A brave warrior (1966-1988)
Rajeev Sandhu was born on 12 November 1966. He studied at St. John’s School and DAV College, Chandigarh. A keen sportsman, he won the national skating championship for seven years in a row. He joined the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, and was commissioned into 7 ASSAM on 5 March 1988.
The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was signed between India and Sri Lanka on 29 July 1987, to end the civil war between the Tamil militants, the LTTE, and the Sri Lankan forces. The Indian military force called the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was dispatched to Sri Lanka to disarm the LTTE. Initially, the IPKF was instructed not to take part in military action. The IPKF tried to disarm the LTTE by force. This led to a conflict with the militants. 7 Assam was deployed in Batticaloa sector in Sri Lanka. On 19 July 1988, a convoy of two vehicles of 7 Assam was moving from Madurang Keni Kulam to Mangani to collect dry rations. Rajeev was in a jeep leading the convoy and a one ton truck was following about a hundred metres behind. Sepoy N.K.K.S. Rajkumar was driving. Lance Naik Nandeshwar Das and Sepoy Lalbuanga were sitting in the rear. As his jeep reached a track junction, a rocket fired from the undergrowth hit the vehicle, lifting it into the air and turning it on the side. The militants sprayed the overturned vehicle with automatic arms fire.
Rajeev received severe injuries due to a direct hit by a rocket. Both his legs were mutilated, and he was bleeding profusely. Even though crippled, he crawled to a firing position with his 9 mm carbine. The militants presumed that all the occupants have been killed and one of them came out to pick up the weapons and ammunition from the jeep. Rajeev’s body was perforated with bullets and his legs were totally smashed, but his spirit was high. He sprayed the militant with bullets from his carbine and did not allow any of the militants to approach his fallen comrades or their weapons. Rajeev displayed conspicuous courage and acted in the best traditions of the Army. The militant who was killed by Rajeev turned out to be Kumaran of the group led by the militant leader Karuna of Batticaloa sector.
Rajeev was awarded the MVC posthumously, by a grateful nation. He is the youngest officer to receive this honour and the first MVC to be earned by the Assam Regiment. He was the only child of Jaikanta and D.S. Sandhu. Rajeev’s father D.S. Sandhu observed that they could not see the dead body, but he will always be with them. He still wears his son’s chain, ring and bracelet. His mother said “His bravery is an achievement for us. It gives us strength at every moment of our life.” They also announced that after their death, their entire movable and immoveable property will be transferred to the Assam Regiment. They have put all his belongings from childhood to being commissioned as an officer in the Army in 1988, in one room. On the 19th of every month, they provide food to mentally and physically disabled children.
The DAV College has a tradition of honouring the students who have made the supreme sacrifice in service of the nation. There are four pillars at the entrance to the Administrative Block and the names and the laurels of the martyrs have been inscribed on them. The College follows the custom of offering floral tributes to the heroes before start of a function. Rajeev’s name has also been added at the war memorial in Terrace Garden in Sector 33. The government has also honoured the martyr by naming the gymnasium hall and dining hall after him. An area in Mani Manjra has also been named Rajeev Vihar.
A Rajeev Memorial Park was inaugurated at the Leimakhong Military Garrison by Rajeev’s parents, and a marble statue of the martyr was unveiled by Maj. Gen. R.N. Singh, Colonel Commandant of the Assam Regiment and Arunachal Scouts.