HISTORY REPEATS…. (After seven years, the same history repeats again) – Anasuya Mitra

In the year 2008, the young boy called up many of his friends and relatives and asked to watch the evening news. It was the announcement of Gallantry Awards for the year of 2008. The young boy was one of the recipients of Sena medal that time. His family was celebrating for the moment and waiting for the boy to come back in Kathua and they were preparing for his marriage. His friends were proud of him. And on the very next day, the nation lost one of her young brave hearts in a fierce gun battle in the north eastern part of the Himalayas.

Captain Sunil Choudhury’s unit 7/11 Gorkha Rifles were engaged in the ULFA Insurgency Battle at that time. On 27th January 2008, based on a tip off, Army’s Gorkha Regiment raided Mechaki forest area at Hankhati where the militants, including hard core ULFA rebel Joond Bhuyan, involved in several heinous crimes, were sheltered. As the Army troops approached, the militants opened fire triggering a heavy exchange of fire, which continued for nearly an hour. In the shootout, Captain Choudhury, who was a prime target for ULFA after he shot dead two leaders last year, sustained grievous injury and was airlifted to the Air Force hospital at Roroiya where he was declared dead. According to reports, Bhuyan managed to escape. Bhuyan’s close aides, Chandan Dohotia, alias Getley, and Tutu Moran were killed in the encounter. The troops recovered an AK-47 assault rifle, 100 rounds of ammunition, an improvised explosive device weighing five kg, timed and ready for use and two magazines from the encounter site. The nation honoured the young boy with Kirti Chakra in the next year.

Just after seven years, we lost another brave leader after the nation announced the Yudh Seva Medal for him on the republic day, 2015. Official sources said that Abid Khan was involved in a large number of attacks on security forces and Police besides civilian soft targets in Pulwama district in the last two years. His father ASI Jalaluddin had been shifted from Pulwama to Baramulla last year after Abid Khan fatally attacked Police and security forces in Pulwama and Awantipora Police districts.

Engaged as Special Police Officer (SPO), Sheeraz had decamped with a Constable’s service rifle from an SOG camp. One of Abid’s cousins had also stabbed an SPO on duty and snatched away his AK-47 rifle at Pampore in 2012 but the Police chased and captured him at a distance without resistance. The gun was seized and he was booked in a criminal case. Abid Khan was believed to be among the four Hizbul Mujahideen militants who had captured and killed four soldiers of RR 42 Bn at Buchoo, Tral, days before then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the Valley, during a cordon-and-search operation on June 19, 2013. Before escaping, Abid and his associates had also filmed the event on a cell phone which later surfaced on YouTube and Facebook.

Col. Rai had carried out dozens of operations in search of Abid Khan. He finally got his most wanted target but died in the same gun battle. Officials said his name would be recommended for a bigger posthumous award later this year. They said that Col. Rai went for the daredevil action to the front and ran straight into Abid’s house during the gunbattle to ensure that the militants did not escape. He died in a face-to-face gunfight with the two holed up militants.

There are reports that relatives of the militants got Col Rai killed. It is said when he reached the target home, he was told that militants are ready to surrender and requested not to fire. Col trusted them and went into the house to make them surrender, when he was fired and killed. He received bullet in his temple and report says he was dead on spot. The police Constable Sanjeev Kumar from Jammu and Kashmir police was also with him and he received bullet in stomach. Once all this happened, troops killed both the militants in next half an hour.

This shows clearly that the gallantry awards doesn’t stop our brave soldiers from doing their duty with full sincerity. They are on duty as long as they wear the olive green. Also be it high rank or low rank, Indian Army soldiers  – the finest military force of this world always lead from the front and don’t hesitate to take bullets on them to protect our democracy.

Captain Sunil Choudhury and Col M N Rai

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