Updated May 20th, 2024 at 18:07 IST

Fresh out of Training, How 2nd Lt Rishi Ashok Malhotra Bravely Led His Men in 1994 Doda Operation

Commissioned into the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment, 2nd Lt Rishi Ashok Malhotra confronted insurgency in Kashmir's volatile Doda district.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
In May 1994, 2nd Lt Rishi led Operation Lai Dramman, displaying exceptional leadership and tactical acumen. | Image:Republic
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Doda: Born on December 13, 1971, in Bharatpur district, Rajasthan Rishi Ashok Malhotra was determined to join the Indian Army from a young age. Little did he know, he would epitomize the ethos of selfless service and sacrifice before laying down his life in the service of the nation. Educated at Loyola High School, Pune, and later at Upper Dublin High School, Philadelphia, USA, he exemplified academic excellence and leadership from an early age.

2nd Lt Rishi Ashok Malhotra with his parents at his Passing Out Parade.

Despite receiving the 2nd half of his education in the US, Rishi answered the nation's call and joined the Indian Army in July 1992 through the esteemed Combined Defence Services Examination. Commissioned into the revered 8th Battalion of the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment in December 1993 as a 2nd Lieutenant, he embarked on a journey of valour and honour. His first assignment led him to the volatile Kashmir valley, where he would soon confront the harsh realities of insurgency.  

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Situation of Doda in 1994: Sanctuary for Militants  

Nestled amidst the majestic mountains of Jammu & Kashmir, the Doda district emerged as a crucible of conflict, testing the mettle of both soldiers and statesmen. Even with its rugged terrain Doda’s strategic significance made it a battleground for Pakistan-sponsored terrorists seeking to disrupt the peace and stability of the Kashmir Valley.

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Doda district in Jammu & Kashmir boasts an expansive mountainous terrain, characterized by thick forests, deep valleys, gorges, and ravines. With just 450 km of roads spread across its vast 11,695-sq km expanse, accessibility is severely restricted. The majority of its 665 villages are only reachable by foot, necessitating arduous treks lasting four to eight hours.

The rugged terrain provides an ideal setting for sophisticated guerrilla warfare tactics. Militants exploit the natural features to their advantage, utilizing elevated positions to surveil government forces and establish hidden training camps. Terrorists aimed to gain control of Doda to disrupt civil and military supply lines to the Kashmir Valley, thereby exerting pressure on security forces and undermining government authority.  

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Operation Lai Dramman: A Display of Valor  

On May 18, 1994, 2nd Lt Rishi led his unit into the heart of darkness, launching a daring search and destroy operation in the remote village of Lai Dramman. Navigating through perilous terrain and hostile environments, he displayed exceptional leadership and tactical acumen. Despite facing relentless enemy fire, he remained undeterred, leading his men with courage and conviction.

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In the heat of battle, tragedy struck as 2nd Lt Rishi encountered the enemy head-on, braving a hail of gunfire with unyielding resolve. Despite sustaining grievous injuries, he pressed forward, confronting the enemy with unmatched valour and determination. In a final act of defiance, he single-handedly eliminated two militants before succumbing to his wounds, immortalizing his name in the annals of Indian military history.

2nd Lt Rishi Ashok Malhotra with his parents.

For his extraordinary courage and selfless sacrifice, 2nd Lt Rishi Ashok Malhotra was posthumously awarded the esteemed "Kirti Chakra," India's second-highest peacetime gallantry award. His legacy serves as a beacon of inspiration for future generations, reminding us of the timeless values of duty, honour, and sacrifice. As the nation pays tribute to this brave son of India, his memory will forever remain etched in the hearts of a grateful nation. 

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Published May 20th, 2024 at 18:07 IST