Shakti roopena sangasthita – My Hero, My Neeta : LT. NEETA DESWAL

Yes, the beginning was very very filmy. As you have seen in the movie Main Hu Na. The train enters and… Actually the entire story is very very filmy . But mind it, its as real as it can be – with a real hero.

I still remember our first meet. Her train was scheduled to reach Bangalore at 4am. She was coming alone with a broken hand. So Vikas and myself decided to receive her. Vikas had to jump over the gates as it was closed at that early morning. While waiting for the train we discussed the uncertainties of life.

And the train came. We had seen her in photos only with long hair. And then she embarked from the train. .. short hair, broken hand. As I shook her hand, it was rough, hard. I still remember her saying the first thing to me “Di, bring a kajal for me. They don’t allow it in academy. I look like a boy. Your hands are so soft and see mine”. I wish I could tell her that till today I die for that boyish look and rough hands. I so wish…

Before we realised, we were bonded for ever… in a relationship that is much stronger, deeper and closer to many blood relations. I found a sweet little sister in Neeta and enjoyed being her didi. She had broken her hand in a judo match in the academy and I was lucky that she came to the command hospital, Bangalore for the treatment. Guess what? All the brave ladies from armed forces reached her hospital cabin to cheer her you with flowers and cake. That included family of Colonel Jojan Thomas, Major Shafeeq Ghori, Major Akshay Girish and Captain Naveen Nagappa Sir himself with his family. Her induction to the DESH FAMILY was instant!

I used to cook fish for her and this crazy girl had requested me to bring wish from Bangalore to chennai during her POP! I couldn’t as I was staying with Varadarajan uncle’s who are shuddh shakahari. One afternoon my daughter Aparajita accompanied me to meet her. And it was love at first sight. Aparajita says Neeta aunty is her hero, her favourite. I never had any problem in convincing her for a short hair cut as Neeta aunty’s hair was short. Neeta loves her Appu as much as she loves her Arjun. They walked together, swing together, played together and chatted over phone. I am lucky as Aparajita found her role model whom she looks up to in the tender age of 5 years.

Despite severe pains and sessions of physiotherapy my tigress always told me “Didi, mujhe jaldi thik hona hai. I don’t want to loose any more terms “. The path she chose was not smooth. But she is a fighter, as brave as her husband Shaheed Major Amit Deswal, 21 Para. Few of her relatives created problems and threats and troubled her as much as possible. But she stood strong braving all those storms. She had to stay away from her loving son of 5 years for an year. She did that too. Here I must tell that their son Arjun is also a fighter, as brave as his parents. Its not easy to loose father at the tender age of 3 and stay away from his mother at the age of 4 years. But he did it. Being the source of strength for his mother. As the saying goes “behind army there is an army”. Not only she braved emotional obstacles, but she won the physical one too. Can you imagine my hero ran 30km at night, played judo.

Yes she is my hero, my champ. Aparajita’s “favourite soldier “. I had to witness her Passing out Parade and see my dear sister Neeta of become Lt. Neeta Deswal. Those stars shining on her shoulders are her wings and no one can stop her from flying high, high and high. Love you Neeta, Lt. Neeta Deswal, also wife of Major Amit Deswal.




The wait is over. It seems waiting for 18 years is so worthy. I still remember that I always used to plan my Hyderabad trip to meet the family of Major Padmapani Acharya. And I used to think that after reaching Major Padmapani Acharya Marg I will ask people there to show me the home of Major Padmapani Acharya.

And today finally the wait is over. And I never thought in my wildest dream that I will stay in his house only and celebrate my diwali with his family which now ofcourse is my family too.

God is great. My life is complete now and I will have no regret if I die after this.

Thank you Major Padmapani Acharya for so much of love and acceptance.


Strongest Women : Mothers of Dear Motherland

In our country, mother is the epitome of strength. We worship this power and strength of mother in the form of Goddess Durga or Kali. We also worship our nation as a mother! It is our very own and dear motherland – “Deshmatrika”. So when we were requested to write about “strongest women”, “mother” is the thought that came to our mind. And today we will write about mothers of some brave heroes who attained supreme sacrifice to protect our dear motherland.

