Just two days before young Sergeant Uday Singh of the US army fell to a hail of Iraqi bullets at Al Habbaniyah, another combat operation was being launched 3,000 kilometres away in India.
In the early hours of November 29, 2003, a small team of specialised troops, led by a daring young officer from the Special Forces, commenced operations through the thick forests of Rajouri, hunting for a group of hardcore Pakistani terrorists. It was an extremely hazardous mission and the going was slow and difficult. As daylight started fading into darkness, the silence of the jungle was suddenly shattered with the sound of gunfire. A violent close quarter battle ensued. The officer and his buddy were severely wounded, but with utter disregard to his own life, the gallant officer continued to fight and gunned down two of the terrorists. But, tragically, while trying to extricate his wounded comrade, he finally succumbed to his grave bullet injuries.
The name of this officer was Major Udai Singh, posthumously awarded the Shaurya Chakra for his act of exceptional bravery and leadership in combat.
Maj Udai, son of Col KKK Singh from the Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, was destined for big things. Leaving behind a lucrative opening in the hospitality sector, he followed in his father’s footsteps when he got commissioned (100th IMA Course) in 1997 into an elite Special Forces commando battalion.
In his short career of six years, Udai just couldn’t get enough of being a Special Forces officer. Leadership came naturally to him and he loved the excitement and action of being in constant combat in the mountains and jungles of J&K. In July 2002, Udai, while leading a mission in a thickly forested area, displayed exceptional bravery and leadership, eliminating several heavily-armed and well-trained terrorists. He was awarded the Sena Medal (Gallantry).
Udai was doing exactly what he had always dreamt of doing and enjoying it too. This was in spite of a great tragedy that befell him in June 2000, when his closest buddy, batchmate and battalion mate, Capt Subramanian, was killed while battling terrorists. The shock of losing his soulmate, instead of shattering his emotions, only spurred Udai to achieve greater heights.
And 17 years ago, this gallant officer too fell in battle, just hours before his namesake was getting ready in faraway Iraq to join him at Valhalla.
Two young Indian warriors, both named Udai after the Rising Sun, with identical family backgrounds, both combating enemies of the state, albeit under different flags, were dead within two days of each other. Both had no other desire or motivation but to don the uniforms of their fathers. And both died fighting for the honour and safety of their country.
“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who dies protecting it.”
In 2011, as the Western Army Commander, I visited Maj Udai’s alma mater, Army Public School, Dagshai. Today, the silver trophy, in memory of Udai, continues to remain as a silent reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by the illustrious alumnus.