In the chilling night of December at an altitude of 12000 feet, he was lying next to a tall Chinar Tree bleeding profusely. Already been hit with four bullets in his abdomen, he was barely able to breathe. Though the accompanying nursing assistant had already given him Morphine and the first Aid, it looked difficult that he will survive till the helicopter came to pick him up.
As per the old saying, whenever the person is at his death bed, the entire of his life moves in front of his eyes. Same was happening with Lance Naik Kulwinder Singh, the only son of a farmer from Sangrur District, truly brave to the traditions of Khalsa.
It was the year of 1971 when Sardar Kuldeep Singh and Sardaarni Prabhjyot Kaur were blessed by a son. The country was witnessing a war with Pakistan and every countryman was thankful to the soldiers fighting for them on the front. India’s previous Prime Minister gave a slogan in 1965 after another war with Pakistan, “Jai Jawan – Jai Kisan”. Sardaar Kuldeep Singh was a true Kisan (Farmer) so the onus lied on his newly born son to complete the slogan by becoming a soldier or a Jawan.
Kulwinder was a naughty but brave boy since childhood. Once when Kulwinder was 12 year old, a small kid accidently fell into the well. He immediately jumped in the well and rescued him. The village Pradhan asked him “ Putter! Tennu dar nahi lagya? Agar mar jaata to? (Dear Son! Weren’t you afraid of this? What if you had died?”) Kulwinder immediately replied “Sardaarji! Maut te ek na ek din aani hi hai, wo apne time se aayegi. Manu kis liye chinta karni hai? (Dear Grandpa! Death has to come one or the other day, then why should I get worried about it?)”.
A soldier was in the making.
Very quickly Kulwinder grew up and became a strong and well-built young man. He was 6 feet tall, smart Jat– Sikh and in order to follow the real Khalsa traditions, he went to attend one of the many recruitment rallies in Barnala, a nearby town. This was year 1990; Kulwinder was just a 19 year old young fellow. In the very first attempt he got selected and was sent for training to Deolali, a centre for Artillery recruits. Next one year went smoothly as Kulwinder completed his training and got posted to one of the finest Field Artillary Regiment. He was now Gunner Kulwinder Singh.
As a tradition in Punjab, the parents started looking for a bride for the boy immediately after he was employed. Parents found out a girl named Rupinder Kaur and got him married the moment he turned 21.
Things moved quite fast and the very next year Kulwinder was father to a pretty girl. He named her Balraj Kaur.
In 1995, the times got worse. The levels of insurgency in Kashmir were getting at its peak. Large groups of Kashmiri Pandits were coming as refugee in their own country. They lost everything of their own – house, property, money and even family members. Kulwinder’s regiment got posted to an area called Ramban in Jammu area to facilitate the movement of refugees from Kashmir valley. It was his first exposure to the mountains. Who thought at that time that he will live in these mountains and die in these mountains?
Very soon, Kulwinder was an expert at trekking in mountains. He used to climb hills much better than a local mountain man. He would literally run over the slopes and pathways.
Next two years passed in those mountains. Kulwinder felt he was a part of them. Soon the tenure of the unit was complete and his regiment moved to Pune, a city he did not like much. The soldier in him always longed for some action. In the year 1998 he volunteered for Rashtriya Rifles, a deadly counter insurgency force operating in Jammu and Kashmir which is constituted with Indian Army Soldiers on deputation.
The mountains were calling and Gunner Kulwinder Singh is now Sepoy Kulwinder Singh of Alpha Company, 78 Rashtriya Rifles in Kupwara Area. Kupwara was an extremely disturbed area since it was the main transit route from Pakistan to Kashmir Valley. Even today, after 20 years, it is still the hotbed of insurgency.
Kulwinder was extremely bright and one of the fittest of all the soldiers. Soon he became a part of Company Commanders’s own QRT (Quick Reaction Team), a group of best soldiers tasked to move with The Company Commander for all high value operations.
Within next one and half years, Alpha Company was successful in hunting down more than 20 high value terrorists in that area. Kulwinder was instrumental in all the operations as he used to be a part of the core team. By the next year he was promoted and made Lance Naik.
On the 22nd day of October 1999, Kulwinder had just returned from his leave, from the home where he spent full two months playing with his daughter and enjoying with his family. He had fulfilled the dream of his father by having “Jai Jawan – Jai Kisan” in the family.
The company Commander, Major Harmeet told him that since he had just returned, he could relax and acclimatize himself. He should start operations in the next 3-4 days. But the fateful day was the same day. By evening, an input was received from local source that a group of 4 hardcore terrorists would try to cross their area of operation. Kulwinder requested his company commander to let him go along. Initially Major Harmeet refused but since Kulwinder was a sharpshooter and a seasoned fighter, he allowed him to go. The party reached a high ridge to lay an ambush for the incoming terrorists that night. They waited with patience till wee hours when they saw a party of four terrorists approaching from western side. The boys were alert and ready for any eventuality.
Major Harmeet decided to let them come closer within the clear range of their weapons so that all four could be hunted down. However sometimes things don’t happen as expected. As the group of terrorists was approaching, one of them noticed some movement and alerted his fellow terrorists. They hid in the bushes and started sliding downwards in the valley. Major Harmeet smelled something wrong and looked at Kulwinder. A seasoned Kulwinder had already participated in many operations by now and had started understanding the psyche of terrorists. He immediately whispered that the group may have gone down in the river valley. If not stopped, they would reach Kashmir Valley area to wreak havoc.
