The Pathankot hero (1981 – 2015)

Niranjan was born on 2 May 1981 in Palghat District of Kerala. His ancestors had originally belonged to village Elambulasssery. His father, E K Sivarajan, was employed in Bharat Electronics Ltd., at Bangalore where Niranjan grew up along with his two brothers and a sister. He lost his mother at a young age. After completing his engineering from Sir MVIT College, Bangalore he joined the Academy at Chennai in September 2003. He was commissioned into Engineers on 17 September 2004. He was posted to 10 Engineers Regiment at Tezpur in Assam. He was later deputed to the NSG(National Security Guard) and was placed in the Bomb Disposal Squad. He carried out this risky task willingly and with confidence.       

He visited his ancestral home regularly and got married in the village in 2013. He had visited home on the occasion of Onam in September 2015 and had promised to join the 87th birthday celebrations of his grandmother in November. But he missed that date, for his final return two months later.

Six armed terrorists dressed in Indian Army uniforms entered the high security area of Pathankot Air Force base on the morning of 1 January 2016. They had probably scaled the high wire perimeter wall by looping across with the help of a nylon rope. One of the militants had climbed the eucalyptus tree along the fence and landed on the wall. The floodlights were not working or the angle of the flood lights may have been changed by an accomplice at the base. The intruders were able to move 400 metres into the base but were prevented from entering the area housing the high value assets. They were stopped from the IAF aircraft about 700 metres away by Garud commandos. According to an intercepted message, the attackers were aiming to destroy aircraft and helicopters of the Air Force. The militants were armed with assault weapons, grenades and 50kgs of ammunition.

On 2 January, four terrorists and two security personnel were killed in the encounter. Four more security personnel succumbed to gunshot injuries. Subedar Fateh Singh of Dogra Regiment, Commonwealth Shooting Medallist, then serving with the Defence Security Corps was amongst those killed. Following the attack Pathankot-Jammu highway was sealed off and Hindon Air Base put on high alert. The Western Air Command issued orders for shoot at sight to all its bases. The gun fight continued till neutralization of the attackers was reported on 5 January. The attackers were in constant touch with the handlers in Pakistan.     

The attackers had left behind considerable ammunition and explosives and Niranjan Kumar was carrying out clearing operations. As per standard procedure, he examined the body of one militant who was killed and found it to be devoid of any explosives. His colleagues dragged the body of the second terrorist closer to Niranjan and he noticed that he had a hidden chest belt loaded with explosives. Niranjan shouted at his colleagues to take cover. At the same time, he rolled over the dead attacker and tried to lift his body to throw away. The explosives got triggered and blew off. Niranan was not wearing any protective gear at the time of the operation and was fatally wounded. Earlier, the brave commando when talking to his father had told him that he was in the midst of an operation and would call him later. The father was in a state of shock when he heard the news of Niranjan’s death. R C Tayal, Director, General National Security Guard observed, “Niranjan was a brave soldier. His professionalism and dedication to work will inspire everyone in NSG for many years to come. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said “The nation salutes him.”    

Niranjan was brave and fearless in devotion to task. He was awarded Shaurya Chakra for his work in face of danger and risk. His body was airlifted to the Air Force Command Hospital and carried by NSG commandos and officers of Madras Engineers. He is survived by his wife and 18-month old daughter.

Brigadier Suresh Chandra Sharma (retd.)