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Au Revoir, Lieutenant Navdeep Singh..

January 27, 2012 by  
Filed under internal security

By: Major General Raj Mehta AVSM, VSM (Retired)

Lieutenant Navdeep Singh – The Braveheart

 While writing my tribute to late Lt Navdeep Singh, titled The Anatomy of Cold Courage”, I had taken an oath that I would visit his place of martyrdom at Bagtor, in the Gurais Valley in North Kashmir. With facilitation provided by the iconic, “Dil Se”, professionally driven Corps Commander, Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM**, I started on the final leg of my journey from the Officers Mess at Bandipora for Gurais, at dot 7 AM on a grey, early  October morning. With a military convoy scheduled to depart at 7.15 AM, I really had no choice. No one with high altitude driving experience will want to overtake a winter-stocking laden military convoy  on an ascending, mountain trail, with construction tippers coming careening down from the opposite direction… No wonder when my Ganpat (affectionate name for soldier) from Navdeep’s  Paltan; 15 MARATHA LI said that the 90 kilometers to Bagtor would take four hours, I unquestioningly accepted his pronouncement. In the Himalayas, you learn fast – or lose out.

I needed to get my mind off the young man and his monumental sacrifice. Less than two months earlier; on the dark, velvety night of 19/20 August 2011, this charged young lad had died while performing his duty to Paltan and Nation in the finest traditions of the Indian Army…His commando (Ghatak) platoon boys, aided by additional soldiers, had, under his unrelenting, lethal “fire only after I fire” command that almost certainly guaranteed his death, shot  dead 12 terrorists;  all “ace” killers determined to succeed and trained in both shooting and survival skills against all odds. In his moment of victory, however, death had laid its sure, icy hands on him, that chilling night astride the swiftly flowing Kishanganga River…Partly getting up to pull in his wounded buddy, Sepoy Vijay Gajare, young Navdeep was dead before he fell down, shot through his skull, just above his bullet proof “patka” (the steel half-helmet that protects one’s forehead against a frontal hit…Nano seconds after shooting his fourth terrorist, the brave lad lay dead, his life blood oozing out on the pristine sand and stone bank of the tempestuous river.

Let us praise the Indian Army unreservedly; The Army that was born in battle in 1947 and still remains in battle in defence of the Union of India – quite disregardful of the supreme indifference of its political masters; the Government of the day. Lt Navdeep was a young ‘un; a wet-behind-the-ears whipper-snapper; a rookie still in “Boot Camp” but drilled, out of sheer necessity (grave paucity of officers) by his famous Paltan and his Ordnance lineage, into a  potentially world class soldier. Note that all this happened in the killing fields of GuraisValley, and, before that, at the Corps Battle School, Khreuh, even before he had been sent on his mandatory, coming-of-age Young Officers Course.

Let me get back to my journey…To get my mind off the mental rigours of visiting his place of martyrdom, I did not want to discuss Navdeep. Instead, we discussed the flora and fauna…While on top, at the 11, 672 feet high RazdanPass, we bowed our heads at the mazaar of the Gurais fakir who means so much to Gurais and to all travelers on this breathtaking mountain road.

Descending down mountains is always easier than climbing up is. At the base, the road has ancient Kanzalwan village; its houses huddled together for comfort, with a shawl wrap of fog; part real, part cooking-fire driven. The Valley floor is narrow but ethereal, colourful; replete with sparkling water, fruit trees, handsome people and small homesteads. At Bagtor, the dynamic CO, Col Girish Upadhya, SM **, his key officers and Navdeep’s Ghataks were all there; proud, erect, happy that a retired veteran had come to salute in location, one of their bravest sons. It is surprising how effective unspoken hugs can sometimes be over voice communication, which seems unnecessary, affected and put on… So it was on this occasion: Firm handshakes with hard, calloused hands, recessed smiles of brave, silent men given to letting their work speak for them and bear hugs that would make even the Russians proud.

Past the weapon display of the 12 dead terrorists; their poignant personal effects in terms of diaries, letters that would never be delivered, pics of loved ones balanced by the cold impersonality of weapons, grenades, ammunition, grenade launchers, ciphers, satellite radios, first-aid kits, dried fruit/candy bars sachets with Urdu text, I was led to a stunning vantage point where the village Bagtor cluster lay languorously below us, with the Kishanganga slinking by sinuously with an angrai. Towering menacingly above, were 6000 feet of vertical mountains with the Indian security fence separating India/ POK clearly visible. Thickly forested till 12,000 feet, the mountains became increasingly gaunt and without forest cover as the eye went up to the jagged tops. On my right could be seen the dense Durmat rain forests across the Kishanganga; the term employed as an analogy to describe their thickness. Great place to slip in for terrorists; greater place for soldiers to lie in wait for intruders…

The briefing followed, relating the hachured one-dimensional maps to what had happened. In that bright morning sun, made more pleasant by hot, sweet langar tea and hot chilly pakoras, it was easy to get led away by how simple yet ingenious the operational plan of Op Bagtor appeared and how copy-book the responses by the just-inducted Burj Paltan. Backed by enlarged sketches of the area of operations, clear vision for kilometers around, the television presentation of pics taken pre/ post operations, and the alert, confident faces around me, one could be fooled into thinking that Op Bagtor had been a lark. Not so. It was nowhere near picture-perfect and ideal as one might think. With time against him, the CO had actually improvised a plan by literally thinking on his feet. Lesser leadership or lack of support from his senior officers would have been devastating. He decisively seized the fleeting operational challenge when it came – and rushed his men into battle, but with caution and feeling for the subtle folds of the ground. Oxymoron, right?! Soldiers invariably live with stark contrasts.

