On Sunday afternoon (November 22), a Kalashnikov bullet smashed the lower jaw of lieutenant colonel Karanbir Singh Natt at Haji Naka village on the edge of a dense forest, 7 kilometres from the Kupwara Line of Control (LoC). The bullet had slipped into one of the many chinks and exposed flanks of the body armour comprising a bulletproof patka and jacket. Unlike the death five days earlier of colonel Santosh Mahadik, commanding officer (CO) of 41 Rashtriya Rifles, in the same area, lieutenant colonel Natt survived that crippling gunshot wound.
“The lower half of the face gone, the tongue hanging loose, he was unable to lie back, as the tongue would fall back and obstruct his air passage,” is how an Army Medical Corps (AMC) officer described the unique injury. Lieutenant colonel Natt was the second-in-command (2IC) of 160 Territorial Army (JAK Rifles) and formerly of 19th battalion of the Brigade of the Guards.
“Lieutenant colonel Natt has suffered a serious injury to his lower jaw and it is virtually gone. However, he is stable at the moment. We are hoping for the best at Army Hospital Research and Referral (AHRR), Delhi, where he has been taken,” major Anoop, adjutant of 160 TA, told HT from Kupwara.
The Army Medical Corps (AMC) team acted like medical commandoes virtually. Here is a gripping account from an AMC officer of the first two days of battling to save lieutenant colonel Natt: “Emergency tracheotomy was done in sitting position, blood transfused. A surgical team comprising a senior surgeon, anaesthetist and a maxillofacial surgeon was rushed from 92 Base Hospital, Srinagar. It reached at 0030 hours (12.30am); the patient was rolled immediately into the operating theatre, and the surgery will take another couple of hours. An AN-32 will take off at 0730 hours (7.30am), advanced landing helipad launched (from Drugmullah, Kupwara) within three to four hours of night so that at sunrise, the patient can be taken to the old airfield (Srinagar) for evacuation to AHRR. An anaesthetist with ventilator and oxygen cylinders is to move to old airfield at sunrise, to accompany the patient to AHRR. Lt Col Natt is stable presently. This is an example of how the AMC operates in emergency.”
The EEG (electroencephalogram) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans show no damage to the brain/spine, and the officer is off life-support system at the AHRR. A Facebook comment from Anurag Singh: “Hoping for a brighter tomorrow. Karan’s will and our prayers seem to be working.”
The terrorists who shot at lieutenant colonel Natt and colonel Mahadik were from Lashkar-e-Toiba and included two brothers in their 20s.
Lieutenant colonel Natt belongs to Batala in Punjab, and his second battle on the emergency rack has slipped from mainstream consciousness but a welter of support, cyber prayers and heartfelt wishes have come his way and that of his wife, Navpreet Kaur, and daughter, Guneeta, on social media groups of ex-faujis and their families. Anindita Paul wrote on the Facebook group Fauji Kids: “Get well soon... nothing can deter a spirit that wants to serve mankind... serve the countrymen.”
Course mate Yash Sharma posted a picture of the dashing officer and it has drawn 19,227 shares.