In last few years, Team Desh has been lucky enough to get in touch with three brave mothers whose sons have created history in Indian Army with their bravery,  . Let us celebrate women’s day with the stories of these three brave mothers of our nation.

Smt. Maheshwari Khetrapal


“Fight like a lion and don’t come back as coward.” Saying these words, a brave mother had sent her eldest son to the war of 1971. The most worthy son of soil 2nd Lt. Arun Khetrapal set an unparallel example of bravery not only in the Indian history or in the war of 1971, but also in the world history. On 16th December in the eastern frontier, Pakistani Army accepted defeat and surrendered to Indian Army. But on the same time, Pakistani armour launched an attack on us from the western frontier. When the Indian Army deployed in the border of Basantar in Jammu and Kashmir informed our armour, Indian armour started proceeding. Newly joined 21 year of officer 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal of 17 Poona Horse, who was in ‘A’ squadron and was stationed close by with his Centurion tank troop, responded with alacrity, as did the rest of his regiment. Khetarpal rushed to meet the Pakistani armour and launched right into the Pakistani attack. With his troop he was able to run over the enemy advance with his tanks. However, the commander of the second tank was killed in this attack. Alone in charge, Khetarpal continued his attack on the enemy strongholds. The enemy did not retreat even after losses. 2nd Lt. Arun Khetrapal desperately attacked the incoming Pakistani troops and tanks gunning down a Pakistani tank in the process. However Pakistani forces regrouped and counterattacked. In the ensuing tank battle, Lt. Arun Khetarpal with his 2 remaining tanks fought off and gunned down 10. The skirmish however took its toll on the Lieutenant as he was hit by enemy fire, but instead of abandoning the tank he fought on destroying one final tank before he was finally overwhelmed. However, his actions had denied a vital breakthrough for Pakistani forces and instead put the Indians in a stronger position in the Shakargarh bulge. His final words over the radio to a superior officer who had ordered him to abandon his burning tank were, “No Sir, I will not abandon my tank. My Main gun is still working and I will get these bastards.”. Then he set about destroying the remaining enemy tanks. The last enemy tank, which he shot, was barely 100 metres from his position. At this stage his tank received a second hit and he was seriously injured. The young officer who was just 21 years old met his death like a lion trying to deny the Pakistani Army the intended breakthrough. The ever grateful motherland adorned him with the highest gallantry award of the nation Paramveer Chakra posthumously. On behalf of her brave son, the bravest mother collected the award.

After 1971, she lived for 41 more years with the pain of losing her beloved son. As long as her health permitted, she used to go to different military camps and motivated our soldiers to serve their dear motherland. At the very end of her life, once when a journalist asked her a lot of questions, she just told “I don’t remember much. But I only remember that my son Arun went for a war and never came back”. Being a wife of an officer, she knew the consequences of a war. But yet she has always been the inspiration for her son Arun to join the Indian Army and fight a war so bravely. The entire nation is ever grateful to this brave mother and son.

Smt. Hema Aziz


18 years back during a summer infiltration started in a village named Turtuk near Kargil. To prevent and handle this infiltration, under the leadership of Captain Haneefuddin of 11 Rajputana Rifles, Parvesh Kumar and Mangesh Singh proceeded towards the frontier with few weapons. After reaching the frontier, Captain Haneefuddin had to face a very difficult situation. Pakistani Army with full preparation was present in the frontier for a full fledged war. To face this situation with Light Machine Gun and some weapons were just beyond imagination. But Captain Haneefuddin knew that if he doesn’t prevent this attack, the entire Turtuk Village will be destroyed. Along with that the enemy will then be able to capture the Batalik sector also. But knowing the entire situation, Captain Haneefuddin was ordered from the base camp to withdraw. But the dearest son of Smt Hema Aziz never learned to give up from her mother in any tough situation. After the death of his father at the age of 8 years, his mother raised her three sons alone in the city of Delhi. Smt Hema Aziz had to travel a lot including abroad due to official tours. Her youngest son Sameer was very young at that time. She used to keep Sameer with her sister in Bangalore during such situations. Elder son Hafeez and middle son Haneef used to stay back at their home. Smt Hema Aziz knew her able son Haneef. So she used to hand over the charge of the entire house to Haneef during her absence. Little Haneef since the age of 8 years took care of the entire house in the absence of his mother. He even used to handle the finance of the house very efficiently. Smt Hema Aziz knew the risks involved with the profession of Indian Army. But never did she create any hurdle for Haneef to join Indian Army. Rather whenever Haneef was in doubt, she encouraged Haneef to join the forces.