To discover that, he drove me, with Navdeep’s Ghataks following, to the Bagtor village cluster. It was great to see the salaams; approving smiles and positive body language he got from women, teenagers, school kids. Red cheeks and chocolate sweets go together as does tousled hair, and so it was, through the one street village and beyond…Upadhya explained with clinical precision how the intruders were sighted that dark night, and how, before that, he had been sounded on “kuchh hone wala hai” (something big will happen shortly). To remain alert even after you get such warnings so often, is of course the essence of soldiering on the Line of Control (LC)…

We saw everything, that fine morning; Saw where the Lashkar terrorists had debouched assembled their dinghy, crossed over and then walked single-file, along the river, keeping sleeping Bagtor village aside. We saw the well located ambush site. I mentally saluted Navdeep and his bravery; his men’s bravery. We saw where his parties had deployed and where he fell…Deeply moved. I promised to return that night in uniform to pay him homage. I did.

What the CO had really conveyed was that there was intelligence synergy and redundancy at work out there; from those towering heights at 14,000 feet, through those increasingly thicker forests as one came down, right down to places of entry into the Paltan’s areas of operational responsibility. Sitting far away, at Davar, near the Habba Khatoon massif, the Brigade Commander and staff were also up, having enabled and networked these leads, as were the alert Division Commander at Kupwara and the Corps Commander in far away BB Cantt, Srinagar.

The real conductor of this tiered orchestra of military capability was, of course, astute and alert Upadhya. He explained, how, pulses racing and with unconcealed excitement, the first sighting was reported to him … “17 terrorists, sir! Armed to the teeth! All in black! They are setting up, inflating something…A rubber dinghy! They are crossing over. Should we fire?!!! The CO was a veteran. He knew that the opening burst by his three man party that was in contact wasn’t enough. Dropping three or four out of 17 hardened, well trained killers in the opening burst would allow the others to escape; come back another day. All or nothing was his firm decision. He and Navdeep had been having a chhota peg (small tot) of rum in his “Officers Mess”, after an exhausting 12 hours out working out contingencies. The CO and Navdeep had slogged to tie up plans, telling soldiers affected what needed doing and where. The Bar was where the call came. The intruders had been spotted!  He and Navdeep, he recalled, literally raced in the CO’s jeep to Bagtor; the four kilometer distance to his Tactical Headquarters seeming unending.

 Not surprisingly, the enemy had done something unexpected and might get away completely if the deployed troops weren’t repositioned faster than the terrorists were moving. It was, literally, a desperate, time-sensitive race to the swift…

It is midnight and biting cold. The valley at 9000 feet sleeps – most of it anyway – Share the excitement, my dear reader! Imagine you are on a bucking, snorting, racing jeep, its headlights barely piercing the gloam; the thickly forested darkness astride the dirt track. Listen in with excitement as the CO changes gears with one hand while the other holds his walkie-talkie, as he barks orders to young Thomas, the Adjutant, on his walkie-talkie. Relocate; redeploy, get the men running to reach the new ambush site before the terrorists do. I want all 17 terrorists, hear me?!!! WILCO! Comes the adrenalin-driven, confirmatory roar comes from the Adjutant. Hastening slowly – this article is loaded with oxymoron’s – the men redeploy on the run with great caution…the enemy is too close to risk yelling. In the co-drivers seat, Navdeep speaks quietly, issuing final instructions to his men.  Disembarking at Tactical Headquarters, Navdeep races off. As he arrives at the ambush site, his men on their surveillance devices quietly point to the ghostly, looming shadows emerging from the inky darkness. There is only time for whispered consultations, readjustments and professional reassurance by the young officer that the ambush is correctly sited. Navdeep then whispers “Fire only after I fire” as he cocks his AK rifle with a lethal click. The die is cast…

That chill night, I wear my black dungarees (I am a tank-man) and carry Navdeep’s AK.  It is loaded. The CO and men are armed too… This is a war zone. I slip noiselessly into the ambush mode. The CO whispers that ALL he had was 40 minutes between spotting the terrorists; their surprise diversion from the route he thought they would follow, and his frenzied redeployment to trap them. I lie down exactly where Navdeep had lain down, his buddy, Sepoy Vijay Gajare alongside me. The terrorist approach is actually played out with 17 Ganpats. With a shiver of pride, I realise that when Navdeep finally opened fire, there was no way the terrorists could have got away. He actually waited to literally touch them, crowd them into a little rock strewn slope from which the only choice was death by drowning or by bullets. His buddy makes me half-get-up, as Navdeep did, to pull him in after he was hit on his cheek. I do. The soldier, who has taken position behind a boulder, simulating the terrorist who shot Navdeep, is just five meters away. This was the distance at which Navdeep was fired at, pulling in his buddy to safety as he fell dying. There could not have been a nobler death. Let us join in saluting this bravest of brave men who gave his today for our tomorrow.

I did at Bagtor. You should salute him, man or woman, from wherever you are.


82 Responses to “Au Revoir, Lieutenant Navdeep Singh..”
  1. Ravi Chaudhary says:

    Hats off to the veterans who burn with passion and recognise where it is on display. These are the kind of Generals needed as ambassadors of the Services to the civil world outside and not the types who needlessly pontificate on non issues and let down the Services. The policemen killed in Parliament premises get an annual homage by the parliamentarians. Nobody visits Gurais, except the Corps/ Div/ Bde cdrs and Gen Raj Mehta(Retd). It’s one thing to confer Ashok Chakra on the bravest of the braves, it is quite another to make such sacrifices iconic enough to inspire a generation that is getting sucked into the vortex of manipulation by market forces. In a society where Raja and Kalmadi get more publicity than Navdeep, where acts of such heroism do not make stories that sell, we have to thank Gen Mehta for toiling untiringly to keep the relevant centrestage.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      You write so well Ravi and with such passion…Indeed, we give Page 3 far more time than the small four line limp entry of a dead hero – and we have thousands of them – A invaluable young life lost because in India, scandal and corruption grab eyeballs, not dying for India and so cheerfully and willfully…
      No matter, gham ki andheri raat mein subaah zuroor aaye gee is what I believe and so we must slog on, hoping that some people pick up Service Before Self as their credo…Thank you.

  2. Deepa says:

    this is such a beautifully written piece. The language is so smooth and yet, so firm. The goose pimples i had when i read this article-wow!. well written, and i feel so proud of navdeep’s valour. salutations to the young hero, and also to his proud family.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Ma’am,
      Wonderful tribute to Navdeep and family by you. I salute you.
      Women are great teachers; always better than men can be.
      Do teach the young around you to walk the Navdeep way. This will help us build the India of our dreams.