He asked for Major Harmeet’s permission to go as scout and look for them. Scout is usually a group of two or more soldiers who move little ahead of the main party to sanitize the area looking for any telltale signs of terrorists.
Major Harmeet told him to move with another soldier. Kulwinder selected a soldier from Rajasthan, Abhay Ram Bishnoi, who was as fit as him. Both of them were together in Artillary Centre Deolali. They were good buddies. In the low light of the dawn, both slid slowly to the valley below while the rest of the group under Major Harmeet followed them.
They could move barely about 500 meters, when a volley of fire came from right hand side. The terrorists had not gone into the valley. They made their fortified positions anticipating that Rashtriya Rifles Soldiers will come searching for them. For the first time, the anticipation of Kulwinder went wrong. He immediately dashed to one side and hid behind a boulder. As the dust settled, he saw Abhay Ram Bishnoi lying in a pool of blood. He was dead.
Without getting perturbed, he signaled the party of Major Harmeet to stop. This was necessary, otherwise there would have been dozens of dead bodies. Flushing out the terrorists though was equally necessary, so he decided to do this by his own. With magnificent presence of mind, he observed the area to predict the locations of terrorists. He communicated to Major Harmeet to fire at few boulders so he would come to know the location by seeing retaliatory fire.
As the sun was barely visible in the eastern sky, he was able to locate all four of them. Two were just 20 meters away from him behind a boulder while other two had taken up positions in the tree-line. Major Harmeet’s party was still about 50 Meters away. It was not possible for them to immediately react as they were in the firing area of these terrorists.
Kulwinder slowly crawled towards first two terrorists and reached behind them. He calculated his position, their position, range and the right moment to fire. One, two, three and his Kalashnikov started roaring. Within next 3-4 seconds, both of them were dead. Kulwinder was happy but he could not save himself from the fire of the balance two terrorists. They fired heavily. Kulwinder got a gunshot in his abdomen. He was breathless but saw the two terrorists fleeing in the uphill side. Sensing the danger to his own team, he started chasing them despite of injuries. He recharged his magazine while chasing them and fired with an accurate aim. The terrorist in the front lay dead with a burst of bullets piercing through his head.
His last and final battle was still not over. The last terrorist realised that he will also be killed and he jumped over Kulwinder. He knew that if he was able to overpower this soldier, he would be able to escape as Harmeet’s party was still away. He dashed barely 1 meter from Kulwinder and emptied the rest of his magazine over him. Some of them missed but some hit Kulwinder badly. As he dropped on the ground, the terrorist cried, “Allah – o – Akbar” and started moving uphill to move back to Pakistan. But that was not to be. Kulwinder opened his eyes and aimed. He fired one single shot from his gun which pierced the neck of the terrorist. Another volley of fire came from Major Harmeet’s party which had reached the spot by now. The terrorist’s body got riddled with dozens and dozens of gun shots. Within the next few seconds, the Operation was over. But the country suffered a great loss.
Major Harmeet rushed to him. He immediately ordered the helicopter for evacuation but destiny had something else in mind.
Kulwinder’s eyes were shining as he could see Waheguru Ji coming from the sky to take him along. Kulwinder breathed his last that day.
L/Nk Kulwinder Singh showed exemplary courage which led to the killing of four hardcore Pakistani Terrorists. All of them belonged to Harkat-Ul-Ansar, a dreaded Mercenary group mainly consisting of Pakhtun Fighters from Pak-Afghan border. These were the same fighters who fought mighty Soviet forces in the Afghan War.
For this act of inconspicuous bravery, Lance Naik Kulwinder Singh was awarded Shaurya Chakra (posthumously) by the President of India.
Sepoy Abhay Ram Bishnoi made supreme sacrifice for the nation. He belonged to Sikar District of Rajasthan. Indian Army did whatever best possible to provide assistance to his family. He was survived by one son and one daughter. Unfortunately all the aids given by the Government of India were grabbed by his parents and his elder brother and his wife with kids left with nothing except pension.
Despite of all hardships, his wife, Anita Kanwar brought up the kids very well. Since pension was not sufficient, she started working as Anganwari Worker to earn some more money. His son completed his Engineering and is now working as a Systems Engineer with Wipro Limited in Bengaluru. Anita Kanwar knew very well that education is must for the girl child too. She was duped of all the money by her in laws because of being poorly educated. She did not want the same to happen with her daughter, ever. Her daughter studied well and is now appointed as a teacher in one of the government schools in Bhilwara District of Rajasthan. She is also married to an Indian Army soldier.
Rupinder Kaur, the wife of Lance Naik Kulwinder Singh, Shaurya Chakra (posthumous) concentrated on her daughter. Kulwinder always used to tell her, “Whenever we have a son, I shall enroll him into Indian Army.” He wanted to see his son in the uniform. Rupinder Kaur decided to fulfill the wish of her martyr husband. She made Balraj Kaur study in best of the institutions so that she could accomplish the desire of her father. In early 2017, a physically fit and robust minded Balraj Kaur was selected to be one of the cadets at Officers Training Academy, Chennai which prepares officers for the Indian Army. She has recently joined the training and is expected to become a proud Lieutenant in the Indian Army in the year 2018. Kulwinder will be happy to see his daughter in uniform from the heavenly abode.
Major Harmeet took voluntary retirement few years later and is now heading the global Operations of an Indian MNC.
Note – This is a true story however names of people and places have been changed due to security reasons.
Picture Credit – cover image sourced from Google