“Introduce me as the one who would sacrifice his today for other’s tomorrow”
It was an evening of last November. I was coming back home from office through Defence colony, New Delhi as usual. Suddenly I remembered that I heard of a hero whose house is in that area. I asked the driver to change the route and told him that I would get down before the destination I told before. Naturally the driver was not happy and asked for some extra on his meter reading. I agreed and then I arrived in front of a house in D block of Defence colony. The number of the house was correct but the name plate was some other surname. I was upset but as I saw a man in front of the gate I asked him “ yeh Lt Puneet Nath Datt ki ghar hain keya?” As expected he said that he knows nothing. Suddenly an elderly person came on the second floor balcony and I asked the same question to him. And yessss !!!!!!!! I was standing in front of the right house, the house of Lt Puneet Nath Dat, AC(P) of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles. The elderly person came down and and welcomed me in the house. He introduced me as lt Datt’s mamaji. And I entered the temple to pay our tribute to our brave heart.
2nd Lieutenant Puneet Nath Datt, 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, was a born soldier who belonged to the illustrious Datt family of Mohyals, the militant Brahmin race of India. The Datts derive their lineage from Dronacharya. The Mohyals have a chequered history of soldering right from the medieval times, having taken part in the battles of Karbala in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Dicky, as he was popularly known, was the son of Late Major Pramod Nath Datt who also retired from the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles. He was the grandson of Late Shri Prem Nath Datt, a leading advocate of Jaipur. Besides the dynastic military background, he got the inspiration to join the Indian Army from his maternal side also in that his grandfather, Colonel S N C Bakshi, retired from the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) and his maternal uncle, Commander V K C Bakshi, Indian Navy.
Born at Jodhpur on 29 April 1973, he had a brilliant academic career and took keen interest in sports and extra curricular activities. He did his schooling from St. Bethney’s School in Darjeeling, from St Joseph’s Academy in Dehradun, from St. Xavier’s School in Jaipur and finally completed his class XII from Tagore Public School in Jaipur. He excelled in football and rowing whilst in school. Throughout his childhood, his ambition was to join the Indian Army. As a little boy, he used to don his grandfather’s or father’s uniform, complete with the Gorkha Hat and pretend to be an officer.
While still at High School, Dicky diverted his full attention towards his goal in life, i.e. joining the Indian Army by preparing for entry in the renowned National Defence Academy. Through his grit, determination and hard work, he secured entry in the NDA in December 1991. At the NDA, he had a brilliant record and due to his proficiency in both academic & military subjects as well as outstanding officer like qualities, he was awarded the coveted rank of ‘Cadet Sergeant Major’ for his squadron – ‘Echo’. As CSM, he won the prized Cross Country Shield for his squadron. He was also awarded three gold medals in rowing. Due to his initiative and leadership qualities, he was famous among his comrades. So determined and full of zeal was he to join his father’s regiment that throughout his stay at the NDA, he used to proudly display the Gorkha crest, always polished, on his study table. He used to write back home that his spirits soared whenever he met a Gorkha officer. Regimental to the core, he used to make it a point, before and after commissioning, to go out of the way to meet any serving or retired Gorkha officer about whom he got any information.
He was the idol of his sister and a father figure in her life. He was a trusted comrade to his friends, always ready to come to anyone’s rescue and help in complete disregard to his personal interest, safety or convenience. His mother remembered that she received money from many of his friends even through money order from many of his friends whom he helped in need.
Within a short span of 1½ years after his commissioning, Dicky successfully completed the Young Officers’ Course, Commando’s Course, and Fire Fighting Course. He also passed his promotion exam ‘Part B’ in the first attempt.
Dicky achieved the supreme aim of his life of serving his motherland, when he took part in an encounter that panned out as a cordon & search operation on specific information from a source cultivated by him regarding presence of foreign militants in a building in the Naushera locality of Srinagar. The operation started in wee hours of 20 July 1997 and the building was completely surrounded by 0400 hours. The militants were secure within the three storied building located in a thickly populated and congested area. At daybreak when the terrorists found that they were surrounded, instead of surrendering to the Indian Army, they resorted to indiscriminate firing. Utmost restraint had to be exercised while trying to liquidate the onslaught so as to avoid any damage to innocent civilian life and property in the vicinity of the building. One militant visualizing the hopeless situation ran out firing on the search party. Seeing the militant firing on his troops, he ordered his troops to take cover and with utter disregard to personal safety sprang up and shot the militant in an eye-to-eye encounter. Meanwhile sensing that the militants were trying to escape, he showed exemplary presence of mind & initiative and maneuvered his position to block the rear exit of the building. Displaying indomitable courage and guts, he shot down another militant who was trying to escape. The remaining militants inside the building meanwhile continued firing on our troops and as a result of which he was seriously wounded. But he did not give in and maintained his sustained crusade against foreign mercenaries and taking courage in both hands, lobbed a grenade inside the building, killing the remaining militants and destroying a considerable amount of the enemy’s arms & ammunition. Almost single handedly destroying the enemy, our hero attained martyrdom and immortalized himself by carving a niche in the annals of his Regiment and the Indian Army’s history. For his bravery and in recognition of the initiative and dare devilry displayed in the pursuit of his mission to eliminate militancy from the face of his motherland, 2nd Lieutenant Puneet Nath Datt was awarded the Ashok Chakra (posthumous), the country’s highest gallantry award in peace time on 15 August 1997.Mrs. Anita Datt received the award on behalf of her brave son.He was awarded the Ashoka Chakra, posthumously for the most conspicuous act of bravery, exemplary leadership and supreme sacrifice. As the President stepped forward to hand over the medal, the people watched in silence. And for one brief shining moment, the nation was one, elevated by the courage of a single man, and united in pride & grief for a young son of India who died following the Armed Forces’ favourite aphorism “Death Before Dishonour”.
During my short stay of 3 hours in the hero’s house, her mother shared a wonderful incident about her brave son. Captain Puneet Nath Dutt once told his sister to introduce him to the world as someone who would sacrifice his today for other’s tomorrow. Today, his wish came true. He is remembered the way he wanted the world to know him.