  3. Harinder Singh says:

    Gen Mehta, a wonderful article. If I close my eyes, I can literally visualize the scenario!! A wonderful tribute to a brave Navdeep. RIP

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Harinder, I was compelled to revisit the Gurais I knew; that of Habba Khatoon; but this time with a new love – for the Motherland and for a brave heart who died for it.
      That 36 hours I spent there, I did not sleep. I had too much to absorb and reflect on. Do help create more Navdeeps.

  4. Brigadier (Retired) P Satish says:

    Having served in counter insurgency operations in the places referred to by the author, I can imagine the situation under which the young brave officer made the supreme sacrifice. The nation is safe and secure due to the selfless valour of such brave hearts like Navdeep. Kudos to the author for a poignant article.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Brig Satish,
      Thank you for sharing your deep respect for Navdeep. Anyone who has been in encounters as you and I have will record his sacrifice with great feeling. Death gives you no time for thinking or regret. You are aware that one way or the other, it takes nano seconds for the story to be over.
      Navdeep died willingly and willfully. He knew that he would not make it back to Gurdaspur except wrapped in a national flag.
      India needs more such young men and women. lets help produce them.

      • Brigadier (Retired) P Satish says:

        Dear General,
        Thanks for your reply to my comments on Young Navdeep. This brave officer passed out of OTA, Chennai, I think in Mar or Apr 2011. I was posted there as a Brigadier and watched him and many others take the FINAL STEP as an officer. Within six months he justified the trust that the nation reposed in him through the ultimate sacrifice, a soldier makes. Thanks once again for your article. I wish our body polity takes time off to read such true stories of valour and what the armed forces is all bout. Thanks once again

  5. Ashish Murali says:

    Just 3 comments above me???
    The nation needs to wake up…
    RIP Navdeep…
    INDIA salutes you…

    Great work from the veteran…

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Ashish, i salute you too…You dared and cared to find time in your busy life to read the three Navdeep articles. I
      In a way you are Navdeep are you not? Need more of you.

  6. Shiv Bhatia says:

    For the tomorrow of 1.2B people, he gave his today. May the soul of this valiant son of soil rest in peace.

    It was heart breaking to see his mother wiping her tears and father holding back his, while standing before the Indian President on the 26th.

    Thank you, Gen Mehta sir, for this article and also the respect/homage you paid to Lt Navdeep, by doing what you did to re-live the last moments of this brave heart.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Shiv, you missed out on his tearful sister and tough, stoic brother…They were all there. I spoke to the Father on 25 Jan and sensed his pride and his grief.
      Let Gurdaspur be known more for Navdeep than for Dev Anand…We need more of the former for the Idea of India. Thanks.

      • Shiv Bhatia says:

        Dear General,

        My heart also goes out to his “spoiled sister” and “younger brother who now wants to join fauj”, as brought out in your earlier piece. I must have missed seeing them on the internet version of the RD parade.

        It was so nice of you to have read all the comments posted by various readers and replied to each one individually. I hope someone can orchestrate printing the article/comments/replies and send them to his family. And also to his unit, so that they could paste it in their bn history for future generation of offrs to read this recreation and also go through the thoughts of these concerned countrymen/women.



        • Gen Raj Mehta says:

          Shiv, SAI is diligently sending mail forwards of all comments on Navdeep and his bravery to the family. I have personally rercieved assurance from Sandeep, the younger brother, that the family is deeply moved by the reader responses.
          The spoilt sister I had referred to was out of affection as she is a University topper and is a BA Hons student out to become a great teacher. Sandeep is an Engineering student who will make his mark in that discipline in or outside the Army. The Father is from the Sappers…
          All the reader responses have also gone to the Colonel Commandant Ordnance Corps as also to the Commandant Maratha Light Infantry as well as to 15 MARATHA LI.
          HQ 15 Corps at Srinagar has also placed his portrait in their Museum and will, I am sure, places the articles and responses thereto as well.
          We have to spread the word around that we need more Navdeeps and here is where you can help.

  7. alok mathur says:

    A great story, emotionally and passionately told to take the humanity through the paces which the braveheart Navdeep went through before his supreme sacrifice. A tale to inspire the young to stand up for the nation above all else. Through this narration a grateful nation should get the touch and feel of being in the jaws of death and still performing for your buddies and the country.

    A heart wrenching tribute which makes the reader relive the moments which made Navdeep’s sacrifice worth entering all leadership books and discourses. Great work General Mehta.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Alok, I was heart broken when I held his weapon, lay behind that non existent cover on that dark, October night…I did not show it of course. You have to be strong and silent when death lays its icy hands on you. Years ago, I was shot in an encounter… and lived. I therefore knew what Navdeep’s last thoughts must have been…India mattered; not life.
      Thank you. help me create more Navdeep’s for India. We need them.

  8. Seema Goswami says:

    What better way to live than to die for the temples of your gods and the ashes of your fathers. The saying goes something like this but this refreshing piece makes one see clearly what it means to sacrifice everything for the idea of India.

    Eternally grateful to Navdeep. RIP while the nation celebrates your being.

    A great story told with passion of a veteran who has crafted more history by reliving Navdeep’s last moments.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Seema Ma’am,
      The actual quote is:
      And how can man die better
      than facing fearful odds,
      for the ashes of his fathers,
      and the temples of his Gods?
      Thomas B. Macaulay

      [Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/temples.html#ixzz1kurKNVrw
      If you have not been there, you must make an effort…Past the breathtaking Pangong Tso lake, right on the LAC with China and at 16000 feet, these poignant words near Chushul lie enshrined for Maj Shaitan Singh and his 114 brave Kumaonis who preferred death to dishonour as Navdeep did at Gurais.
      Visit Gurais and the military will facilitate you in paying homage to these brave hearts.
      If you cannot, you as a world class lady must undertake to create more Navdeeps who can do ordinary things with extraordinary skills…

  9. I salute Lt Navdeep & his Parents.This shows the unit’s proficiency in trg
    motivation & morale.
    The author has taken pains to go to GUREZ to write this well written article.
    Having served as a bde cdr inthis area Ican understand the degree of difficulty that tps undergo .

