Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hurt but not out

This excerpt as been taken from Fully article can be read here - Shifting To Jungles.

The LTTE were masters at the use of landmines and improvised explosive devices. For a while, these IED attacks were neutralised by the cutting off power to the Jaffna Peninsula. but it was not a permanent solution. Thus the Army suffered a number of causalities to these ambushes. Ambushes by gunfire were rare, and when carried out by the LTTE, they found that the army bounced back with great fervour. The army rose to the occasion in these small actions. Young officers and soldiers displayed extraordinary courage and bravery in the face of death.

Of particular mention would be two soldiers of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles. 1/11GR  was one of the original battalions that was inducted for the fighting in Operation Pawan. After the Capture of Jaffna, its mission was primarily sending patrols on 'Search & Destroy' missions.  One Patrol on such a mission on 16 March 1988 in the Vallankulam Pannai area ran into an ambush when enfilade gunfire rained down on them from the dense jungle growths. The Gorkhas hit the ground and returned fire. Slowly they organised themselves and extricated themselves out of the site. In the Melee, two Jawans got separated from the main column, Havildar Devinder Singh Gurung and Rifleman Rajender Bahadur Thapa were both pinned down by heavy fire. By the time they could extricate themselves, the main column has disappeared, as both were presumed to be missing in action. As both the jawans were making their way through the undergrowth, they came under fire from LTTE Snipers. In the exchange of fire, Havildar Gurung was hit in the thigh and was not able to move. Rifleman Thapa then picked up Havildar Gurung and carried him on his shoulders to a hut nearby, returning the odd burst that came his way with fire from his Ishapore rifle.

Once in the hut, Rifleman Thapa administered first aid to Havildar Gurung and surveyed the situation around him. The LTTE had identified the two soldiers hideout and slowly have started encircling the Hut from a distance. Even as the LTTE Militants slowly made their way to the hut, Rifleman Thapa picked them off with single shots from his Ishapore. His main concern was to save ammunition, and use it efficiently. Resisting the temptation to waste the ammunition in general direction of the militants, Rifleman Thapa used it only when he could clearly identify his target. The exchange of fire went on and on well into the next day. Early morning on March 17th, a patrol sent by 1/11GR in search of the two missing soldiers was drawn to the hut by the sound of gunfire. The LTTE Militants decided to call it a day on the sight of the approaching patrol and fled. Rifleman Thapa and Havildar Gurung were thus recovered safely. Rifleman Thapa kept a cool mind and as a result he was able to keep the LTTE Militants at bay for more than 17 Hours. During the time, he fired only 22 rounds, and was well a target for hundreds of rounds fired by the AK-47 Rifles of the LTTE. Two dead militants were recovered as well as another wounded LTTE man. It wasn't always the Jawan or the NCO that displayed such bravery and courage, young officers barely out of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) thrust into the sweltering Jungles of Jaffna too showed that they could give a fitting reply to the LTTE.

On 19 July 1988, a convoy of a two vehicles of the 7th Battalion of the Assam Regiment was making its way from Madurengkenikulam to Mangani  to collect dry rations. In charge of the detail was a young subaltern, 2nd Lt. Rajeev Sandhu, who was barely six months out of the IMA.  2nd Lt. Sandhu was traveling in the Mahindra Jeep, leading the way to the 1 Ton Nissan truck which was trailing 50 meters behind the jeep. Driving the jeep was Sepoy NKKS Rajkumar, 2nd Lt. Sandhu was in the next seat. Sitting in the rear was L/Nk Nandeshwar Das and Sepoy Lalbuanga. As the vehicles reached a track junction, a rocket fired from the undergrowth hit the jeep, lifting it into the air and overturning it to the side. Immediately a fusillade of fire from the AK-47s straddled the overturned Jeep. When the volley of fire ended, and silence descended on the ambush site, the LTTE militants knew that this was one convoy that never made it to the Army base. They came out of their ambush positions to pick up the weapons and equipment of the fallen soldiers.

But one Indian Soldier still had his wits around with him. Out of the view of the militants, 2nd Lt. Sandhu, was dragging himself with his 9mm SMC Carbine out of the wreck. Both his legs were smashed when the rocket hit the jeep, the subsequent volley of fire had wounded him and he was bleeding profusely. He was  hurt but not out. He checked the other occupants of the jeep. None of them were conscious. In fact the initial blast of the rocket was borne by  2nd Lt. Sandhu. The machine gun fire that followed killed both Lance Naik Das and Sep Lalbuanga in the rear. Driver Rajkumar was wounded and unconscious. Sandhu tumbled out of the Jeep and crawled to a fire position. As one of the LTTE militants by the name of Kumaran approached the Jeep. Despite his legs being totally smashed and his body ridden with bullets, 2nd Lt. Sandhu lifted his carbine with blood soaked hands and sprayed Kumaran with bullets, killing him instantly.

However, the bleeding had already taken its toll. 2nd Lt. Sandhu succumbed to his wounds and injuries. A grateful nation recognised his bravery with the award of a Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) in 1990.  2nd Lt. Sandhu was just 22 years old when he died in Sri Lanka. Incidents like these were what kept the LTTE from underestimating the fighting prowess of the Army. They knew that they could not compare the fighting calibre of the Indian Soldier to that of the Sri Lankan Army. The Indian Soldier was coming from a background of operational exposure in areas like the Jungles of North east and the Mountains of the North. Death and Hardship were not a stranger to him, thus He was more ready and more experienced in fighting back to the hit and run tactics of the LTTE.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to our brave soldiers who always fight like tigers.