On 6th June 1999, when she got the news of the supreme sacrifice of her dear son Babloo in Turtuk, she also got to know that along with Captain Haneefuddin, the mortal remains of the compatriots of his son were also not rescued. Then she had to suffer an intolerable wait of 42 days to see her son for the one last time. At that time, when the chief of Army came to meet her, in a very steady tone she told him that those who have lost their lives for the dear motherland will never return. Then why is he risking some more young lives by sending them to rescue the bodies of our martyred soldiers? What is the use of risking more lives during the time of a war? In these 42 days, many a time she had to go to the airport or cantonment to identify the bodies of the martyred soldiers who returned from the war zone. In an interview during that time she told, “When I went to Indian Military Academy for the passing out parade, I knew where is my Babloo in the parade. But after seeing all the officers, I felt      all are my Babloos”. She couldn’t identify her son separately from the crowd. “Today also I feel and believe that all the soldiers fighting in the war protecting our border and nation are my Haneef only”. Recently she celebrated the 40th birthday of her brave son sitting alone with his portrait. Her other two sons are now well settled and established in life. But her life halted there on 6th June 1999 with her Babloo. But she never repents or complains about her son joining Indian Army or her son voluntarily leading his men in the Turtuk to fight the enemies. Rather she says, “I have always taught my son to stand by anyone who is in trouble and help the person”. Her worthy son has set an example following the values, ethics, education and sense of duty with which she raised Captain Hanefuddin. That is why she never sheds any tear for her brave son. Her loss is personal but she is always very proud of her dear son Babloo, our very own Captain Haneefuddin. The brave mother lives without any regret or complain. She is an inspiration and source of immense strength to all the mothers of our nation.

Smt. Rajeshwari Devi


Palampur is a beautiful small city in the heart of Himachal Pradesh. History of independent India is ever grateful this hilly city. First war for independent India was the India – Pakistan war in 1947. The brave sons of this city sacrificed themselves in every war or operation that took place in India after that. Sudhir Walia was the eldest son of Shree Rulia Raam Walia, a very simple soldier of Palampur. With his hard work and determination, Sudhir Walia stood first in every examination of his life. Then he joined National Defence Academy. Successfully passing out from NDA he joined the Jat Regiment as an officer. But later on when Indian Army came to know about his amazing leadership skills and awesome bravery, he was commissioned into the Paracommando, Special Force of our country. Towards the end of Kargil war, due to the extensive mine setting in the Zulu are, it was getting difficult for our Army to proceed further. Major Sudhir Walia selected 15 soldiers and proceeded for this impossible task with his own troop. With his skilled leadership, he gifted us victory in the said task. Afterwards while narrating the story to his mother, he told, “When I reached the Pakistani bunker, seeing me, the enemy army forgot to pick up the weapon. They asked ‘how did you come here? We had planted the mines so efficiently.’”. Witty Major Sudhir Walia replied back, “Now when I am here, you can’t help it. So come to me and surrender”. He later presented this soldier as a captive.

On 29th August, 1999, exactly after one month of Kargil war, Major Sudhir Walia was hit by bullets in his stomach during a terrorist attack in the Hafurda village of Kupwara area. His compatriots out of love, used to call him as Rambo. Just like the fictitious character of a movie, Rambo was capable enough to handle an entire Army single-handedly. He denied to get evacuated despite being hit by bullets in his stomach. With unparallel bravery and tremendous skill, he completed the task that was given to him. With the setting of the sun, the brave son of our soil, our beloved Rambo breathed his last.

