1971 Indo-Pakistani War: Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla, the man who went down along with 176 Indian sailors and 18 officers

India has witnessed several sacrifices since centuries but the act of valour exhibited by the navy captain Mahendra Nath Mulla is really incredible.

It was during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War where Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla was handed over the duty of commanding a task force of two ships which formed part of the Western Fleet.

His duty was to trace and destroy the enemy submarines in the North Arabian Sea. But the on 9th December 1971, INS Khukri in which he was present was hit by the torpedo that was fired by Pakistan’s PNS Hango.

The immediate order passed by captain Mulla was to abandon the ship. At this fatal time, he tried to save as many lives as possible. He even handed over his life saving equipment to others. And then, he went to the bridge of the ship to rescue few more of his men.

INS Khukri

He had an opportunity to save himself but he didn’t do that. And finally he went down with his ship. In this fatal attack, 67 men survived but 176 sailors and 18 officers had lost their lives for the sake of Indians.

Many say that he was cool and composed even during this pathetic situation. Recognising his valour, he was awarded posthumously with the Maha Vir Chakra.

What went wrong? Why was the Indian ship attacked?

The Pakistani ship was far more advanced than INS Khukri. Yes, Khukri’s sonar could detect only up to 3,000 yards but Pakistan’s Hangor could even fire from a distance of 6 kilometres. That’s why the presence of Pakistan’s PNS Hango couldn’t be detected.

Captain Mulla with his wife
Bust of Capt. Mahendra Nath Mulla, Capt. M. N. Mulla Auditorium

Remembering the brave heart, Major General (retd) Ian Cardozo, an infantry commander had once said:

  • He was aware, however, that the majority of his officers and men were trapped below deck. Being the man that he was, he knew that it was not right for him to save himself while his sailors went to a watery grave. In those few moments he helped as many as he could, and then went down with his ship. In this brave and heroic action, Captain Mulla teaches us not only how to live, but how to die.
  • Captain Mulla’s story brings into focus the outstanding character qualities of a man that sets him part from other mortals. The principles and values which he stood and lived for need to be taken on board by all of us so that we can become better citizens of this great country. The manner in which he died upholds the highest the traditions of the armed forces and exemplifies the upper limits of cold courage. He believed that the nation comes first, that the men he commands come next, and his safety comes last. This is the motto which every army officer is reared on. It was a naval officer who made this come true and made it an example for all of us to follow.

Source: The Better India

Hansika Raj