    How I wish people in AC’s pay a visit to this area & just spend one night in an ambush even in summers. They will forget giving Ashok Chakras by the dozens
    to undeserved people.

    Istrongly recommend to the present soldierly Corps Cdr to get this article
    published in a ldg newpaper & if possible make a short motivational true movie to be shown in school $colleges all over India.
    We need to press for an exclusive TV channel that shows such heroic deeds
    to awaken the conciousness of the people.
    Best wishes,

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Brig Avtar,
      Appreciate your apt and soldierly comments. Your remarks on publicizing what Navdeep has done are in actual fact all implementable by a caring country. Regrettably a Governance plotting 24×7 to stay in power hardly has time for nation building which should have been its key and only mandate.
      I do feel that TV channels have time for Breaking News on scandals, bribes, Anna Hazare, and sleazy, immoral politicians and movers/shakers. Have never seen them break news on brave hearts because these do not get them high visibility.
      No matter. We are 1.2 billion and can make a difference if we focus on creating more Navdeeps.
      Thank you.

  10. Dr.Gigi Joseph says:

    I cried. Thanks Lieutenant Navdeep Singh. We sleep peacefully because of brave hearts like you. We salute your mother for giving a son like this to our country. And thanks to Maj. Gen. Mehta for that excellent narration. JAI HIND..

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Gigi Ma’am,
      Spoken like a true patriot. Indeed, his Mother, Father were brave to give us Navdeep and need our life long respect and salutes. Sandeep and Navjot will be prouder if they see in our efforts some success in creating new brave hearts like their brother. You as a lady and as a Mother, Doctor can take the lead…I have waited for neither time nor tide and started my odyssey in August 2011.

  11. mehtab says:

    Ode to Navdeep and the brave ‘Ganpats’ delivered by retired Major General Raj Mehta in “The Anatomy of Cold Courage” and “Au Revoir” sets a new benchmark for both civilians and men in uniform on honoring the martyrs. I am not aware of any serving or retired General who has wielded the pen with such dexterity to virtually transport the reader into the battle zone as witness to the sacrifice, bravery and dedication of our sentinels .

    Ahimsa and Satyagrah were effective ‘tools’ for gaining Independence from Britishers. India’s post Independence generations must realize that life,liberty, freedom and democracy, also your super power status, can be protected by shedding blood for the nation and not worn out ‘tools’. A grateful nation having bestowed the “Ashoka Chakra” must instil the spirit of sacrifice and transcend same into national consciousness. Raj Mehta’s Ode serves as a timely reminder that the nation needs more iconic brave hearts for nation building tasks. As a first step I recommend that the Ode be translated into all regional languages. The National/State education councils incl NCERT / NCTE must find innovative ways to educate and prepare the youth to bear the burden of sacrifice.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Sir,
      This has to be one of the most thought provoking comments I have read on the Navdeep trilogy of articles; the last – also posted on SAI – being Go, Navdeep, Go! posted after he was conferred the Ashoka Chakra. Thank you.
      Being a respected Vice Chancellor and Academic of high standing, I quite appreciate your conviction about translating Navdeep’s trilogy into regional languages and using NCERT and the AICTE systems to introduce his deed and its recall as mandatory teaching in our education system. I am going to the OTA to speak on Navdeep and will, if invited, also go to the NDA and IMA as well as OTA Gaya. We need to, as Navdeep and his mission/sacrifice should not have been in vain.
      I do also feel that our politicians and bureaucrats must read such tributes, as should Anna Hazare and his infamous cohorts. Unlike such…dual standards; jokey people; people who promise so much and deliver peanuts, Navdeep lived and determinedly died in line with the credo of Service Before Self…for the honour of India above all other considerations – always and every time. he lived and died for the Chetwode motto.
      I know you will carry Navdeep forward amongst the lives you influence. I will be on call whenever I am needed to pitch in…

  12. Cmde KS Sandhu (Retd) says:

    I would like to thank Maj.Gen.Mehta for his article without which many of us would not have known the supreme sacrifice of Lt.Navdeep Singh. I salute the brave lad for upholding the fine tradition of Indian Army and making us feel safe in our homes. God bless the departed soul. I also salute the parents of Navdeep and want to tell them that it is not only them who have lost their son abut the whole nation is lost its son.
    Jai Hind!

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Cmde Sandhu,
      Thank you for your wise and moving comments on Navdeep; words that will make them very proud indeed.
      The Navy had its Navdeep in Dec 1971, when Capt AN Mulla chose death over dishonour; going down with his ship in the finest traditions of the Navy; after evacuating all living and injured crew. I am sure it is sacrifices by brave men such as he, that Navdeep chose his own path that cold dark night at Gurais.
      Such men never die.
      A tank man, an old Sea Dog, an Aviator, Academics, Doctors, Ladies, we all have and should continue to join hands to spread the word that we will need young people to do ordinary things extraordinarily well…for our 300 million young; for India.
      Navdeep lives in all of us and we are morally bound to pass him on to our young. Thank you.

  13. JK Dutt says:

    For how long will the army be used as a scapegoat for our politicians in the Kashmir problem? Navdeep isn’t the only such braveheart. There are many more who have remained unnamed. I would like to know one thing – why are we so desperately protecting the Kashmiri terrorist mastermind, Mohd Afzal, who organised the terrorist strike on our Parliament? Likewise with the captured Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab? Obviously for the vote bank. One of the most disgraceful incidents that took place some while back was when two of our army Majors paid the supreme sacrifice while killing 9 Pakistani terrorists in Kashmir. A senior Kashmiri politician went and paid his respect at the graves of these 9 but never bothered to do so in the case of the two Indian army Majors. Not a word was heard from the Centre on this treacherous act. Recently, the incumbent CM of J&K has come under criticism for ignoring the supreme sacrifice made by our army officers in fighting terrorists in his state. Again, not a word from the Centre. This clearly shows where our political priorities lie.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      JK, sir, I have really no comment to make on our political apathy in honouring our dead.
      In one case in South Kashmir, we were carrying out hinterland LICO operations one day in 1998…A lady politician passed on a dirt track safely, enroute to her commiserating with a terrorist relatives; a terrorist who was HM and who had shot one of my soldiers.
      The police party called to take over the dead terorists was targeted on that same road minutes after the politician had passed; leaving the Police Gypsy vapourised and 6 Policemen dead on an IED that was cell phone operated…
      Yes, there were no politicians who grieved the Police, Army dead.
      What matters is that we produce Navneets who live in the world of Service before Self. Navneet died for India. So can you and I.
      Let us. I am willing at 64. I am sure you are too. Navneet lives in us.