Smt. Rajeshwari Devi’s home and heart is vacant since last 18 years as her dear son left him forever. Even then, no one has seen her breaking down in the sorrow of losing her son. Even today, at this old age, she attends all the programs of the regiment of her son by travelling to Udhampur from Palampur. She says, “My boys have called me. How will they get motivated if I don’t go there?” She has always been the first person to stand by the families of the martyrs in or around Palampur. On the 15th martyrdom day of her son, while remembering his bravery, she told, “It has been 15 years that Sudhir left us. Everybody has to leave someday. But my son left only after completing his work and duty. He didn’t leave midway”.

We have always been worshipping mothers and the power of motherhood through our Gods and Goddesses. But those brave mothers who give their sons to our dear motherland also deserve equal love, respect and worship. Every mother desires their children to grow up to a beautiful human being and lead a happy and safe life. Their dream is that their children will support them in their old age. It is not easy to sacrifice your child for the safety and security of millions of people of your country. When we are enjoying the luxury and leading a safe, secured and comfortable life, it is our duty to remember the brave mothers of our brave hearts. They have sacrificed their most precious possession which is allowing us to celebrate women’s day today. So come, let us all join together and salute these strong and brave mothers and thank them for everything. Dear mothers, bless us, continue to inspire us and give us strength so that we can raise our children to be a responsible citizen of this nation.



And they met after 17 long years. Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav and Captain Naveen Nagappa were last together in Delhi hospital post Kargil war for treatment and recovery. Naturally the reunion was a very emotional one. That tight hug says everything and reflects the true spirit of and the bonding shared by the compatriots in Indian Army.

They were remembering their painful phase of recovering. Both agreed that after bearing tremendous pain, when the pain was unbearable, the situation was depressive, a thought came to the mind of both the heroes. … ” isse achchha to mar jana tha.

It is very easy for us who live a secured, peaceful and comfortable to talk about war and provoke the nation to go for a war. We will not go to the border and fight. Neither we will send our relatives to go and fight a war. But we will shout to our nation saying why we are still tolerating the nuisance of Pakistan amend instead not starting a war against them. Our brave heroes who took 16 bullets on him and 16 months to recover from the injury or our hero whose legs got shattered by a grenade and took 2 years to recover and walk again or the families whose doors opened to receive the coffins of their son , father or brother, knows what it takes to start a war. What cost one has to pay as a result of a war.

The nation is lucky to still have with us the brave hearts like Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav and Captain Naveen Nagappa. We know the story of their ultimate bravery. But we hardly look at them deep to see the pain in their eyes for loosing their own compatriots. When Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav says that he can clearly see where his friends got shot and where is friends breathed last, whenever he visits Kargil . Captain Naveen Nagappa Sir has not yet been able to gather courage to visit Kargil in last 17 years. According to him, he will not be able to see and face the names of the martyrs of 13 Jak Rif in the war memorial as once they had hold hands of each other and proceeded to achieve their mission.

Both the heroes believe that God has chosen them to live for a purpose. They have a mission to fulfill. They survived, lived to tell the veer gatha, the brave stories of their bravest of the brave compatriots who attained supreme sacrifice in the line of their duty.


Have you ever thought how it would be to meet a friend, philosopher, guide, brother, colleague whom you had lost more than 17 years back.

13 Bn the Jammu & Kashmir Rifles was tasked to capture point 4875 during Kargil war. It was decided that the attack would be launched on 04 July 1999. Before launching the attack Capt Vikram Batra during the customary hug had said to me “galle lagho yaar, na jaane koinse mulaakat akhare hogi” (give a tight hug, you never know which will be the last hug).
Little did I realize the consequence of those words then, as I was entering the danger zone, while Capt Vikram Batra was being given the well deserved break after his successful attack on point 5140.

On 04 July 1999, we launched the attack on point 4875 and I was leading the attack. There have been numerous occasions when I cheated death while the enemy bullets very narrowly missed hitting me. Till the mid-day of 06 July 1999, my company had gained considerable ground by eliminating many enemies. That is when Capt Vikram Batra joined me on point 4875.

By midnight of 06 July 1999, we had captured all the bunkers occupied by the enemy less the last one for which the only way to capture was frontal attack. On 07 July 1999, early in the morning enemy lobbed a grenade into my bunker, which badly damaged both my leg. The enemy was trying to launch counter attack.

