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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

From Quaid to Bana


Profiles of two JAK LI men who helped capture a Pakistani post in India’s final quest for Siachen
TSI | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : JAK LI | Naib Subedar Bana Singh | Siachen | Param Vir Chakra | Operation Rajiv | Naib Subedar Chuni Lal |

It was at the icy heights of Siachen in 1987 that a young JAK LI soldier, Bana Singh, achieved what till then was considered unimaginable. He was part of the 8 JAK LI’s Special Operations Group (SOG) completing its glacier tenure.

To launch an assault in oxygen-depleted rarefied air is considered near suicidal but the Quaid post – situated at an altitude of 21,153 feet - was strategically important to observe nearly 80 km of territory around it. It gave Pakistanis, its then occupants, an edge of not just preventing supplies to other Indian posts but also of interdicting any movement with precise firing.

Its capture, therefore, became important for the Indian Army. Naib Subedar Bana Singh, hand-picked for this challenging assignment, led the last attack along with riflemen Chunni Lal, Laxman Das, Om Raj and Kashmir Chand. A force of 62 people participated to the final operation; two officers, three JCO’s and 57 jawans.

Remembers Bana Singh, "we were losing friends every day, some of them just a few days after their induction into the force. Our Commanding Officer and all of us were determined to throw the Pakistanis out, whatever the price.’’Two decades after his inspired heroism in those chilling heights, Subedar Major (Honorary Captain) Bana Singh, Param Vir Chakra (PVC), has sent his son to defend the frontiers in Kashmir.

Born in 1949 in Kadyal district of Jammu, Bana Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal in India, for conspicuous bravery and leadership under most adverse conditions.

“Operation Rajiv” as this operation was named, resulted in various awards: one Maha Vir Chakra (for Subedar Sansar Singh), seven Vir Chakras and one Sena Medal, besides the PVC. Bana Singh later declined an offer of Rs 25 lakh, 25 acres of land and a pension of Rs 15, 000 a month if he decided to settle in Punjab. Singh’s belief: as a proud soldier of Jammu and Kashmir, he could not leave the state, no matter how strong the allurement.

The other hero of the party that took Quaid was late Naib Subedar Chuni Lal, winner of Ashok Chakra, Vir Chakra and the Sena Medal.

Chuni Lal was born in Doda’s  Bhadarwah tehsil in 1968. He joined JAK LI in 1984. Within three years of his service he earned a Sena Medal for his death-defying act in capturing Bana Post alongside the legendary Bana.
Not the one to sit on his laurels, in 1999 while serving with his unit in the Poonch Sector during ‘Operation Rakshak’ he and his unit were instrumental in beating back an attempted intrusion by the Pakistan Army and for this act of gallantry he was awarded the Vir Chakra.

Chuni Lal died in a fierce firefight with militants in Kupwara district on June 25, 2007. ``He was short but his courage exemplary,'' remembers Bana of his comrade. In true tradition, Bana's son Rajinder Singh and Chuni's son Manveer Singh too have joined JAK LI. Perfectly understandable.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017