Major Mukund Varadarajan AC was an officer in the Rajput Regiment of the Indian Army. In 2014, he was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award, for killing three terrorists in an encounter at the Shupiyan district of Jammu and Kashmir.
On April 12, 2014, Major Mukund Varadarajan turned 31. Early in the morning, his father Varadarajan sent him birthday greetings on WhatsApp, to which there was an immediate thank you response where he said he’d call in the evening. Which he did. And then, as always, he spoke a little to his father and a lot to his mother.
But one of the messages he sent his father was a secret.
“He told me he was going to take leave for ten days and come home in the first week of May. He wanted me to keep it as a secret from his wife Indu. He wanted to surprise her.”
A few days later, on April 25, he came home a few days early… wrapped in a tricolor.
Major Mukund Varadarajan was born on 12 April 1983 to R.Varadarajan and Geetha and had two sisters Swetha and Nithya. Major Mukund married his long time friend Indhu Rebecca Varghese on 28 August 2009 and had a daughter Ashreya born on 17 March 2011. He received his Bachelor of Commerce From Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya at Enathur and a diploma in journalism from the Madras Christian College, Tambaram. His grandfather and two of his uncles also served in the army and that motivated Maj Mukund to join the army.
Varadarajan, Major Mukund’s father, worked in a public sector bank, but many of his cousins were in the Indian Air Force. He too wanted to join the IAF like his cousins, but was dissuaded from doing so by his parents because he was their only son. “When his son expressed the same desire he had always harboured, he couldn’t say no to him. He supported him wholeheartedly. “Even after having lost my only son, I don’t think my decision to support him was wrong,” says Varadarajan. His mother Geetha was not at all happy with Mukund’s decision. She told him he was her only son and should be with her.
As Mukund was so passionate about joining the army, Varadarajan thought of admitting him to a Sainik School. But he had to abandon the idea when he was transferred to Alappuzha from Thiruvananthapuram.
After school, Mukund got a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s in mass communication and journalism. His father thought he had forgotten about the army. But Mukund surprised his parents by taking a Short Service Commission after spending a month working in a call centre. He passed out of the Officers Training Academy with high honours in 2004.
Once he joined the army, he would call home every week and talk to his mother for hours. “I wanted to know whether army life was like what we see in films. I wanted him to tell me about his life in the army. But he would say, ‘You don’t need to know all of that. I know you want to tell your neighbours everything. There’s no way I am going to let you do that.” He would also say, ‘I miss all of you. It is only now that I understand the value of family’. Whenever he spoke about missing his family, I would immediately tell him that this was why I didn’t want him to go out there. But he never liked me saying that. The army was his life.”
Whenever his mother complained about not being able to see him regularly, he would say, ‘At least I come home a couple of times a year. But most soldiers cannot go home even once a year. Think of those mothers. You are lucky.’
Shopian Operation: 25 Apr 2014
During 2014, Major Mukund’s unit was deployed in Shopian district of J & K and was engaged in counterinsurgency operations on a regular basis. On 25 Apr 2014, information was received from the intelligence sources about the presence of some hard core terrorists in a Kaajipathri village in Shopian district. It was decided to launch an operation to flush out the terrorists under the leadership of Major Mukund Varadarajan. As planned Maj Mukund swung into action along with his troops and cordoned off the suspected area. The intelligence information also suggested that the same terrorists were responsible for killing election officials 24 hours earlier.
The heavily armed terrorists opened fire on the assault team on being challenged. Major Mukund in a swift action shot and killed one terrorist, simultaneouly directing the fire of his troops. During the heavy exchange of fire, Maj Mukund got seriously injured, but with total disregard to his injuries, he crawled forward and shot one more terrorist down. He showed remarkable courage and leadership despite bleeding profusely and continued to direct his troops. However, Major Mukund succumbed to his injuries and was martyred. Major Mukund was given the nation’s highest peace time gallantry award “Ashok Chakra” for displaying valor beyond the call of duty and supreme sacrifice. Major Mukund achieved the distinction of being the fourth recipient of the “Ashok Chakra” from the state of Tamil Nadu.
Major Mukund Vardarajan is survived by his father R.Varadarajan, mother Geetha, wife Indhu Rebecca Varghese, daughter Ashreya, and two sisters Swetha and Nithya.
“He spent two years in Lebanon on a United Nations mission and then another six months in Kashmir. The poor lad could spend just six months with his daughter,” his mother says.
The officer who accompanied Major Mukund Varadarajan’s body home told his parents, ‘Mukund’s last words were, “Please take care of my parents, wife, and child” — words that will always echo in his parents’ ears.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth