Thirteen years back, on 26 November 2008, as Mumbai came under attack from 10 terrorists, a shocked nation watched its bravehearts step up and fight valiantly to save hundreds of innocent lives, sacrificing their own.
Be it a brave National Security Guard commando or a Mumbai Police sub-inspector, valiant security personnel put their lives in the line of fire to save innumerable others; their heroics and valour redefining what bravery actually is.
Take a look at some of these real-life superheroes who we salute.
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan
A gutsy NSG commando, Unnikrishnan upheld the Indian Army's motto — service before self — while engaging with the terrorists inside the Taj hotel. He had entered the hotel in a group of 10 commandos and managed to engage the perpetrators in a firefight. “Do not come up, I will handle them,” were probably the last words which Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan told his men as he was hit by bullets while engaging terrorists inside the Taj.
The government later honoured him with an Ashoka Chakra for his bravery.
A retired soldier of the Indian Army, and serving in the Mumbai police as an assistance sub-inspector, Tukaram Omble is the reason for the capture of terrorist Ajmal Kasab.
On 26/11, he and his team were guarding one of the checkpoints when they were approached by two terrorists in a hijacked car. After an initial shootout, one of the terrorists died inside the car, while the other, Ajmal Kasab got out of the car and lay down to pretend surrender. As unarmed Omble approached him, Kasab got up and tried to open fire. Omble stood in front of him and held on to the barrel of Kasab's rifle, thus preventing the bullets from hitting anyone else but him. The rest of the team managed to overpower and apprehend Kasab. Omble had taken over 40 bullets from an AK-47 at point-blank range and did not survive.
The government posthumously honoured him with the Ashoka Chakra for his extraordinary bravery.
The Anti-Terrorist Squad chief was killed outside Cama Hospital in south Mumbai after being shot thrice in his chest while fighting terrorists.
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio Rebeiro was later quoted as saying, "Karkare was one of the best police officers in Maharashtra and I dare say in India."
Ashok Kamte was serving as the Additional Commissioner of the Mumbai Police, supervising the Eastern region when he was killed during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. He had offered his assistance during the attacks, even though his area East zone was not under attack.
He too lost his life fighting terrorists in the narrow lane between St Xaviers College and Rang Bhavan in south Mumbai.
An encounter specialist, Vijay Salaskar also died in the line of duty during the Mumbai attacks. During interrogation, captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab confessed to killing Salaskar. Salaskar was heading the Anti-Extortion Cell before his death. The government had honoured him with Ashoka Charka on 26 January 2009 for his bravery.
Hawaldar Gajendra Singh
Hawaldar Gajendra Singh was part of the team of NSG commandos, who abseiled on the roof of Nariman House where terrorists were holding at least six hostages. The team came under fire from the terrorists at the hostage site. A few grenades were also hurled by terrorists at commandos. It was his ultimate sacrifice that helped the NSG team to secure a dominant position in the encounter.
With inputs from agencies