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Updated December 16th, 2023 at 19:08 IST

Col VK Sahi and Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon: Valiant servicemen who secured J&K in 1971

Col VK Sahi and Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon were awarded the Vir Chakra and Param Vir Chakra respectively for their courage in the 1971 War.

1971 War Heroes VK Sahi and Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon
1971 War Heroes VK Sahi and Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon | Image:VK Sahi Twitter and IAF
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Colonel Virender Kumar Sahi and Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon are considered heroes who secured Jammu and Kashmir during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War.

Pakistan was behind the Azad Kashmir Plebiscite Front, started in 1965, which in 1977 was renamed the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. It was started by Pakistan in response to India's operations in East Pakistan against Pakistan's oppression on the people of the region.

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Let’s take a look at the significant contribution of Colonel VK Sahi and Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, Param Vir Chakra

Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon earned the distinguished Param Vir Chakra, being the sole Air Force officer to receive this honour. Stationed at Srinagar, he piloted a Gnat aircraft unit while defending the Valley against Pakistan’s assaults during the India-Pakistan hostilities in 1971. 

Throughout the conflict, Sekhon and his team valiantly repelled numerous waves of intruding Pakistan planes, upholding the Gnat aircraft's esteemed reputation of holding the frontiers.

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On December 14, 1971, when the Srinagar airfield faced an onslaught of bombing and strafing by six enemy Sabre aircraft, Sekhon promptly took off and engaged a pair of attackers.

During the ensuing skirmish, he successfully hit one aircraft and set another ablaze. Despite the arrival of additional Sabre aircraft to outnumber Sekhon's Gnat four to one, he bravely confronted the enemy alone. Though he fought valiantly, the overwhelming numerical advantage eventually led to his aircraft's crash and his tragic demise, as stated in his citation.

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Colonel Virender Kumar Sahi, Vir Chakra

Major Virender Kumar Sahi was the young officer who wrote to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw for a war posting. He was sent to the Western Command as Company Commander in the 8 Jammu and Kashmir Militia, which is now called the 8 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, in Laleali of the Chhamb sector in Akhnoor sub-division.

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While speaking to Republic, Col Sahi recalled how his gun got jammed while fighting Pakistani soldiers in the 1971 War. As a result, he got into a hand-to-hand combat with them and finally succeeded in neutralising them. “I still remember how Pakistan started this, how they aggressively attacked our posts with the intention of capturing them, so that we would retreat from the Bangladesh front.”

Col Sahi said that he missed being a part of the commemoration of the 53rd anniversary of 1971. “I am undergoing surgery, but (I am) as fit and fine as I can be to fight the enemy,” he signed off.

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Published December 16th, 2023 at 19:08 IST

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