2 /Lt Rajeev Sandhu of 7th Battalion The Assam Regiment created history by his extraordinary bravery, grit and determination against all odds beyond the call of duty while fighting against enemy ambush during a Peace Keeping Operation on foreign land and becoming the youngest recipient (then) of the coveted Mahavir Chakra.
Born to Shri Devinder Singh Sandhu and Mrs Jaikanta Sandhu, on 12 November 1966, Rajiv was commissioned on 05 March 1988.He joined 7 Assam which was deployed in Peace Keeping Operation. In June 1988, he was posted to C Company under Major Pradip Mitra which had been placed under command 19 Madras for Operations in jungles.
On 19 July 1988, morning, Rajeev took out a small convoy of two vehicles, an open RCL (Recoilless Gun) jeep and a 1 ton lorry to collect rations from 19 Madras post which was about 8 kms away. As the convoy was passing an abandoned building in the jungle, the jeep came under heavy automatic and 40 mm Rocket Launcher fire from right side of the road. L/Nk Nandeshwar Das and Sep Lalbuanga who were seated in the rear of jeep were killed instantaneously by automatic fire while the 40 mm Rocket hit the front of the jeep. The driver, Nk Rajkumar was very seriously wounded with lower half of his jaw blown off and thrown out of the jeep. 2/Lt Rajeev Sandhu seated in co-driver’s seat received the direct hit of rocket that mutilated both his legs. Totally crippled and bleeding profusely, Rajeev managed to roll out of the jeep with his 9 mm carbine and crawled to a fire position nearby. Presuming that everyone in the jeep had been killed, one of the militants came out of hiding and approached the jeep to pick up weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that Rajeev’s legs were shattered and his body was riddled with bullets, he lifted his carbine with blood soaked hands and shot the militant dead. The militant was later identified as the personal hench man of a sector commander. The militants continued firing at Rajeev, who determinedly held on to his position and prevented movement of the militants to recover their dead or collect our weapons. Meanwhile, on hearing the sound of firing, collection party traveling in 1 ton jumped out and crawled forward to engage the militants. Nk Bhagirath came forward towards the jeep and saw 2/Lt Rajeev firing at the militants despite being mortally wounded and bleeding profusely. Rajeev signaled to him in a choked voice to outflank the militants and cut them off. This was quickly done. The militants, on seeing the flanking movement, fled away into the jungle leaving behind dead bodies of their comrades with their weapons and ammunition. The 1 ton group gave chase to fleeing militants but lost contact. Meanwhile, Sep Kamkholum moved his vehicle forward towards the jeep and came to lift Rajeev Sandhu; Nk Rajkumar and the other fallen comrades of protection party. Very weakened by grievous wounds and loss of blood and barely audible, 2/Lt Rajeev Sandhu ordered Nk Rajkumar and protection party to be evacuated first; the weapons be collected and a group left behind to keep the area under surveillance. Having displayed great courage, determination, professionalism and selflessness, Rajeev went into coma and breathed his last while being evacuated by a chopper.
The Mahavir Chakra awarded to Rajiv posthumously was received by his proud father Shri Devinder Singh Sandhu on 26 Mar 1990 at Rashrapati Bhavan.