If the Tricolour flies high in the most daunting of border outposts and bloodiest of battlefields, it is not only because of the courage and professionalism of the Army. Men at proxy war know they can rely on the staunch back-up from the Army Medical Corps (AMC) and the emotional support of families when they fall wounded. It is this rearguard courage and capability that kicked into action to fight the second battle for Lt Col Karanbir Singh Natt, second-in-command of the 160 Territorial Army (JAK Rifles), who has lapsed into coma and is in a “critical” state at the Army Hospital Research and Referral (AHRR), Delhi.
Lt Col Natt was shot at the junction of his upper and lower jaws while conducting a “room intervention” operation at Haji Naka village, 7 km from the Kupwara LoC, on November 22. Battalion officers recount that the officer was alert and communicating with gestures till the night of that fateful day despite the wound, which bled heavily and did not allow him to lie down as his tongue would block the air passage. He was operated upon in the field area and airlifted by the AMC to Delhi. “Lt Col Natt is in a state of critical illness. He is in a stupor (coma). Our main concern is the infection of the gunshot wound area. Due to kidney complications, we have put him on dialysis. He is in very good care and we hope he will make it,” Lt Gen SD Duhan, Commandant, AHRR, told HT.
Lt Col Natt was wounded five days after Col Santosh Mahadik, Sena Medal (Gallantry), CO, 41 Rashtriya Rifles (Maratha LI), died after receiving a “’full burst” from an AK-47 rifle at close quarters while hunting Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists in the dense undergrowth and forests of Manigah in Kupwara. Lt Col Natt’s family is keeping their spirits high despite the trying circumstances. His father, Col Jagtar Singh Natt (retd), is a veteran from the 22 Punjab and a soldier who fought the 1971 War in the Shakargarh ‘Bulge’ sector and also battled the Mizoram insurgency.
Formerly from the 19 Guards, Lt Col Natt had led a missile platoon during the Kargil War. “My son was given a task by the nation and he undertook it. He did his duty without flinching and I am very proud of him,” Col Natt told HT. They hail from Dhadiala Natt village, situated close to Batala in Gurdaspur district. Both the father and wife, Navpreet Kaur, of the wounded officer are at the AHRR while his two daughters, Guneet (11) and Ashmeet (1), are in Amritsar with their maternal grandparents. “My husband is a brave man. There has been a lot of support and good wishes that have come our way. I am hopeful that he will pull through,” Navpreet told HT.
So grievous and unusual was the bullet wound that the AMC team had to resort to innovative and commando-like tactics to treat him in the field area and evacuate him speedily. “The forces had laid a cordon around a ‘dhok’, which is a kind of hut used by Bakkerwals in summer. It was not known for sure whether there was a militant in the hut. Lt Col Natt and his assault team undertook the operation to clear the hut. It was dark and the hiding militant fired hitting Lt Col Natt. The militant was also killed later,” Kupwara SSP Ajaz Ahmad Bhat told HT.