Dehradun: The city of the brave!
This is a real life story of three young men who are no more. They had several things in common: they were all in their early to mid 30’s, they laid their lives for the nation, passing away earlier this month and belonged to Dehradun. As the city laments and is yet to fully grasp the ramifications of this tragedy, their valor has reiterated the identity of the mountain state of Uttarakhand as the quintessential Veer-Bhumi. It is people like these that provide inspiration to thousands in the state to pursue a career in the forces, serving the nation with dignity and sincerity.
Two of them, the late Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhaundiyal from 55 Rashtriya Rifles and late Major Chitresh Bisht from the Corps of Engineers in fact went to the same school – St Joseph’s Academy. They served in the Indian Army and passed away in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack. Major Bisht died in the Nowshera sector in district Rajouri while defusing a series of explosives. ‘Tiger’, as his colleagues fondly called him, was a well-meaning, simple young man who excelled in the intricate art of defusing explosives. Major Dhaundiyal and his fellow soldiers died in an ambush operation while eliminating Kamran, one of the closest associates of the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammad head Maulana Masood Azhar. News about the death of Major Dhaundiyal came on the day Major Bisht was being cremated. The blows have been devastating, as the city and state has lost two of its finest men in the on-going turmoil in Kashmir.
Their lives were interwoven in more ways than one. While Chitresh was set to tie the wedding knot in April, Vibhuti was planning to celebrate his first wedding anniversary around the same time. MMS Bisht, a former policeman, was distributing wedding cards for his son when the tragic news arrived. Mayhem broke loose in Nehru Colony, the locality where the Bishts stay, once it was known that Chitresh was no more. Vibhuti, the lone son of the family with three elder sisters and mother, was the doting youngster in the household. Married to Nikita Kaul, the family lives in the Nashville Road area of the city. The mourning families, friends and hordes of well-wishers are left anguished with memories of men who have passed away in the prime of their youth.
The story of late Squadron Leader Siddharth Negi from the Indian Air Force is no less tragic. He died in a Mirage 2000 fighter crash in Bengaluru at the beginning of the month. Squadron Leader Negi was an ace pilot and on deputation to the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment of the IAF. He was on an ill-fated sortie with Squadron Leader Samir Abrol from Ghaziabad. Their family lives close to the Indian Military Academy in the Panditwari area in Dehradun. Negi too leaves behind his wife and a doting family.
Uttarakhand has a rich tradition of nationalism with thousands working in the armed forces. Perhaps it is the mountain landscape or the inbuilt character of the Uttarakhandi that generations have selflessly served the country. The sacrifice of the triumvirate of young officers like Vibhuti, Chitresh and Siddharth has once again proved to the nation the worth of the resolute Pahadi. He is ready to climb any mountain, and is equally prepared to fall, for others, giving all that he can on the altar of life and death. The city of Dehradun, the city of the brave and fearless, will continue to remember their sacrifices for a long, long time.
(The writer is founder-chairperson of Doon based think-tank, Gati Foundation)