1971 Indo-Pak war was the second direct confrontation between India and Pakistan. Lasting 13 days, it resulted in unconditional surrender by the Eastern Command of Pakistani Armed Forces and the emergence of a new nation, Bangladesh, on December 16, 1971. Indian Army took around 90,000 members of Pakistan Armed Forces as Prisoners of War (PoW).
While Indians saw many brave souls lay down their lives to save the honour of their country, four men – in particular – stood out due to their extreme valour and were awarded Param Veer Chakra (PVC), India’s highest military honour, for their supreme sacrifice.
As India enters its 71st year of Independence today, these PVC stories inspire us to put our nation before anything else. These stories remind us that our Independence has been earned the hard way, and it takes much more than the courage of our army-men to preserve it.
December 16 is celebrated as Vijay Diwas each year to commemorate the victory over Pakistan and in remembrance of all those who fought valiantly, many to their last breath and left behind inspiring stories for younger generations.
These are their inspirational STORIES.
Disclaimer: Below citations are taken from respective Wikipedia pages.
LANCE NAIK ALBERT EKKA – 14 GUARDS (NO 4239746)
Lance Naik Albert Ekka was in the left forward company of a battalion of the Brigade of Guards during their attack on the enemy defences at Gangasagar on the Eastern front. This was a well-fortified position held in strength by the enemy. The assaulting troops were subjected to intense shelling and heavy small-arms fire, but they charged onto the objective and were locked in bitter hand-to-hand combat. Lance Naik Albert Ekka noticed an enemy light machine-gun (LMG) inflicting heavy casualties on his company. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he charged the enemy bunker, bayoneted two enemy soldiers and silenced the LMG.
Though seriously wounded in this encounter, he continued to fight alongside his comrades through the mile deep objective, clearing bunker after bunker with undaunted courage. Towards the northern end of the objective, one enemy medium machine-gun (MMG) opened up from the second storey of a well-fortified building inflicting heavy casualties and holding up the attack. Once again this gallant soldier, without a thought for his personal safety, despite his serious injury and the heavy volume of enemy fire, crawled forward till he reached the building and lobbed a grenade into the bunker killing one enemy soldier and injuring the other. The MMG however continued to fire. With outstanding courage and determination Lance Naik Albert Ekka scaled a side wall and entering the bunker, bayoneted the enemy soldier who was still firing and thus silenced the machine-gun, saving further casualties to his company and ensuring the success of the attack. In this process however, he received serious injuries and succumbed to them after the capture of the objective.
In this action, Lance Naik Albert Ekka displayed the most conspicuous valour and determination and made the supreme sacrifice in the best traditions of the Army.
FLYING OFFICER NIRMAL JIT SINGH SEKHON – 18 SQUADRON 10877 F(P)
Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was a pilot of a Gnat detachment based at Srinagar for the air defense of the valley against Pakistani air attacks. From the very outbreak of the hostilities, he and his colleagues fought successive waves of intruding Pakistani aircraft with valor and determination, maintaining the high reputation of the Gnat aircraft.
On 14 December 1971, Srinagar airfield was attacked by a wave of enemy Sabre aircraft. Flying Officer Sekhon was on readiness duty at the time. Immediately, however, no fewer than six enemy aircraft were overhead, and they began bombing and strafing the airfield. In spite of the mortal danger of attempting to take off during the attack, Flying Officer Sekhon took off and immediately engaged a pair of the attacking Sabres. In the fight that ensued, he secured hits on one aircraft and damaged another. By this time the other Sabre aircraft came to the aid of their hard-pressed companions and Flying Officer Sekhon’s Gnat was again outnumbered, this time by four to one.
Even though alone, Flying Officer Sekhon engaged the enemy in an unequal combat. In the fight that followed, at treetop height, he almost held his own, but was eventually overcome by the sheer weight of numbers. His aircraft was shot down by a gunfire of one of the Sabres and he was killed.
