An Indian Air Force commando whose actions led to the killing of six dreaded terrorists in Kashmir last November will be posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra at the Republic Day Parade on Friday.
The 31-year-old Garud commando, Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala, will be the third recipient of the country’s highest peacetime gallantry award in the IAF’s history after Flight Lieutenant Suhas Biswas (1953) and Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma (1984, then squadron leader.)
Nirala’s Ashok Chakra is among the 390 gallantry awards and other decorations approved by President Ram Nath Kovind on the eve of the 69th Republic Day celebrations. The awards include a Kirti Chakra and 14 Shaurya Chakras, the second and third highest peacetime gallantry awards.
Nirala was part of an elite Garud squad that launched a counter-terror operation with a Rashtriya Rifles battalion in a Bandipora village on November 18, 2017. Detailing the mission, his citation said that the Garud detachment closed in on the target house where the terrorists were hiding and laid a close quarter ambush.
The corporal took a position close to the approach of the house to deny the terrorists any chance of escaping. “Laying this ambush itself at such close quarters demanded a very high degree of courage and professional acumen,” the citation said.
As the Garuds waited to engage the terrorists, they stormed out of the house raining bullets and grenades on the commandos. In the firefight that ensued, Nirala gunned down two heavily-armed terrorists and injured another two.
Nirala was hit by a barrage of bullets during the firefight but despite being critically injured he continued to engage the remaining terrorists.
“Subsequently, he succumbed to fatal gunshot wounds received in the fierce encounter, which resulted in the killing of all six dreaded terrorists,” the citation added.
Nirala’s wife Sushma Nand and mother Malti Devi are expected to receive his award at the parade, an IAF officer said.
Major Vijayant Bist, who is from Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, has been awarded the Kirti Chakra for outstanding gallantry.
The Shaurya Chakra winners include Major Akhil Raj, Captains Rohit Shukla, Abhinav Shukla and Pradeep Shoury Arya, Havildar Mubarik Ali, Havildar Rabindra Thapa, Naik Narender Singh, Lance Naik Badher Hussain, Paratrooper Manchu, Corporal Nilesh Kumar Nayan (Posthumous), Sergeant Khairnar Milind Kishor (Posthumous) and Corporal Devendra Mehta.