That is the time Capt Vikram Batra came rushing to the bunker in which I was injured. He asked me to go down and get my legs treated. Since I had promised my company that I will hoist the tricolor on point 4875, I was reluctant to come down. But seeing the state of my leg and too much of blood loss with my life being in danger, Capt Vikram Batra ordered me to go down. I being his junior had to obey his order.

I was crawling down, unable to walk, both legs being severely injured. Capt Vikram Batra punched his fist to mine and took over the charge of attack on point 4875. Knowing the brave nature of Capt Vikram Batra and the only possible attack to capture point 4875 was frontal and suicidal, it was as if written all over the skies that something historical is about to happen.

On being told Capt Vikram Batra won point 4875 for his team, his paltan the defense forces and for the entire nation by making the supreme sacrifice, I always wished that I could stop the time when our fists met each others, till eternity so that he would be amongst us today and forever.

Friends, bidding adieu to a brother officer who is embarking on an attack, return from where is next to none, is the most difficult circumstances in which an officer would like to be in. I have been in that position, wished to hold the time back or at least give the last hug as he had said “galle lagho yaar, na jaane koinse mulaakat akhare hogi”

This mental block prevented me from going back to the unit, going back to the battalion, visiting Kargil war memorial, meeting the people with whom I had the privilege of fighting the enemy on point 4875 and most importantly I never mustered the courage to meet the parents and twin brother of Capt Vikram Batra for the past 17 years.

As fate would have it, we all gathered at one place for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations. The first time I came across Vishal Batra, twin brother of Capt Vikram Batra, in a flash I was reminded of my last meeting with Capt Vikram Batra when I crawled down point 4875 and he went ahead for the attack. Vishal not only is a look alike of Capt Vikram, but also has the same smile, same charm, same josh and same charisma. Rather I would say two physical entities but same soul.

For me it was nothing short of meeting Capt Vikram Batra again after 17 years. It seems that the thing I always wanted to do with Capt Vikram, the tight hug, the firm handshake, the meeting of fists and some emotional talk and to convey my gratitude was fulfilled.
But for you Vikram I wouldn’t have been here, I wouldn’t have meet my wife, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of holding my dear daughter Savera in my arms, wouldn’t have lived on the earth for the past 17 years.

Thank you Vikram sir, just to let you know you are being missed and remembered.
“galle lagho yaar, na jaane koinse mulaakat akhare hogi”

Captain Vikram Batra.jpg



On this day 17 years back, as the entire nation slept, barring a few brave men enduring the extreme cold in the icy peaks of Kargil at point 4875, their lives changed forever. Some made the supreme sacrifice, some sacrificed part of their body and some would carry the memories of life and death. Anyways life changed forever for these few brave men.

The attack on point 4875 was commenced after last light on 04 July 1999 and for the next 60 hours the men fought one of the most intense battles during the Kargil war. The very fact that during the entire Kargil war four Param Vir Chakras were awarded out of which two Param Vir Chakras were awarded for the bravery shown by the men of 13 Battalion Jammu & Kashmir Rifles on point 4875 proves the intensity of the battle.

The men fought well entrenched enemy for more than 48 hours in the extreme weather conditions without food and water risking their lives, shedding their blood and even sacrificing their lives all but refusing to be evacuated as they had sworn to hoist the tricolor on point 4875. Indeed the tricolor was hoisted on point 4875 by a few brave men on 07 July 1999.

Never say, he lost his life, never say he lost his limb; for freedom was the gift they unselfishly gave, pain and death was the ultimate price they paid.

With a hand upon my heart, I feel the pain, I feel the pride, I feel the respect: my reverence is revealed.

In honor of all the soldiers who played their part for the success of point 4875 earning the unit the award of BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE.