The sublime heroism, supreme gallantry, flying skill and determination above and beyond the call of duty displayed by Flying Officer Sekhon in the face of certain death have set new heights in Air Force traditions.
MAJOR HOSHIAR SINGH – 3 GRENADIERS (IC-14608)
On 15 December 1971 a battalion of the Grenadiers was given the task of establishing a bridgehead across the Basantar river in the Shakargarh Sector. Major Hoshiar Singh was commanding the left forward company and he was ordered to capture the enemy locality of Jarpal. This was a well-fortified position and was held in strength by the enemy.
During the assault, his company came under intense shelling and effective crossfire from enemy medium machine guns. Undeterred, he led the charge and captured the objective after a fierce hand-to hand fight. The enemy reacted and put in three counter attacks on 16 December 1971, two of them supported by armor. Major Hoshiar Singh, unmindful of the heavy shelling and tank fire, went from trench to trench, motivating his command and encouraging his men to stand fast and fight. Inspired by his courage and dauntless leadership, his company repulsed all the attacks inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.
Again, on 17 December 1971, the enemy made another attack with a battalion supported by heavy artillery fire. Though seriously wounded by enemy shelling, Major Hoshiar Singh again went from trench to trench moving about in the open with utter disregard to his personal safety when an enemy shell landed near the medium machine gun post injuring the crew and rendering it inoperative. Major Hoshiar Singh, realizing the importance of machine-gun fire, immediately rushed to the machine-gun pit and though seriously wounded himself, manned the gun, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. The attack was successfully repulsed and the enemy retreated leaving behind 85 dead including their Commanding Officer and three other officers. Though seriously wounded, Major Hoshiar Singh refused to be evacuated till the ceasefire.
Throughout this operation, Major Hoshiar Singh displayed most conspicuous gallantry, indomitable fighting spirit and leadership in the highest traditions of the Army.
SECOND LIEUTENANT ARUN KHETARPAL – POONAHORSE (IC-25067)
On 16 December 1971, the squadron Commander of ‘B’ Squadron, the Poona Horse, asked for reinforcements as the Pakistani armor that was superior in strength, counter attacked at Jarpal, in the Shakargarh Sector. On hearing this transmission, 2nd Lt Khetarpal who was in ‘A’ Squadron, voluntarily moved along with his troop, to assist the other squadron.
Enroute, while crossing the Basantar River, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and his troops came under fire from enemy strong points and RCL gun nests that were still holding out. Time was at a premium and as a critical situation was developing in the ‘B’ Squadron sector, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, threw caution to the winds and started attacking the impending enemy strong points by literally charging them, overrunning the defense works with his tanks and capturing the enemy infantry and weapon crews at pistol point. In the course of one such daring attack one tank commander of his troop was killed.
Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal continued to attack relentlessly until all enemy opposition was overcome and he broke through towards the ‘B’ Squadron position, the Pakistanis fought very bravely and did not retreat even after losses, instead they kept moving forward after their initial probing attack on this squadron. He was so carried away by the wild enthusiasm of battle and the impetus of his own headlong dash that he started firing at the tanks that came so close to him and even managed to shoot and destroy one.
Soon thereafter, the enemy reformed with a squadron of armor for a second attack and this time they selected the sector held by Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and two other tanks as the point for their main effort. A fierce tank fight ensued: ten own tanks and 3 enemy tanks were hit and destroyed of which Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal personally destroyed 2, just then Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal was severely wounded. He was asked to abandon his tank but he realized that the enemy, though badly decimated, was continuing to advance in his sector of responsibility, and if he abandoned his tank the enemy would break through. He gallantly fought on and destroyed another enemy tank. At this stage his tank received a second hit which resulted in the death of this gallant officer.
Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal died trying to save the day; the enemy achieved the breakthrough he was so desperately trying to deny.
Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal had shown the best qualities of leadership, tenacity of purpose and the will to close in with the enemy. This was an act of courage and self-sacrifice far beyond the call of duty.
To read stories of all Param Veer Chakra awardees, get these books.