A Tribute to the Fallen Heroes of the Pathankot Air Base Attack

A tribute to the seven fallen heroes in the Pathankot air base attack which has entered the third day. 

Updated
India
7 min read
People pay tribute to slain soldiers in the Pathankot air base attack. (Photo: IANS)

Seven security personnel have died in the assault on Pathankot’s air force base, as troops work to clear the compound even as a the three-day gunbattle is on. The bodies of four militants have been recovered as the mission to flush out the remaining two still continues.

The seven martyred are Lieutenant Colonel Niranjan of the NSG, Corporal Gursewak Singh, Subedar Fateh Singh, Hawaldar Sanjeev Kumar, Hawaldar Jagdish Chand, Hawaldar Kulwant Singh and Lance Naik Phoolwant.

‘He Was Happy to Stay Close to the Family’

Hawaldar Kulwant Singh had never been posted in Punjab, his home state, during his 30 years of service on in the Indian Army and Defence Security Corps (DSC).

But just two months before his death in the Pathankot air base attack on Saturday, he had finally got the chance to stay with his family.

At their home in Chak Sharif village of Gurdaspur district, Kulwant’s wife Harbhajan Kaur was inconsolable, The Indian Express reports.

This was the first time he was posted in Punjab. He was very happy to get an opportunity to stay close to the family...He never told us anything about any security threat at the Pathankot air base, and was happy to get a posting here. He got a poster size photo and asked me to keep it


 Family members of martyr Defence Security Corps (DSC) Hawaldar Kulwant Singh mourning at his house at Chak sharif village near Gurdaspur. (Photo: PTI)
Family members of martyr Defence Security Corps (DSC) Hawaldar Kulwant Singh mourning at his house at Chak sharif village near Gurdaspur. (Photo: PTI)

Kulwant had joined the army when he was just 19 and retired in 2004, after which he joined the DSC. He was recently posted in Pathankot from Odisha.

Kulwant is survived by his wife and two young sons, one in class 12 and the other in class 6.

His family said Kulwant was patriotic and would even write patriotic songs. The villagers remembered him as a happy-go-lucky, honest and sincere man.

The body of the soldier is expected to be handed over to the family on Monday, The Indian Express reports.

Commonwealth Hero Dies Fighting

Subedar Fateh Singh (51), who lost his life during combing operations in the Pathankot attack, had won a gold and a silver at the first Commonwealth Shooting Championships held in 1995. (Photo: IANS)
Subedar Fateh Singh (51), who lost his life during combing operations in the Pathankot attack, had won a gold and a silver at the first Commonwealth Shooting Championships held in 1995. (Photo: IANS)

Subedar Fateh Singh sacrificed his life on Saturday during the Pathankot attack.

Remembered fondly by his colleagues as “an inspiration” for his skills with the rifle, Singh was a Commonwealth champion shooter, having won multiple medals for the country during the Commonwealth Shooting Championships held in Delhi in 1995.

He had won gold in the Big Bore Rifle Three Position and silver in Big Bore Rifle Prone Position.

He was one of the first big bore rifle international shooting medallists in our country. He was an inspiration to all of us. He was like my guru and guardian when we were together a part of the shooting team at the Army Marksmenship Unit in Mhow. He had immense love and passion for shooting.

CK Chaudhury, Singh’s former fellow shooter for the Army

Fateh’s family was jolted out of sleep in the wee hours of Saturday morning hearing the gunshots. Their first reaction was to alert Fateh, who was on duty, but their calls went unanswered, The Indian Express reports.

It was late during the day that they were informed of Fateh’s death.

Papa left around 2 am as his duty was to start at 3 am. After we heard the shots we got up and came out and started looking for Papa. An Air Force personnel asked us to go inside as the firing was very close to our room and told us that some terrorists have entered the air base. We went inside and hid under the bed… Not knowing that Papa had already fallen to terrorists’ bullets, we kept calling on his cellphone but got no reply.

Fateh’s daughter Madhu to The Indian Express

Fateh retired as subedar major (hon) captain from Dogra regiment in 2009. After retirement, he joined the Defence Security Corps (India) as subedar and was initially posted at Army War College, Mhow.

Besides daughter Madhu, Fateh has two other children, Nitin and Gurdeep, who is in the army and posted in Assam.

The Union Minister for Sports Sarbananda Sonowal and the President of the National Rifle Association of India offered their condolences.

The nation lost one of its foremost big bore rifle shooter & coach, Subedar Fateh Singh when he was martyred while fighting terrorists. Sub. Singh was a star performer during the 1st Commonwealth Shooting Championship & won 2 gold & 1 silver.I salute Subedar Fateh Singh.

Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Sports Minister

He was a thorough gentleman and great athlete. He worked as an active member of Indian shooting team. It is a very sad day for us. He sacrificed his life for the country. I condole his death.

Raninder Singh, NRAI President
Indian army soldiers climb up the stairs of a residential building outside the Indian air force base in Pathankot. (Photo: AP)  
Indian army soldiers climb up the stairs of a residential building outside the Indian air force base in Pathankot. (Photo: AP)  

Had Been Posted in Pathankot Only for a Day

Jagdish Chand, among the first security personnel to engage the militants, managed to neutralise one of the militants before he was shot dead by another, according toThe Indian Express.

Chand, a resident of Basa village in Himachal Pradesh, was recruited to the DSC after his retirement some years ago and had just joined duty at Pathankot on January 1.

Top officials have praised his valour.

We have been told by the Air Force that Jagdish Chand had exhibited extraordinary valour on Saturday. He did not care for his own life to save a huge defence establishment.

Deputy Commissioner (Chamba) M Sudha Devi to The Indian Express

Chand is survived by his wife and three children.

‘An Inspiration to NSG Commandos’

Friends and relatives arrive to pay tributes to Lt Col Niranjan Kumar (inset), the National Security Guards (NSG) commando who was killed in a grenade blast at the air base at Pathankot, at his home in Kerala. (Photo: PTI) 
Friends and relatives arrive to pay tributes to Lt Col Niranjan Kumar (inset), the National Security Guards (NSG) commando who was killed in a grenade blast at the air base at Pathankot, at his home in Kerala. (Photo: PTI) 

Lt Col Niranjan, a member of the NSG’s Bomb Disposal Squad, was killed while defusing the grenade at the scene of the terror attack on Sunday.

Defence sources said Niranjan, a resident of Kerala, was killed while trying to retrieve the grenade from the body of a dead terrorist, The Indian Express reports.

Lt Col EK Niranjan was an expert on explosives and head of the bomb disposal squad. He was a brave soldier. His professionalism and dedication to serve the nation will inspire everyone in NSG for many many years to come. I salute to the brave soul.

National Security Guard Director General R C Tayal to PTI

The 35-year-old martyr is survived by wife Radhika and two-year-old daughter Vismaya. He was deputed to NSG (Delhi) there years ago.

Lt Col EK Niranjan with his wife Radhika. (Photo: IANS) 
Lt Col EK Niranjan with his wife Radhika. (Photo: IANS) 

His Family was Told to Return Home

Hawaldar Sanjeev Kumar’s family rushed to Pathankot from their village in Himachal Pradesh after hearing that he was injured in the militant attack.

Upon arriving, however, they were not allowed to see him and were told to go home. According to Ajay Kumar, an up-pradhan of their village panchayat, the only information that Kumar’s family received on Saturday was admitted in the ICU,The Indian Express reports.

They (the authorities) told us that he is alive; injured but recovering fast. There was a gunbattle going on. No one was allowed to go.

Kumar’s wife Pinki Devi to The Indian Express

Kumar had retired from the army six years ago but had joined the DSC and was posted to the Pathankot air base.

It’s a tragedy not just for me but the entire nation. I may have lost my son but I can take pride as he fought the terrorists who had a plan to blow up the air force base and destabilise the nation. My sympathies for all men who lost their lives and did not allow the Pakistan-backed militants to harm the country. We are waiting for his body so that we could lay him to rest in the national tricolour.

Kumar’s father, Rattan Singh, toThe Indian Express

Kumar leaves behind two daughters and a son.

 An Indian army soldier is silhouetted against the setting sun as he stands guard next to his colleague, sitting on the roof top of a house outside the Indian air force base in Pathankot, India. (Photo: AP) 
An Indian army soldier is silhouetted against the setting sun as he stands guard next to his colleague, sitting on the roof top of a house outside the Indian air force base in Pathankot, India. (Photo: AP) 

He was a Newly-Wed

Corporal Gursewak Singh’s family was devastated when they heard about his demise on Saturday, 48-hours into the seige at the Pathankot air base.

I had called him Friday evening but he disconnected my phone and sent a text that he would call later. Unhone kaha, phone karunga. Par agar phone nahi aaya, to so jaana. Aur phone nahi aaya (He had said he will call. If I don’t call, go to sleep. And the call never came).

Singh’s wife, Jaspreet Kaur, to The Indian Express

Gursewak and Jaspreet were recently married on November 18, 2015 - Jaspreet was still wearing her bright red wedding bangles.

While the family knew about the militant attack, they were not aware that Gursewak had been on guard at the base.

Gursewak had joined the Garud Commando Force, special forces unit of the Air Force, six years ago. It was his brother Hardeep, also in the army, who had made a call to his father Sunday morning to inform them about Gursewak’s demise.

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