  14. Sultan Geelani says:

    Acts of courage in the face of daunting odds are noble. All societies therefore honour their martyrs. The story of courage of Lt Navdeep Singh should inspire many among the Indian youth.

    It reminds me of a young officer of Pakistan Air Force who also achieved martyr status (it will be long to narrate the story) and a major road in Karachi is named after him. The point to remember is that Lt Navdeep Singh or Pilot officer Minhas only represent what is unique to them INDIVIDUALLY, and in corrupt societies of Pakistan and India such people are only the proverbial drop in the ocean. The stories have appeal; they do little collective good.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Sultan, do not despair. You are right; bravery has no nationality…That said, those whose hearts bleed for India – and yours obviously does – will create, locate Navdeep around us; inside of us. Such men do not die…All we need to do is to ignore that which we cannot change and focus on what we can do.
      We can create new Navdeeps by being role models; by reaching out to our young.
      I am doing it. So can you.

  15. Satbir Singh Sandhu says:

    With all due regards to the Martyr’s and soldiers” “all the… sacrifices of/ the likes of Bhagat Singh and Lt Navdeep Singh are wasted in this country where even the noble deeds are submerged in the sea of_ corruption:

    These Netas , their chamchas ,,,,, and all the rest deserve to be thrown to the terrorists. No terrorism or any other antinational activity can survive without the..patronage of these netas., and they put of only a drama of patriotism on any occasion..: They should not be allowed to even “touch the national flag or more to even look at it they are a disgrace to the nation. And they fool us by inciting our patriotism and having innocent youth.killed, and then maha dramas follow in giving these awards,which are no substitute to the loss of our near and dear ones.. And when you travel.to the countryside you see numerous memorials put up to honour the martyrs. The govt has enough money to put up statues for Mayawati , Ambedkar and Gandhi in every town at various places but the govt does not have any money to put up a statue for these martyr’s. They have to be put up by the family of the martyr from the funds they have received from the govt as that meager compensation for the martyr. And so a large portion of these funds of the now needy family, are diverted here by the relatives and the public leaving the family in lurch. Then there is no maintainance for these places, again this has to be borne by the individual’s family. And who cares for them thereafter..

    Compare this to the second_ or third generation of freedom fighters who receive more pension than our martyrs. Recently in 2007 I met A freedom fighter from l NA, about 80 years of age, asking for medical facility at the Air Force station SIRSA” and was fighting with the SMO over there for getting an unauthorized treatment at the Military Hospital,, inspite of getting full medical cover at the gov’t civil hospital. I befriended him and asked him about his deed which earned him a” freedom fighter” status. So he told me his story “when he was a soldier in the british army in 1942 in Burma sector during the second world war with only ONE year of service in the Army they were captured by-the Japanese, and thereafter He served in the INA. By the end of the war he was promoted to a Subedar(which is normally at 30+ years of service)._I asked how much grants was he getting from the govt now as his freedom fighter status, he told me a total figure of around Rs 22000/-. And various other facilities and honours, like free travel anywhere in India, grant of land etc etc. in just about 5 years of service————–……… while a Subedar who had retired from the Army with 36 gears of service, ( standing. Closeby)… was receiving only about Rs 5500/month and no other facilities.or honour from the govt……….. Just because INA got political recognition and symbol,,, this person was .getting 4 times the pension with only about 15% of the service of the Subedar,,,, who had seen many major wars (Second World war, 1948 conflict 1962 China War, 1965 war, 1971 war,).


    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Mr Sandhu,
      You appear to be a senior IAF retired officer who is livid at the Institutional neglect we live with day after day as ESM.
      I share your concern but feel you and I can still make a difference because the heart of aam aadmi and aam aurat whether Begum or Mohtarma, respects what we do and how. Navneet can be Capt AN Mulla, MVC, who went down with his Ship as a conscious choice; can be the one and only Air Commadore Mehar Singh, MVC, whom even an enemy country salutes as one of the best. We need more of them…
      Navdeep gains respect only if we evoke him in our daily lives.
      Let us take a small step for Navdeep…a large one for the Idea of India. Thank you.


    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear young Mehandru,
      Thanks a pile for your endearing words.
      You are so right. The world must hear of Navdeep and from all sources; in Kashmir from Bhands; traditional story tellers, in India elsewhere from you and I; our wives, daughters, Fathers, siblings. We need more Navdeeps, more Mehandru’s …

  17. SK SHARMA says:

    I salute Lt Navdeep Singh and his Ganpats for the noblest of noble act of bravery and the supreme sacrifice. No words will be enough to describle their courage, bravery and the devotion to duty.

    I also salute Maj Gen Raj Mehta for having brought out the account of their selfless sacrifice in the service of the nation in such great detail and description.

    It was of particular interest to me since I am quite familiar with that area, having operated as a crew member of MI-8 helicopters in Air Maintenance role in the Gurez valley right upto Baraub. But those days that area was manned by BSF.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      SK, I salute you for your personal bravery in carrying out missions up to Beruab, which is snow clad the year around. You would have over flown Habba Khatoon Peak many times; used it as a nav aid; overflown the wild entry pass over the Shamshabari, Razdan, perhaps landed at all or most Gurais helipads…You know that the story is not just true but inspirational…a young lad who could have holidayed with his pretty fiancee/to be wife at Davar or Habba; fished for Pink trout at Bagtor, or looked for Sapphire in the white sands; picnicked in the mesmerising river bends besides weeping willows and laden fruit trees, chose honourable death over ordinary life.
      Let us pass on his extraordinary legacy to our 300 million young.

