They are men of steel, standing tall in the harshest of conditions. They disregard freezing cold temperatures and scorching heat to always remain brave, awake and devoted towards us.
They are all heroes, each and every one of them. But there are a few whose stories have become the stuff of legends, stories that deserve to be shared and told over and over again.
The 1971 war of Bangladeshi liberation was a landmark event in history which forever altered the course of India – Pakistan relationship.
The 1971 Indo-Pak War for Liberation of Bangladesh is a landmark conflict in the annals of history. The war commenced on 3 December 1971 and lasting 14 days, the war stripped Pakistan of more than half of its population and nearly one-third of its army in captivity.
Far from home and loved ones, these heroes sacrifice their own lives so the entire nation can sleep in peace. The stories of their courage and passion are larger than life. Read on and be inspired by 5 such army heroes from the Indo-Pak War 1971– they are legends whose tales will not just make your chests swell with pride, but whose sacrifices will leave your eyes a little moist.
Major General Ian Cardozo
Major General Ian Cardozo, who has many achievements to his name, will always be known for his immense courage in the 1971 war with Pakistan. He was, at the time, a young major with 5 Gorkha Rifles. During the war, he stepped on a landmine and severely injured his leg. When even the doctor could not cut his leg, Cardozo asked for a khukri (the Gorkha knife) and cut his own leg off, saying, “Now go and bury it!”
The incident did not deter Cardozo from going on to serve his country. Through sheer willpower and determination, he continued to perform his duties as a soldier and became the first disabled officer in the Indian Army to command an infantry battalion and a brigade. In spite of not being physically at par with other officers, he defeated many ‘two-legged’ soldiers to come first in many fitness tests during his stint in the army.
Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal
Born in Pune, 2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal of the 17 Poona Horse regiment is yet another braveheart who died too young at the age of 21. He died in the Battle of Basantar during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, where his brave actions earned him the Param Vir Chakra posthumously.
Khetarpal showed immense courage and strong will when Pakistani armour, which was superior in strength, counterattacked at Jarpal, in the Shakargarh sector, in December, 1971. Though Khetarpal was in a different squadron, he rushed to help, moving towards the enemy, overrunning the defences with his tanks, and capturing Pakistani infantry and weapons.
When the commander of his troops was killed, Khetarpal continued to attack the enemy fiercely until the latter’s tanks started pulling back. Khetarpal even managed to destroy one of the withdrawing tanks.
But the enemy reformed their armour and prepared for a second attack. This time they targeted the sector held by Khetarpal. The attack was severe and swift. Khetarpal was wounded but managed to hit 10 enemy tanks. He was asked to abandon his tank but realised that if he left it the enemy would break through. He fought courageously and destroyed another enemy tank. But then his own tank received another hit, which resulted in the death of this courageous officer.
Major Hoshiar Singh
During the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, the 3rd Grenadiers was given the task of establishing a bridgehead across the Basantar River in the Shakargarh Sector from 15-17 December 1971. The river was covered with deep minefields on both sides and protected by well-fortified defence by the Pakistani army. Major Hoshiar Singh, commander ‘C’ Company, was ordered to capture the Pakistani locality of Jarpal. The Pakistani Army reacted and put in sharp counterattacks.
Major Hoshiar Singh went from trench to trench encouraging his men to stand fast and fight as a result his company repulsed all the attacks inflicting heavy casualties on the Pakistani army. Though seriously wounded, Major Hoshiar Singh refused to be evacuated till ceasefire.
Lance Naik Albert Ekka
The battle which safeguarded Agartala, took place near Gangasagar railway station, 7 Km from the state capital in 1971.
Albert Ekka was assigned with 14 Guards Regiment of the Indian Army and led the Gangasagar railway station mission. Despite being repeatedly shot, Ekka captured the heavily fortified structure before he fell.
Ekka charged an enemy bunker, bayoneted enemy soldiers, silenced a LMG, hurled a grenade into an enemy bunker before finally succumbing to injuries.
Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon
Srinagar airfield was attacked by a wave of 6 Sabre aircraft. Flying officer Sekhon engaged a pair of the attacking Sabres, succeeded in damaging two of the enemy aircraft before his plane crashed.
He is the only member of the Indian Air Force to be honoured with the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration.