From his bunker at the sentry post, gunner Rishi Kumar of the army’s field artillery regiment saw three militants approach his camp in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Thursday morning.
He waited, his finger crooked hard on the trigger of his machine gun. When they were within range, he fired — staccato in their direction.
The armed militant fired back and a bullet hit his patka or headgear.
“The bulletproof patka saved him, but he fell down as the shot’s impact caused a whiplash effect and he lost his balance,” an army spokesman said.
Kumar was back on his feet in seconds and started firing at the militants again, ringing two of them with bullets and killing them instantly.
Just as he was about to engage the third, he ran out of ammunition. The brave, experienced and quick-thinking soldier from Ara in Bihar moved out of the safety of his sand bunker and dashed for the weapons of the slain militants.
He picked up a gun and fired, but the militant cut him down with a volley of bullets and escaped. The fugitive is said to be wounded too.
Reinforcement has arrived in the meantime after the first gunshots were fired. Colleagues shielded the bleeding Kumar, paramedics started initial treatment and he was shifted to hospital, where doctors said he is out of danger.
Kumar is with the army for the past eight years.
Colonel Saurab Joshi said the operation lasted 35 minutes and Kumar’s timely action saved many soldiers. The militants killed three soldiers, including an officer, before they ran into Kumar.
The sentry is hailed for averting an Uri-type attack, in which 19 soldiers were killed when militants made a pre-dawn strike on an army camp along the Indian-Pakistan border in Kashmir last September.