  18. Capt(Retd)BS Narayanan IN says:

    Hats off to the raw courage displayed by Navdeep.May the Armed Forces breed more Navdeeps to guard the territorial integrity of our nation & maintain the pride of the SERVICES.May his soul rest in peace.I would like to salute his proud parents.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Captain (IN) BS,
      Indeed, we join you in your salutes. Let us add to that salute by creating a new breed of Navdeeps that the late Capt AN Mulla, IN, MVC, would approve of from deep down there, in the seas off the Gujerat coast where he resides over the spirit of our world class Navy.

  19. Col K Srinivas (Veteran) says:

    I salute the dedication and sacrifice our officers like Lt Navdeep and his men make in executing the assigned tasks of keeping our country safe. I feel proud to have been part of this glorious Army. May God rest Lt Navdeep Singh’s soul in peace and give his proud parents the strength to bear this loss. The nation will remain indebited to them for ever.

    Thank you Gen Mehta too for this moving tribute to this young braveheart.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Col Srinivas,
      Thank you for saluting Navdeep and his parents and siblings. He was special. You and I are special too. We have taken an oath to defend India and so we have and will till our last breath.
      Let us join in creating more Navdeeps. The country desperately needs them.

  20. Col (retd) Parambir Singh says:

    There couldn’t have been a better way to pay tribute to a soldier than to physically walk the path where our hero laid down his life and I salute Maj Gen Raj Mehta for having done so.Our bureaucrats are sent for forward area tours for about two weeks when they are probationers but I wonder how many of them recollect this experience during the rest of their lives because these are the people who are the policy makers in the MOD.
    Another very important people who MUST be exposed to this kind of environment is our dear politicians.Conscription should be made a mandatory pre requisite clause before one can file his papers before contesting for general or assembly elections. Being exposed to live fire in one ambush will drive home the point as to whether AFSPA should be withdrwan from such disturbed areas.Is our worthy PM listening?

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Col Parambir,
      Stated your KRA bluntly and forthrightly and appreciated. Thank you. An emerging democracy will make mistakes as it goes along and we have and are still making ours. I do not really despair because we will learn to function properly in time. What is needed and where I agree with you is that our back benchers who are positioned behind platitudes and avoidance of national work of calibre need exposure to fierce national spirit and probity above all…What better place to learn it than from the armed forces of India…?
      The bureaucrats and the politicians must sit in ambush and patrol frozen slopes, stay alive not on gourmet meals but shakarpara and muddy water, cleaned with a chlorine pill to understand what serving the Idea of India means…That said, we have an obligation too, to educate our young and family to do a “Navdeep” routinely in all we do.

  21. Akshit says:

    This is the most inspiring form of tribute one could ever pay to a martyr. It will no doubt fire the imagination of the youth. We definitely need more Raj Mehtas as much as we need more Navdeeps.

    Our salutes and deepest gratitude to Navdeep.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Akshit, you are a young man in body and mind…! Set your mind ablaze with Navdeep and his legacy and pass him on to all males and females in touch with you…Thank you.

  22. Rama Krishna says:

    Very heart warming account.

    Could not imagine how in three months he was in full control of events.

    It is high time we start introspection as to how to motivate and create more Navdeeps in each course

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Rama, transformational leadership at all levels from Platoon to Corps Commander was that secret of success…Also, dire necessity invoked by savage deficiency in officer strength. most units are functioning at 50 percent net officer availability; compelling officers to multi task; multi skill; live their young lives 18 hours a day seven days a week, month after month. The Government stands aloof and unconcerned giving the Armed Forces platitudes that mean nothing.
      The Indian jugad mind is world class…we create our Navdeeps out of an almost bare cupboard except for raw guts and love for the country; and some leaders who are transformational…

  23. GirlFromAmerica says:

    Oh-so-young…. sends shivers up the spine to imagine what may happen without the fearless sacrifice of truly dedicated men such as Navdeep…few appreciate the price someone else has paid so that the rest of us may live free.

    Thank you, Gen Mehta

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear GirlFromAmerica,
      Easy to make out that your heart bleeds for India and so it should…Women can be such powerful communicators; far far better than men can…teach your kid brother, sis, Mum, your boy friend or hubby if married that we are genetically programmed for Navdeep’s bent of mind – doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
      The night he died; we must have had thousands of ambushes out…he did his ordinary ambush extraordinarily well. he died for us.
      Let him live in us now, by passing him on to our 300 million young…
      Thank you, lady.

  24. Pratyush Manoj says:

    We salute Lt Navdeep !

    May we have the Congress(Parliament) pay respects to the fallen once a week! The pictures of the fallen heroes and their dear ones be shown on the big screen in the House,during the period.

    The States may be asked to follow too ! All this through a Law passed in the Parliament.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      “May we have the Congress(Parliament) pay respects to the fallen once a week! The pictures of the fallen heroes and their dear ones be shown on the big screen in the House,during the period. The States may be asked to follow too ! All this through a Law passed in the Parliament.”
      Pratyush, it is clear that your heart is in the right place. That said, what the country needs is children, men, women on fire. Parliamentary slogan shouting wont help there; not at all. We need schools with committed teachers; a progressive syllabus; something that allows kids to dream big, do big. We need probity and role modeling in the public space. We need people who will do their jobs with almost insane passion for it. That does not need slogan shouting; it needs simple hard work by you and I. The Govt can and must help. If it does not, it should not matter. You and I matter more…

