BY RISHABH SURENDRAN
I’m quite sure that most of you reading this would have heard of the Indo-Pak war of 1971. Well, this is one of the many countless acts which showed the world, what heroism and daredevilry is.
The Bangladesh Liberation war, a conflict between the Dominant West Pakistani and the Majority East Pakistanis led to subsequent involvement of India because of the Pakistan Army carrying out a merciless genocide against the Bengali population in East Pakistan. This led to the beginning of Indo-Pak War.
Though it is one of the shortest wars in history with India claiming victory, several of our Indian Army, Navy and Air force men were martyred.
Not going into to the depth of the war, this article is about one such valiant and lion-hearted officer of the Indian Air Force who laid down his life in order to ensure the well-being of his countrymen.
Flying Officer Nirmaljit Sekhon was posted at the No. 18 Squadron Srinagar, a Folland Gnat (Fighter Aircraft) base during the 1971 war. On the 14th of December 1971, the skies of Srinagar rumbled as six Pakistan Air Force F-86 Sabres flew towards the Gnat base. Soon the aircrafts began to bomb the base ensuring maximum damage to the vital assets. Sekhon was on duty, and without a second thought immediately took off in a Gnat to take on the enemy jets. With two Sabres in his sight, Sekhon shot down one and set the other ablaze.
An aerial combat ensued with the other jets which unfortunately led to Sekhon’s jet being hit, eventually killing him. But his efforts weren’t in vain, as the Pakistani jets fled from the scene without completing the planned attack.
This supreme heroism and gallantry earned him the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest wartime gallantry award, posthumously. Of all the Param Vir Chakra recipients, Flying Officer Sekhon remains the only Indian Air Force member to be honoured with this prestigious award.
His skills and daring attitude was praised in an article by Salim Baig Mirza, the Pak pilot who shot him down. There are many statues of him which have been erected across the country in remembrance of his heroic act.
This article is one of many tributes and salutes to the great son of Mother India. He shall be remembered always as an icon of valour and spirit.