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Posted at: Jul 7, 2018, 12:50 AM; last updated: Jul 7, 2018, 12:50 AM (IST)

2/Lt Rakesh Singh: Youngest recipient of Ashoka Chakra

Then 22, he sacrificed his life while fighting militants in Kashmir valley

War Diary of 22 Grenadiers reads

  • On December 5, 1992, 2/Lt Rakesh Singh, Officiating Company Commander of ‘B’ Company 22 Grenadiers, was leading a cordon and search operation at Padarpur village in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir to apprehend Pakistan-trained militants operating in the area. Around 7 am, while deploying his company southwest of Padarpur, he was informed by the leading Company Commander, Capt Rajiv Joon, about the escape of a group of militants south of Padarpur. Though short of manpower, the officer reacted swiftly and rushed to the said area with the three available men of his company. After seeing the group led by 2/Lt Rakesh coming towards them, the militants took up defensive position and started firing with a universal machine gun and AK 56 assault rifles. Undeterred by the enemy heavy fire, the officer launched a determined counterattack on the militants and killed two of them single-handedly. The militants, completely surprised by this swift attack, retreated and thereafter started outflanking one of his men accompanying him. 2/Lt Rakesh Singh noticed that the jawan accompanying him was in grave danger and the only way he could save him was to move to a better position, which involved crossing the militants’ line of fire. Placing his own life in jeopardy, 2/Lt Rakesh Singh ran through the barrage of the militants’ fire. He fell due to bullet injuries but quickly got up and charged directly at the militants and killed three more of them. He continued firing till he collapsed. Inspired by their officer’s bravery, his jawans killed the remaining three militants. Capt Rajiv Joon, the leading company commander, rushed to the site, lifted his junior colleague and sped in the jeep to evacuate him to the Base Hospital, Srinagar. 2/Lt Rakesh Singh, the battalion’s tall baby, however, breathed his last en route.

Col Dilbag Dabas (Retd)

“Love for the nation can make one go to any extreme” — The Grenadiers.  

Rakesh was a third generation soldier. His grandfather Honorary Capt Rattan Singh participated in some of the fiercest battles in Burma during World War-II, and his father Col Raj Singh, a Gunner, fought in the 1965 and 71 wars with Pakistan. Their medals were framed together and hung on the wall in the living room adjacent to his grandfather’s photo in uniform. 

The military uniform has always fascinated adolescents. One day Rakesh, then aged about 10, spoke his heart out: “Mummy, one day you will see me in this uniform”. And 12 years later, his mother Savitri Singh saw her son as Second Lieutenant (2 /Lt) in olive greens. She, however, did not know that her son would don his most cherished attire for just about six months. She was also unaware that Rakesh was destined to sacrifice his life in the line of duty, making her the proudest mother.

Rakesh was born on September 18, 1970. He passed senior secondary from Jat Heroes Memorial School, Rohtak, and then went on to join the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla (Pune). He was commissioned into 22 Grenadiers on June 13, 1992. Though artillery could be his parental claim, Rakesh chose Grenadiers, the decorated regiment, which has given two Param Vir to the Indian Army.

 2/Lt Rakesh joined his battalion in Jammu and Kashmir at a time when the entire Kashmir valley had become a hotbed of militancy. Rakesh, just 21 then, was fondly addressed as tall baby by his seniors. Quick at uptake, Rakesh was soon learning the nuances of counterinsurgency operations. As a company officer, Rakesh always volunteered to lead cordon and search operations to nab militants. And then came the day when the tall baby showed what a man of steel he was. He sacrificed his life and became the youngest officer to be awarded the Ashoka Chakra for his conspicuous act of courage. 

Savitri Singh recollects a proud moment; while seeing Rakesh off at the Rohtak railway station, she hugged him and said, “Beta apna khyal rakhna” (son, take care), and the boy replied, “Mummy, main apna hi khyal rakhta raha to mere jawano ka khyal kaun rakhega. Nischint raho mujhe kuchh nahi hoga” (If I take care only of myself who will take care of my jawans. Do not worry, nothing will happen to me). And then he whispered in my ear, “Aur agar kuchh hua bhi to aisa hoga ki Mummy umar bhar mujh par garv karogi” (and if something really happens to me, it will be such that you will feel proud of your son throughout your life). “And Rakesh, my child, really made me proud”. 

Brig Randhir Singh, a Sena Medal awardee, who was then Commanding 22 Grenadiers, remembers him: “Rakesh was always inquisitive to know about the early gladiators of the battalion. He looked forward for an opportunity to prove his mettle. Proud of you Rakesh is your mother, Jat Heroes Memorial School, Rohtak, our ‘paltan’ and the nation”.

Capt Rajiv Joon too sacrificed his life a few months later in Kashmir valley to earn the coveted Ashok Chakra, posthumously.

(The writer is veteran Gunner, 6 Field Regiment)

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