Capt (Retd) Naveen AN, SM


Captain R Jerry Premraj was an artillery officer. He was working in 158 Med Regt(sp) in Kargil. During first year degree he was selected in Indian Air Force as an aircrafts man in 1990. He joined Indian Air Force in 02 Feb 1990 before attaining the age of 18. In Indian Air Force he joined as an instrument fitter. His basic training was at Jalahalli, Bangalore. After two years of training he was posted in 7 wing Ambala. From Ambala he was sent for maintenance conversion flight training of jaguar aircraft at Gorakhpur. Up to 1996 he was working in Ambala. Meanwhile he completed his degree from Kakatiya University in sociology in one sitting. He cleared CDS and was selected as an officer in Indian army. He had undergone training in OTA Chennai and was commissioned as an artillery officer in Indian army on 5th Sep 1997. While joining army he was corporal in Indian Air Force with seven years of service. He was posted to 158 Med Regt at Meerut after training. While working at Meerut he was sent for Young Officers’ course

22nd April 1999 Captain Jerry Premraj married Praseena. He had done reservation on 3rd June 99 in Rajasthani exp to go back to Meerut. He was planning to take Praseena along with him. But on 30th May a telegram came from his unit, stating that his leave is cancelled and report for duty immediately. At that time he was at Mettur his relative’s house. He was going to Ooty on honeymoon trip. He did not go to Ooty. He cancelled his honey moon trip and came back home. Meanwhile his Commanding Officer called up and told him not to bring his wife Praseena. So he cancelled his wife’s ticket. He cancelled his reservation and preponed his journey to 3rd June. On 3rd June 1999, he went to Meerut. At Meerut there were only reserve people since his unit is already moved to Drass sector. He was sent to his unit in Drass sector from Meerut. From there he was attached to 2 Naga Regt. Mean while he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

He was Forward Observation Officer to 2 Naga. On 7th July 1999 at point 4875 (twin bumps) while effecting accurate artillery fire he was hit on the shoulder by an enemy sniper. He saved the life of two of his subordinates. 17 enemy soldiers were killed on that morning. He refused to be evacuated and continued to give effective artillery fire. Again he was hit on the shoulder and head (total 5 gsw). He breathed his last at about 4’o clock on this day 17 years back. He was awarded Veer Chakra posthumously.

His brother Reginald Pavithran shared few words on his brother with us.

“Jerry was younger to me by three years. At 6 months of age he won healthy baby show in our village. He was very healthy at that time. He was having long hair. He was looking like a girl at that time. During his school days he was a very good cricketer. He was a fast bowler and an all rounder. In his captaincy their team won the cricket tournament in 10th standard. He was very good in studies. He studied in Malayalam medium but was very good in English. During his school days he was the student secretary of Indira Priyadarshini Science Centre at our village. Under his leadership this centre organised science exhibitions in the school. He was very God fearing also. He was active in Sunday schools also. He was a very good artist and was very good in pencil sketch. He was a very good cartoonist. From childhood he was fond of army. He appeared for NDA but could not clear. Then he tried to join navy as a sailor. But in medical he was rejected. Then he joined Air Force as an airman. But he was not satisfied with it. He was very brave. He was very adamant to become an army officer. He had only one aim. He tried very hard to accomplish his aim and finally achieved it. He was very competitive. Jerry and me together brought many trophies and prizes to our home in various competitions.

Although he was younger to me by three years, we were like friends not brothers. Before taking an important decision he will have a consultation with me. He was happy to take my guidance before taking an important step. He was fond of Mohanlal films. He was adept in storytelling. After seeing a film he will explain the story in such a way that I will not have to see the film again. He was a lovable person. His love, affection and care for others was unparallel. He was very social and jolly person. Once u got a chance to talk with him, I bet u will never forget him. He was such a fantastic guy.

He was killed in action on 7th July 1999. His body was brought home on 11th July (coffin was not opened)He was cremated at Venganur by the side of our house with full military honours. We have constructed a memorial for him before the first death anniversary. Now for the last 16 years we are conducting a prayer meeting at his memorial on Jul 7. We have constructed a church nearby in his memory. We have been born and brought up together. Since the coffin was not opened, I am not able to believe till now that he is no more. His smiling face is still in my mind. I feel like I have lost my right arm. Life will never be the same again. Now wherever I go people love, care and respect me on behalf of him. I like to be known as Captain Jerry’s brother. I feel blessed and honoured to have a brother like him.”