Friday, November 28, 2008

Remembering a Martyr

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, 31, from NDA’s Oscar Squadron, 94th Course, joined the NSG a year and a half back for a three-year tenure.
Today morning during a room intervention exercise at the Taj to evacuate the hostages, the brave officer originally from Kerala, was blown up. Sandy, as he was fondly called, was the only son of his parents who live in Bangalore. His father retired from the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Sandy, I was told by his unit officer, refused to use hand grenades to avoid civilian casualties, thereby giving up his own life., while engaging with terrorists.
Unni part of the 51 Special Action Group, was originally from 7 Bihar, currently located in Firozepur.
Sandy, an excellent basketball player, was from 104-Regular course of the Indian Military Academy. I as his ex-Directing Staff from the IMA remember him as a quiet and a shy Gentleman Cadet (GC).
He was brave and bold, which showed in his activities in IMA as well as during camps and exercises.
I called up his father in Bangalore, but the mood was somber and the refusal and discomfort to talk was evident, which made me give up.
The Commando, commissioned in June 1999, had served in J&K twice in CI Ops, and had been part of Op Parakram. The officer had been married but was separated from his wife.
I salute the brave officer and extend my condolences towards the aggrieved family.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Remembering my first page 1 for nostalgia's sake!

This was my first page 1 in Mail Today, which completes a year on November 26, 2008. The chopper deal which was cancelled four days after this story appeared, was re-issued again this year, for a larger number of choppers.

My first page 1 anniversary!


‘Chindits’ , originating from ‘Chinthe’, a mythical winged lion, statues of which guarded Buddhist temples in Burma, was a special force of the British-Indian Army, comprising mainly the Gorkhas from India, besides others and troops from other British colonies as well.

Brainchild of Major General Orde Charles Wingate, the General with an offensive outlook and known for modernizing Guerrilla Warfare, who was hand-picked by General Wavell to take his Chindit columns behind Japanese lines to defeat them in Burma during World War-II.

The first Chindit Operation was launched in February 1943 as ‘Op Longcloth , through the Wingate’s Long Range Penetration Groups comprising the 77 Infantry Brigade and later the 3rd Div, and the second Chindit Operation was conducted in February 1944, known as ‘Op Thursday’, in the difficult mountainous and jungle terrain of Burma.

Presently there are three Gorkha Rifle battalions in the Indian Army which are still called Chindit units and they have the honour of wearing a red lanyard on their right (this is a rare honour meant only for royal units). One such unit is 5th/5th GR.

The Gentlemen Cadets (GCs) of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) become eligible to take the final step towards officership and the oath and piping formalities , after they have successfully completed the seven-day Chindit camp meant only for IMA third-termers.

I’ve had the privilege of being embedded in this tough camp, during my IMA days, and actually manning a couple of Check Posts (though not alone) like the Black Route and Red Route (Kaluwala Pass and Shakumbhri Devi Pass).

It’s the toughest camp ever (not comparing NDA’s Rovers, as the age groups are different), meant for cadets and is aid to make men out of boys. Held approximately a month and half before the POP drill, after the successful completion of the camp, the Ustads of the academy start treating the GCs as officers already.

The Camp culminates with a 50 kilometer run-back after the survival (seven days with minimum food, water and other necessities without any sleep, on nullahs, through villages, mountains and rivers, navigating on their own), the GCs race back to the academy along with their Company (earlier there were 12, now there are 15), and are given a rousing welcome by their juniors and in the evening a campfire is lit by the Commandant, attended by all officers (and their ladies), and the GCs, in their combat fatigues.

The Camp is very close to my heart, hence the name Chindits, as I’ve been part of it and learnt true survival, in the jungle called South Block, where the Check Posts are the offices of the PROs, ADPIO and DPR, and the mythical winged-lion , who is present on the first floor of South Block but is seldom visible, is none other than honourable Raksha Mantri A K Antony. I also had a GC in IMA named Chindit from the North-east, who was punished the maximum by me.