Gallantry awardee colonel loses battle to cancer

Navjot Singh Bal was winner of Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award

Gallantry awardee colonel loses battle to cancer

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 9

A fine soldier of the country who, till recently, was leading the elite 2 Para (Special forces) tasked in Jammu and Kashmir died on Thursday morning following a year-long ‘battle’ with cancer.

Colonel Navjot Singh Bal, a gallantry awardee, a gentleman, a marathoner and idolised by several within the secretive ‘Para-SF’ died this morning at a military hospital at Bangalore. His father Lt Col KS Bal (retd) from the Garhwal Rifles, hails from Amritsar and is now based in Gurugram.

The Army has left it to the family to decide the location of his cremation. Permission has come to fly-out the parents of the deceased in a military plane or to bring the mortal remains to the place of family’s choice. Civilian flights are suspended.

Colonel Bal, is survived by his wife Aarti, who is also his school time friend from Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan, Delhi Cantonment, and his two sons -- Zorawar and Sarbaaz, aged 8 years and 4 years.

Many years ago in 2008, while operating in Lolab valley in J&K, Col Bal had earned the Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award.

Sometime in the middle of 2018 Colonel Bal had observed a slight swelling in his right arm after doing chin-ups. It was thought to be an exertion-related swelling. A radiological evaluation was done followed by a biopsy and MRI which revealed that he suffered from a rare type of cancer called ‘Telangiectactic osteosarcoma’.

Several medical consultations followed in US and also at the Tata cancer research, finally, in March 2019, it was decided that his right arm had to be amputated.

Doctors at the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital at Delhi did the amputation to prevent the cancer from spreading into his body. One of his ‘Para’ mates recollected that May 2019, after the amputation, Col Bal was leading his men into an exercise at Rajasthan. “I was surprised to see Bal arriving at the exercise,” recalled his senior mate.

Later, given his medical condition Col Bal was asked to relieve himself of command of the elite 2 Para SF and was attached to the Para training school at Bangalore which allowed him to also get treated.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be an aggressive cancer was spreading in his body soon his lungs, liver and heart were impacted.

Once after having diagnosed of cancer, he ran a half marathon (21 km), recalled an Army doctor.

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