  25. BIPIN RAWAT says:

    Dear General Mehta,
    Lt Navdeep Singh is an epitome of valour and sacrifice that is the hallmark of every soldier who is manning our borders or, maintains vigil in the hinterland to usher peace and tranquility. There are many more like him, who will not hesitate to replicate the actions of this great soldier, whose name is now enshrined in the ‘ROLL OF HONOUR’ of our great Army. General, your effort to bring to fore the dedication and commitment of Lt Navdeep Singh, Ashok Chakra makes us feel proud of our service and I am sure this will motivate the younger generation to opt for military service as a career option.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Bipin, you have set your command ablaze with passion and commitment; sense and sensitivity, care and nurture as well as 24×7 all weather watch on your mandate…Coming from you, anyone would get charged up; in fact all the thousands whose lives are with you ; on trust and so cheerfully given.
      Civilians, men, women, children, intezamia, all appreciate what you do and how you have set the pace for others to follow. Such a world of grit and character; probity and raw courage will ALWAYS foster Navdeeps for our future; the country’s future.
      I am the nonentity; the nacheez who recorded all this because I wanted, for selfish reasons to understand what selfless courage was all about. The real hero is Navdeep; his grateful Army and the inspirational leadership where you count in the top rung, which made Navdeep do what he did.
      I thank you, though for your kind words…

  26. I am daughter,wife and mother of army officers.My heart bleeds for ” un wept, unsung, un honored ” heroes of our country. Lt. Navdeep is very lucky that iconic people like General Mehta was able to relive those poignant moments at the site of that sacrifice and bravery. His poetic, yet very realistic narration had me spell bound and I allowed the these few days to recover from such pain the loss brings to family.

    If only, we can get our screaming media channels to recognise bravery and motivation in our defence forces, rather than hogging limelight highlighting anti-national news! If only, our academic instituitons can instill such noble values by way of films, essays, plays, concerts–our youth will surely be inspired .

    Long live Gen. Mehta!

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      “I am daughter,wife and mother of army officers.My heart bleeds for ” un wept, unsung, un honored ” heroes of our country.” These are in themselves, deathless words that speak of the pain, sense of loss and pride of Everywoman, Every Mother, Every wife, sister, sweetheart of boys like Navdeep whose death is as inspirational as their lives were.
      Today morning, Ma’am, I called up Navdeep’s family to tell them that the Tribune has published an article called BRAVERY PERSONIFIED on its oped page today, which I have written. She broke into tears of pride at the respect that aam aadmi has for her son.
      Indeed, Ma’am, we need ladies like you to set our giddy media channels to shame and focus on bravery and national service instead of sleeze and corruption. Maybe that day will come. In the meanwhile, I confess that you mail has moved us all deeply, very deeply indeed. I seem to think Ma’am has a J& K LI connectivity, being wife of the Commandant…I hope I am right. Thank you so much.

  27. Prasad says:

    A solemn salute to you Navdeep. In a country obsessed with its cricket stars and movie stars, you have reminded us who our true heroes are. Without people like you who serve the country bravely and selflessly, there would be no India shining, in fact there would be no India at all. You have made the supreme sacrifice so that we can continue living our lives in freedom.

  28. Vikram says:


    I am a citizen of our great Nation.Bharat Varsh, Hindustan. I am grateful for the sacrifice this wonderful soul of India has made so i can sit in peace with my family.

    Thank you General Sir for bringing out the story so nicely.

    Jai Hind
    Vande Mataram

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Dear Sir,
      The country needs many more concerned and passionate men and women like you, instead of people who keep ridiculing the sacrifices of these brave hearts by hysterical news coverage of the mistakes that are sometimes made in this million strong organisation. Thank you.

  29. Deepak Singh says:

    Not many youth crave for Service in the Armed Forces now. And our Army still lacks good quality officers. With this in mind I have developed a site wherein I can motivate the young guns of India to join the armed forces Gomilitary.in and facebook fan page –>https://www.facebook.com/Gomilitary.in

    Wish I can have support of some veterans who can contribute an article or two just like the above one..and help us reach and attract more young men into the Defence Service.

  30. Ajeet Kumar says:

    Dear Mehta Sir, I salute the Brave Boy Navdeep for his ultimate sacrifice for the mostly thankless countrymen and salute you too for taking pains to visit the site. I believe these are the places where one should go with spirit of a grateful pilgrim and resolve that more Navdeep need to lose his life to these bloody criminals. It is lack of national leadership and countrymen that we have to lose so many youn people. Thanks again Sir.

    Ajeet Kumar

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Ajeet thank you. recently met his parents, siblings, lectured at his school…A great lad in every sense of the word…

  31. Ashesh Das says:

    Suddenly found myself teary-eyed after finishing this article. I heard lot of war accounts from my grandpa(he migrated to India during 1971 wars). Lots of good soldiers gave away their life. Had it not been for them, I would not be writing this tonight. Will forever be indebted to Indian Army and India,my ancestor’s adopted country and my motherland.Thanks from the bottom of my heart for writing this precious article.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Ashesh, what a remarkable expression of sentiment by you and the debt all of us owe for being Indians…Thank you. Appreciate your thoughts.

  32. Y. V. PREM KUMAR says:

    I salute this young chap who laid down his life for our motherland selflessly so that we can have a good night’s sleep. His parents and his family as a whole would be proud of him.

    But to be frank I feel proud of Lt. Navdeep as well as jealous of him coz not everyone’s not as lucky as him to serve our motherland. I was out in the medicals.


    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Prem Kumar, as long as Indians have your kind of thought, they are Navdeep’s at heart and for India Shining that is enough really…We need more like you.

  33. Akhil Goel says:

    Salute you Brave Man!

  34. Abhishek Singh Parihar says:

    Hats-off & many salutes to Lt. Navdeep for his act of Valor & Supreme sacrifice. Can there be any better way or sacrifice……. At the same time, deep regards & respect for the brave soldier’s parents, for their sacrifice & pain is no lesser. Behind that smile on their face is a deep pool of tears & emotions that they just keep up to themselves. But the memories & joy of parenting a warrior will help them live through this.I guess it is time that we initiate a drive wherein the stories of Valor & sacrifice by our defense personnel is a part of school books. So many fiction & non-fiction novels around us, why can’t a book devoted to such distinguished men with their real life act of heroism be published. At least it will be more inspiring & value building.

