When Mansi laid down her life in 2015, I commanded the Remount Veterinary Corps Centre & College (RVC C&C), Meerut. Pondering then over the details of her action, some questions struck me: Is the deed of Mansi not heroic? Why can’t we have a heroic remembrance of her name?
Mansi was born in the kennels of Dog Training Faculty of RVC C&C where all working dogs of the Army are born, reared, trained, and then dispatched to various places for duties. Also, entire lifetime records of Army dogs are kept and updated here, and after their working life is over, they return here to spend their subsequent years. But Mansi wasn’t to return! As distinct from her photographs, Mansi was a jet black, medium-built Labrador, with an innocent glint of inviting friendliness in her eyes. After spending her puphood days with her siblings, at the age of six months in June 2011, she was inducted into basic obedience training. At the end of three months of training, she not only qualified easily for good behaviour and discipline, but also distinctly signalled the aptitude to become a tracker by picking up scents. In her nine-month-long specialised training, Mansi honed her sniffing skills and was exposed to scenario-based tasks and battle-inoculation tests.
During her usual march between kennel and the training ground, she had often glanced over the posters erected on either side of the pathway which displayed the photographs and citations of some of the distinguished members from her kennels: Hemu, an avalanche rescue dog, who sniffed the bodies of soldiers buried 30 feet deep under snow in Kashmir in 2012 even after a week of the accident; Balu, an explosive detection dog, timely detected a powerful explosive hidden on a highway in J&K in 2008, preventing a major accident; Hosky, an avalanche rescue dog, led to the recovery of bodies of 28 soldiers buried 45 feet deep in snow at the Siachen glacier in 2010. Likewise, more than 150 of Mansi’s silent warriors’ ilk have been awarded for their commendable performance by the Chief of Army Staff, and about 500 have been awarded by different Army Commanders thus far. Mansi had a kennel’s glorious name to live by.
As Mansi completed her training, she was transferred to a Dog Unit in the Kashmir valley. There, in a dangerous night mission to search for terrorists on being suspicious, she was deployed, along with her handler, on August 8, 2015, in the mountainous border areas of Tangdhar. She led two contingents, each of Special Forces and Rashtriya Rifles. Mansi picked up the scent of terrorist’s footsteps and pursued that in dense fog. Within half an hour, she reached the place where some terrorists were hiding in the bushes. The terrorists instantly shattered the quietness of pitch dark with the sound and flare of gunfire. Mansi and her handler were fatally wounded in the battle. This not only foiled the terrorists’infiltration but also saved the lives of other soldiers.
When Mansi’s news reached us at Meerut, we were in the midst of getting a main gate erected to encompass the campus of DTF. I decided to name the new gate in honour of Mansi. After a month, the gate was completed with an imposing 20 feet tall arch on which ‘Mansi Dwar’ was written in big, bold letters, as aloft today. A plaque inscribing her citation was also affixed alongside. Later on, the Ministry of Defence awarded Mansi with a posthumous war honour ‘Mention in Despatches’ on subsequent Independence Day, and her name also appeared in Government’s Gazette. Mansi, thus, lived up to her kennel’s name.