the terrorists were fixed, by fire, at the same

spot. Close to first light, the terrorist group made another attempt to

escape, by firing heavily. The officer, instead of taking cover, changed

position to fire at one militant and killed him. The operation continued till

the next day and a total of three militants were killed.

Captain Mahabir Singh, Shaurya Chakra
Captain Mahabir Singh of 9 PARA (Special Forces) has been

awarded “Shaurya Chakra” for displaying exemplary leadership, raw

courage and conspicuous gallantry in face of grave personal danger and

personally eliminating one hard core terrorist in anti terrorist operations in

Samba (J&K). Captain Mahabir Singh is a resident of Gurdaspur, Punjab.

On 26 September 2013, Captain Mahabir was tasked to clear

terrorists from unit lines during a Fidayeen attack. As the troops

commenced clearing operations, they came under heavy small-arms and

grenade fire from an adjacent building. Sensing grave threat to the entire

operation and proximity of family quarters in close vicinity, Captain

Mahabir, unmindful of his personal safety, charged into the building to

engage the terrorists. Displaying sheer courage and exemplary field-craft,

he manoeuvered to engage the terrorists at extreme close quarters. He

moved from room to room, closing down their escape routes and shot dead

one terrorist at point-blank range, thereby completely disorganising their

will to resist. This singular action by the officer ensured safety of the entire

team, prevented further collateral damage and minimised casualties during

the entire operation.

Sepoy Lallawmzuala, Shaurya Chakra
Sepoy Lallawmzuala of 18 Rashtriya Rifles (RAJPUTANA RIFLES)

has been awarded “Shaurya Chakra” for his conspicuous act of bravery

beyond the call of duty in anti terrorist operations in J&K. Sepoy

Lallawmzuala is a resident of Mamit, Mizoram.

On 23 July 2013, Sepoy Lallawmzuala was part of the inner cordon

deployed at night during search operation based on intelligence about

presence of a terrorist in a house. On commencement of search at

approximately 6:30 AM, Sepoy Lallawmzuala was amongst the first to

enter the house. His deliberate and methodical search revealed the

presence of an armed terrorist in a well concealed hideout behind planks

and loose earth in the house. Upon being discovered the terrorist opened

indiscriminate fire, however, the soldier’s alacrity and outstanding use of

field craft enabled him to manoeuvre to an advantageous position within

three metres of the terrorist. His courage under fire, calm collected actions

and outstanding fire control led to elimination of a top commander of Jaish-
e-Mohammad. His actions ensured that the balance of the search party

received critical warning at the opportune time, resulting in effective

covering fire and no casualty to own troops.

Sepoy Ran Bahadur Gurung, Shaurya Chakra (Posthumous)
Sepoy Ran Bahadur Gurung of 5/5 Gorkha Rifles has been awarded

“Shaurya Chakra” (Posthumous) for displaying exceptional resilience,

commitment and epic bravery during counter infiltration operations along

the Line of Control in J&K. Sepoy Ran Bahadur Gurung is a resident of

Kaski District of Nepal.

On 31 Jul 2013, the individual was part of the surveillance

detachment deployed in boulders and steep cliffs. Despite being in

virtually cramped position for four days during inclement weather, the brave

soldier maintained sharp vigilance. On 03 August 2013 at approximately

5:30 AM, he sensed some movement in the fog and alerted his party.

Suddenly, the terrorist opened indiscriminate fire and lobbed two grenades

towards the neighbouring team. Sensing threat to his colleagues Sepoy

Ran Bahadur Gurung fired at the terrorist and crawled closer towards him.

This action diverted the terrorist’s attention who charged towards Sepoy

Ran Bahadur Gurung and lobbed another grenade. Displaying steely

nerves, Sepoy Ran Bahadur Gurung kept engaging the terrorist, giving

crucial time for neighbouring team to readjust. However, another burst by

the terrorist caused a fatal injury to the gallant soldier, who sacrificed his

life in the defence of the Nation.