    Respected Gen.R Mehta Sir,
    Kudos to you for undertaking the visit. I am sure it is an inspiration for many to follow.

    Jai Hind.

    • Gen Raj Mehta says:

      Abhishek, you will be happy to know that a film on Navdeep is nearing completion. It is being shot by a director whose daughter is the producer and very impressive son the hero. They were inspired by the several articles on Navjot; went down to the site and were very happy to learn that the depiction was dead accurate; so went on and shot the film, taking the family along. I have given a small interview for the film; met them at shooting and hope that it is premiered sometime this year. In the meanwhile thanks for your comments. I have of course met the family and lectured at his school and college. He was a great Indian. When I spoke, the Father was present.

  35. Sandeep Gupta says:

    Lt. Navdeep Singh is my Hero, I didn’t knew him his personally but he is in my thoughts since I heard about his demise fighting terrorist. I have read many articles about him & his courage. Infinite salutes to him for his bravery & to his family for showing courage. I always wanted to be in Indian Army but may be because of lack of self-confidence have made me sit-out. On Facebook I have shared this article, by this I may able to make people to inspire to do some good for the country. Thank You!

    • Raj Mehta says:

      Sandeep, any one in any job who does his work with integrity and daring, selflessness and spirit can be a Navdeep and across gender. Do not think you are any lesser even if you did not join the Army. Let that spirit prevail among your friends too.

  36. Col Krishna Nambiar says:

    There are thousands of such tales of valour of men in Uniform that are recorded in the various unit digests. This does however reduce the supreme sacrifice and valour exhibited by young and brave Lt Navdeep. Like it has been brought out its a previledge that the young lad and hero had put to the ultimate use. God Bless His Soul and may our country continue to produce such sons who will pay with their lives to uphold the sanctity of our young and growing nation. After reading every bit of the comments posted on this site and the response to each one of them by Gen Mehta, I am proud to have served and rubbed sholders with the best for the best of my 24 years plus. God bless the three services and the training institution that produce brilliant, young and dynamic leaders year after year who display such selfless acts of courage that it enhances the lives we lived in Uniform.
    It is very pertinent that such acts of valour and call beyond the call of duty be written in Golden Letters and promulgated to the youth of the country who will cherish the sacrifice and get an antidote of good news and positivity that is so lacking in our daily lives.
    Last but not the least, thanks to Gen Mehta for the beautiful depiction of the act of valour and his own call of duty to pay respects to the departed brave.
    I will share this fact with my groups with due credit to the Gen.
    Also I salute the proud and great parents of Lt Navdeep for having given such a wonderful son to the motherland.

  37. Dr. Ankur Das says:

    Dear Gen. Mehta,

    A wonderful piece of writing! So vividly descriptive, I could imagine myself in the battlefields of Gurais, among its slopes and canyons reliving what brave Lt. Navdeep went through on that fateful night! Being from the North East, I can draw parallels between the difficult mountains of Kashmir and the rugged and hostile terrain which make up our borders in this part of the country, manned round the clock by bravehearts from the Army, the Assam Rifles and also the Border Security Force; ever so vigilant, so that we sleep peacefully at night.

    Also worth mentioning are the various humanitarian activities in the form of medical camps and schools being carried out in the remote border villages of Meghalaya and elsewhere in the North East by the men in uniform. Commendable!

    As opined by others here, I also feel that texts about such acts of heroism should be made a part of the school curriculum and these noble ethos be thus ingrained into the minds of today’s youth.

    Jai Hind!

  38. Debanjan Roy says:

    I salute the brave-heart from the core of my heart…Wish I could touch the feet of Navdeep as mark of my homage!

    …And I am proud to be born in the same country that gave birth to the most gallant of heroes, Navdeep.

    What a supreme sacrifice !!…Bravo!!

    May God grant Navdeep eternal happiness and peace.

  39. jitendra singh says:

    thank you a lot sir for such an excellent article on navdeep and his braveheart ganpats, if bravery is a dying breed then writing well about it is already a near dead one. there is so much that young soldiers do for this country, not complaining even once about it. i think the nation needs to know more of such heroics and y not?? we all need inspirations from time to time, to make us better persons n b a true indian who wants to do something for the country. i am not adding anything to the article or to the story, as everything has already been said by you. my efforts will only spoil the article. it reminded me of my days in such circumstances and strengthened my belief that it is one of the most personality driven jobs in d country. a good officer can contribute so much in such environment and be a very important tool in nation building. i do not know if it is possible to post all such stories of bravehearts in one place where others can get access to them n get inspired.

  40. Dev says:

    Dear Sir,

    Firstly, what a magnificent narration! Even though I read this article in June 2014, I can see the events unfolding in front of my eyes right now. Compared to the mainstream media I think this is the most detailed account of the encounter I have read till date.
    My humble salute to Lt.Navdeep Singh. It’s such a shame that instead of being the front page news or subject of a biography that inspires the generations to come, ultimate sacrifices as these are relegated to small prints whereas the misdeeds of certain bad apples are splashed across the front page as if to deliberately portray the Army in a bad light.
    A collective shame on us as Indians that we haven’t honoured our ‘Shaheeds’ properly.
    The Indian Army is a silent organization and as such grossly underrepresented in the mainstream media and the literary circles unlike their counterparts in the British or the US Army and as such valorous deeds as this and many more are reduced to just a small bit strip on the second or eleventh page of the dailies. Take for example the spectacular raid by 10 Para (SF) deep inside Sindh during the 71 war or the sacrifice of Lt.Triveni Singh, 5 JAKLI, AC(Posthumous) in the winter of 2004 about which little to nil is known amongst the general public.
    I feel very strongly that a robust military literature in the context of the grass root level operations of the Indian Army (like ‘House to House’ by Sgt. David Bellavia about his platoons trials and tribulations in Iraq during Operation Phantom Fury) may orient the youth and motivate them to join the armed forces. We see auto biographies of Generals quite often but we also need to hear it from the younger blood.
    I am afraid my post has been rather long but I really wanted to find a General’s perspective on the same.
    Thank you,


  41. Gen Raj Mehta says:

    Thank you, SAI!

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