THE LION OF GUREZ

“Sir, I wish around 15 militants come in one go and get caught in our ambush so that we neutralise them all and don’t have to lay an ambush in all places all the time there after”, were the last words of Lt Navdeep Singh at 2330 hours during a casual discussion at the Tactical Headquarters on 19 August 2011 which proved to be prophetic within the next half an hour. At 0001 hours, one of the surveillance detachment reported that around twelve fully armed LeT militants were making a desperate attempt to infiltrate along the river. In no time Navdeep with his team rushed to the selected site and laid an ambush. The militants had used pneumatic rubber boats to cross the river, possibly for the first time in the history of militancy. But unfortunately for them the Maratha warriors of 15 Maratha LI under Lt Navdeep were waiting for the opportune moment to unleash mayhem on them. They did so from a close distance of five meters against all odds and destroyed the entire group of 12 hard core militants.

In the ensuing gunfight, Lt Navdeep killed three militants. He was hit by a stray bullet on his head while saving his injured buddy and succumbed to injuries but not before he killed the fourth militant. The cub of the Battalion had transformed into a roaring lion. The act is a reminder of the famous words of Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj for his sardar Tanaji Malusare “Garh ale par Sinh gele” after the historic capture of Kondana fort. The lion of Gurez had made the supreme sacrifice to uphold the honour, safety and security of his country, men and his Battalion.

Lt Navdeep was the eldest son of Sub Maj (Hony Lt) Joginder Singh. He did his schooling from Army School, completed his graduation in Hotel Management and after finishing MBA got a good job with excellent perks and privileges. But the real life stories of his grandfather who had served with 8 SIKH and his exposure to army life with his father who served with Bengal Sappers had an impact on him. The soldier’s blood in him made him restless and he joined the Officers Training Academy. He passed out as a third generation Officer, commissioned into Ordnance Corps on attachment with 15 Maratha LI. He joined the Battalion in Kanpur in April 2011, during preparations for its next movement to the rugged Gurez Sector were in progress.

Navdeep was soft spoken, modest, physically fit and a hardworking officer. He was the right choice to be in charge of number two Ghatak Platoon during counter insurgency/counter terrorism training at Corps Battle School. With his hard work and dedication he got his platoon the first position in Inter Battalion Ghatak Competition winning all four medals for best in physical, best firing, best commando operations and best endurance. The leader was born. There was no looking back after that and when the Battalion was deployed in Kanzalwan, Gurez Sector he literally measured every inch of ground during recce patrols, understood the nuances of operational dynamics of the area and kept up the motivation of his team. He had selected the ambush sites to channalise the likely infiltrators from which there was no escape.

Navdeep was a pleasing personality, physically fit and a mentally robust youngster who was ever ready for any task. Having a good hand at culinary skills he used to cook dishes for his brother officers. His equation with his subordinates, peers and seniors was so good that everyone wanted him in his team. The Battalion’s induction from Kanpur to Jammu had taken almost six days by special train. The youngsters had a great time in the train gorging on delicious delicacies. The foodie that Navdeep was, he enjoyed thoroughly and innocently asked his seniors “Sir do we get pay for these days”!! He was given a buddy who had just arrived from the Centre. It was a treat to watch the two youngest members sharing their experience and teaching each other the traditions of the Battalion. He used to mingle very well with his team but was a hard task master who never looked back when a responsibility was given. He had expressed his willingness to convert to infantry after his attachment period and had discussed the same with his parents. Unfortunately he left us before we could process the case.

Navdeep was very much attached to his family; his mother, father, brother and sister. He had a passion for bikes and spent a lot of time with his bike while at home. He was a good at hockey player and tried his hand almost all games. He had a steady girlfriend with whom he was to get engaged in Sep 2011. Infact he was speaking to his girlfriend when he had to move for an ambush on that fateful night. But destiny had carved a different story for his life. He became immortal through his supreme sacrifice for the mother land. He was an inspiration to all but left only the memories for his family and friends.

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