Tales of Glory | Major Sikanderjit Singh Sra: Braveheart who sacrificed self to save fellow soldiers

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This is a series of stories on officers of the Indian Armed Forces who gave their all to the Motherland. We shall be publishing these stories over the next year on the date these bravehearts performed in the highest traditions of the Indian Armed Forces but left us forever.

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Elmer Davis’ quote “This nation will remain the land of free only so long as it is the home of the brave” is a befitting tribute to the bravery of Major Sikanderjit Singh Sra till his last breath.

As a student of the Government Primary School, in village Aur, district Nawanshahr, Punjab, Major Sikanderjit Singh Sra, always got fascinated seeing the Indian Army soldiers of his village come home in uniform while on leave. SJ as his classmates called him, would look at these soldiers in awe and admiration and would make it a point to meet each one of them and eagerly would listen to their glorious tales of the exciting life in the army.

Young SJ at a very tender age had decided that he would join the army. He would frequently discuss with the army soldiers of his village the modalities to join the army.

A retired Junior Commissioned Officer who was settled in his village and who was a war veteran and a decorated warrior of the 1971 India-Pakistan War told him about Sainik School, Kapurthala. He started guiding the young Sikander about the admission to this school and told him that admission to this school would provide an ideal platform for the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, Pune and his dream of becoming an officer in the Indian Army would be fulfilled.

But admission to the renowned Sainik School Kapurthala was not easy as from the entire State of Punjab just 50 students were selected after passing Class Vth in a very tough and competitive entrance exam.

The determination and dedication of the young SJ knew no bounds and in 1981, Sikander joined Sainik School Kapurthala in Class VIth.

Major Sikanderjit Singh Sra. Image courtesy Lt Col JS Sodhi (Retd)

SJ lapped up the training and education of Sainik School Kapurthala with great dedication and devotion, knowing that this meant a greater chance of success at clearing the tough NDA Exam. He started excelling in Cross Country and Swimming and Water Polo.

The patience and perseverance of SJ bore fruit and on 2 January 1988, Sikander reported to the NDA as part of the 79 NDA Course.

SJ was allotted Bravo Squadron in NDA and in three years at NDA, Sikander did outstandingly well. He was a Medallist in Cross Country in all six terms in NDA. A Cross Country medal is awarded to only the first 15 Cadets out of 1,800 Cadets who take part in the six-monthly event. Cross Country is regarded as the most prestigious competition in NDA. SJ was awarded a Blue in Cross Country for his spectacular performance. Sikander also excelled in Swimming and Water Polo and was awarded a Half Blue in Swimming and Water Polo.

Sikander passed out from NDA on 01 December 1990 and after four weeks’ leave reported to the internationally acclaimed Indian Military Academy, Dehradun for the final one year of pre-commission training.

SJ was allotted Zojila Company in IMA and he continued his legacy of performing well in IMA too. In both terms in IMA he was a Cross Country medallist and was awarded the Half Blue in Cross Country.

In the middle of the final term in IMA, when the day came for each Gentlemen Cadet to fill in his choice of Arm/Service, Sikander was very clear that he had to join the Infantry which is known as the Queen of the Battle.

Sikander was commissioned on 14 December 1991 in the Dogra Regiment. The Dogra Regiment is one of the finest regiments of the Infantry of the Indian Army.

2/Lt Sikanderjit Singh Sra reported to his battalion after four weeks of post-commission leave. Soon SJ carved a nichè for himself in the battalion and won the hearts of all officers and troops of the Battalion.

At the crack of dawn on 20 October 2000, Sikander who was a Company Commander occupying a forward post of the Battalion in a Field Area, received instructions from his Battalion Headquarters to attend an urgent and important Operational Conference in Poonch.

At around 8 am, Sikander along with his Company Second in Command, a young Captain, and five soldiers left their location in a jeep to proceed to Poonch.

The road from the forward location to Poonch was totally mountainous and SJ was driving the Jeep slowly. At about 8.30 am, Sikander noticed some abnormal behaviour in the jeep. Sensing trouble he immediately asked the other officer and the five soldiers to jump out of the moving vehicle. He kept on controlling the jeep while the six other occupants jumped out. Before Sikander could jump out, the jeep fell into the ravine below.

The Captain and the five other soldiers immediately trekked below to the site of the wreckage and managed to pull out Sikander. He had sustained severe head injuries and breathed his last at 9.30 am on 20 October 2000.

Major Sikanderjit Singh Sra made the supreme sacrifice of his life in the Service of the Nation by ensuring the safety and well-being of the soldiers under his command with utter disregard to his own personal safety.

Sikander lived truly to the immortal words of Lord Philip Chetwode which are inscribed in the Chetwode Building of Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and are the Credo of the Indian Military Academy “The safety, honour and welfare of your Country comes first, always and every time. The honour and welfare of the men you command come next. Your own safety, honour and welfare comes last, always and every time”.

The mortal remains of Sikander were consigned to flames with full Military and State Honours in his native village Aur on 22 October 2000 in the presence of several ministers and senior civil and military officers.

Our homage to Major Sikanderjit Singh Sra on this solemn day. You shall forever remain in our hearts and memories and will always be a source of inspiration to all of us. Our prayers for your Eternal Peace.

The writer who retired from the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army is an alumnus of NDA, Khadakwasla and IIT Kanpur. He is a M.Tech in Structures has also done MBA and LLB and is a prolific writer and a public speaker. He Tweets and Koos at @JassiSodhi24. The views expressed are personal.

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Tales of Glory | Major Sikanderjit Singh Sra: Braveheart who sacrificed self to save fellow soldiers
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