Sikkim: Paratrooper Late Sanjog Chettri, Ashok Chakra

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For a counter-insurgency force that is largest of its kind in the world, the Rashtriya Rifles receives little mention in discussions and writings on India’s war against terrorism in Kashmir. Staying out of the limelight, however, does not take away in any way, the immense contribution made by this force in the past two decades, in India’s fight against Pakistan’s proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian Army’s Counter Insurgency Force (Romeo) had earlier conducted a complex terrorist camp-busting operation, namely: ‘Op Sarp Vinash’, with remarkable skill and precision, easily one of the landmark counter-terrorism operations in Jammu & Kashmir. The operation, with its focal point at a remote village named Hill Kaka (near Surankote), spread along the Pir Panjal ranges and involved about 10,000 soldiers, including the Special Forces. The Force, in conjunction with other formations had launched relentless operations, to flush out terrorists from their hideouts and camps in the upper reaches of the mountains. The troops discovered a network of well-defended bunkers, around the Hill Kaka bowl in Surankote, built upon the high-altitude `Dhok’ shelters used by the Gujjar herdsmen during the summers.

Troops of the 9 PARA (Special Forces) were tasked to take on a major bunker on Point 3689, after helicopter surveillance flights picked up a large number of footprints through the snow leading to a single complex. Thirteen terrorists were neutralized in the operation, the largest single success recorded in the course of the on-going counter insurgency operations. As the terrorist groups scattered into the Pir Panjal mountains, more troops were called in to intercept the fleeing terrorists. 

Paratrooper Sanjog Chettri of 9 PARA (SF) was part of a Team tasked for neutralising terrorist locations. The commandos, while approaching a terrorists’ hideout, drew heavy automatic fire. Sensing grave danger to his comrades, Paratrooper Sanjog Chettri assaulted the cave, lobbing grenades and firing from the hip and killed one terrorist. In the intense exchange of fire, he suffered gunshot wounds to the right shoulder, but unmindful of his physical condition he pressed on with the assault and killed a second terrorist. He, however, fell at the entrance of the cave. But that was not the end. Paratrooper Sanjog Chettri, in one last act of supreme valour, drew his commando knife and charged into the hideout, killing one more terrorist in hand to hand combat before finally succumbing to his wounds. Inspired by his supreme sacrifice, his comrades killed 13 terrorists that night and apprehended a Pakistan trained terrorist.

The government conferred the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award, on this 21-year-old Army Paratrooper who laid down his life in Operation Sarp Vinash. Chettri was born on the Republic Day of 1982, in Sikkim. A resident of South Sikkim District’s Namchi tehsil, he had lost his father when he was very young. Thereafter, he and his sister Sangeeta were adopted by their father’s elder brother. Sanjog Chettri joined the Army in March 2001, and was later selected for the exclusive 9 Para (Special Forces), which has been constantly in action in J&K, ever since the beginning of militancy in the state in the late 80s.

Into its 21st year of existence now, the Rashtriya Rifles over the years, has evolved into a unique force. The Rashtriya Rifles in J&K has emerged as a force that now has unmatched knowledge of the terrain, the people, the local dynamics and most importantly, the `intelligence’ which is a key factor in success of operations. The Rashtriya Rifles is the only force, where infantry soldiers work shoulder to shoulder with the personnel drawn from other Arms and Services. The contribution of the force in the resoration of peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir, is immeasurable. The Force has been able to create a conducive atmosphere for civil governance in coordination with local population, the police and the civil administration. The sacrifices made by the troops of the Rashtriya Rifles, are accurately reflected in the over 4,000 individual decorations and as many as 31 Chief of Army Staff `Unit Citations’ and 46 General Officer Commanding-in-Chief `Unit Citations’ that have been conferred on it. It is a force that needs to be supported and nurtured further, to keep the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir conducive and under control. Today, when we see smiles on people’s faces, it is because of the personal sacrifices, made by troops like Paratrooper Sanjog Chettri and many other bravehearts, to help restore normalcy and peace and tranquility in the region. 

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