President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday posthumously honoured two heroes of the Indian Army with the prestigious Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime military honour of the country.
Family-members of Major Mukund Varadarajan and Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh accepted the award during the 66th Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi in the presence of US President Barrack Obama.
The two army heroes had laid down their lives combating militants in separate incidents last year at Shopian and Kupwara districts of Kashmir respectively.
The Ashok Chakra award is given for the “most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice” other than in the face of the enemy.
Call of duty
The Udhampur-based defence spokesman Colonel SD Goswami said that Major Mukund Varadarajan of Rashtriya Rifles acted swiftly after receiving information about the presence of three terrorists in a village of Shopian district on April 25, 2014.
“This group had targeted polling officials just a day prior. Major Mukund acted swiftly by deploying troops in an effective cordon and simultaneously evacuated civilians from the target house,” the spokesman said.
He said Major Mukund led from the front the demolition team and used the resources available to him in a critically short time period to bring down the "target house".
“This aggressive action forced the terrorists to shift their position to an outhouse in the compound. Major Mukund along with sepoy Vikram displaying raw courage, crawled in proximity to the outhouse.
“The officer lobbed a grenade inside the cement outhouse killing one terrorist instantaneously. Another terrorist present in the outhouse opened a burst of auto fire thereby seriously injuring Major Mukund,” he said.
The spokesman said although bleeding profusely, the officer crawled ahead unmindful of his grave injury, fired and neutralised the second terrorist.
He later succumbed to his injuries.
Defence sources said Naik Neeraj Singh, while leading a search operation in Kupwara district on August 24, 2014 came under heavy fire from terrorists which hit one of his colleagues.
With utter disregard for personal safety, he crawled and extricated his colleague.
A terrorist threw grenades and brought heavy fire on Singh but in a very daring act, he inched closer to the terrorist and shot him dead, the sources added.
Simultaneously, he was attacked by another terrorist resulting in dropping of his rifle and was shot in the chest. Despite grievous injuries, displaying unparalleled courage, he pounced on the terrorist, snatched his weapon and killed him in hand-to-hand combat.
He refused to be evacuated till he became unconscious and later succumbed to his injuries.