India had always been a land of brave warriors. We take pride in the fact that warriors like Rajputs, Marathas, Cholas, Chalukyas were born in this soil . The Kshatra runs in our blood. This is time and again proven through the stories of sacrifice which our ‘Jawans’ make, safeguarding their countrymen.
Col.Dilbag Dabas (Retd) narrates one such story of a Young, brave soldier, Lieutenant Dheerendra Singh.
Lieutenant Dheerendra Singh Atri was a third generation soldier in uniform, his maternal grandfather, his “Nana ji” was a World War 1 veteran, and his father Brigadier Devendra Singh Atri was commissioned in 22 Rajput Infantry Battalion.
After serving for a decade with 22 Rajput, Brigadier Devendra Atri, Vishista Sevaeda awardee, joined 25 Rajput on its raising and commanded it for two years.
The “Fauj” was in the DNA of Dheerendra Singh, the Chhokar Rajput from Hurithal village in present day Mewat district.
Dheerendra, the only son of his parents, was born on September 12, 1978, at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh where his father was then posted.
He graduated in Hotel Management from Pusa Institute, New Delhi, and worked as an Airport Manager at the Santa Cruz Airport in Bombay, but only for six months because for him join the army was not just another profession but an inner calling.
Thereafter, Dheerendra joined the Indian Military Academy in December 2000. Before passing out of the IMA on December 10, 2002, he had opted for Rajput Regiment as parental claim but could not get it due to a lack of vacancies, and was instead allotted Army Service Corps.
Immediately after commissioning, Dheerendra was posted to 3 Rajput Battalion on cross attachment for two years. As a subaltern, he had taken part in many anti-militancy operations and always led his men from the front; to his jawans, he always had one single order — “follow me”.
During the attachment period, he applied for permanent secondment to Rajput Regiment, and also posting to 25 Rajput, the battalion his father had commanded. Though his application was being processed favourably, Dheerendra was not to serve with the Rajputs for long; he was destined to prove that whichever arm or service he served with, being from the lineage of Maharana Pratap, he possessed the unmatched martial traits in abundance.
Kupwara is the only district in Jammu and Kashmir that borders the POK on two fronts — north and west. And that makes it all the more prone to infiltration by militants from the POK. 3rd Rajput Battalion was inducted into Jammu and Kashmir in 2002 when the entire Kashmir valley was engulfed in militancy with Kupwara as the hotbed.
Three among the six Ashok Chakra awardees from Haryana — Subedar Sajjan Singh from 13 Kumaon, Major Mohit Sharma from 1 Para (Special Forces), and Havildar Rajesh Kumar from 11 Rajputana Rifles — had battled militants in Kupwara district.
As part of ‘Operation Rakshak’, the battalion was deployed in Kupwara district to flush out, apprehend or eliminate militants. The battalion had a series of good successes, although at a cost. In one cordon and search operation, 3 Rajput paid rather a heavy price when its third generation young subaltern Lieutenant Dheerendra Atri, within just 10 months of active service, laid down his life battling militants.
For his conspicuous act of gallantry and supreme sacrifice, Lieutenant Dheerendra was awarded a well-deserved Kirti Chakra not just for himself but also for 3 Rajput and for Army Service Corps he was commissioned in just 10 months ago. The battle account of his conspicuous act of bravery is recorded in the War Diary of 3 Rajput.
Kalpana Atri, mother of Lieut Dheerendra Atri, says, “Every mother’s son has a date with fate. Our Rinku, too, had his. But I am proud of my son for he met his date as a true Rajput and in the best traditions of the Indian Army”. Some mothers are like that.
Brig Devendra Atri, and his son Lieut Dheerendra had together served for 10 months in glorious Rajput Infantry Regiment with dignity and honour. What a feat!
The battle account of his bravery in War Diary of 3 Rajput reads
Lieutenant Dheerendra Singh Atri laid an ambush on an infiltration route in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. On October 18, 2003, at 2.30 am, the ambush party opened fire on a suspected movement of terrorists. At first light, Lieut Atri led the search through dense forest. In the process, his party was fired upon by terrorists hiding in a nullah. Lieut Atri reacted with such ferocity that not only he was able to kill two terrorists but also disintegrate their complete group. In the ensuing firefight, a splinter group of terrorists reached the shoulder of the nullah and from where they brought down effective fire, seriously injuring Lieut Atri on the shoulder. At this juncture, unmindful of his own injury and determined to prevent terrorists from causing further harm to his party, Lieut Atri charged and fatally injured one more terrorist, whose death was confirmed later. However, during the charge, Lieut Atri was hit on the chest by the terrorist’s burst fire and the brave Rajput succumbed to the fatal injury. Inspired by his gallant action, the troops killed five more terrorists, thus, eliminating the entire group of terrorists. In this operation, a large number of arms, ammunition and currency notes were recovered.
Brigadier Devendra Atri walked down to receive Kirti chakra awarded to his son posthumously. And then President APJ Abdul Kalam’s compassionate handshake can make anyone teary eyed.
The Turner Road in Clement Town area of Dehradun is now renamed after Lieutenant Dheerendra Singh Atri, who won the prestigious Kirti Chakra posthumously. The road was renamed by chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat soon after his Independence Day speech of 2019 at Parade Ground.
The decision to rename the road was taken by Clement Town Residents’ Welfare Society which said that “no one knows who Turner was and it is high time that people get to know a brave soldier from our locality who gave his life for the country.”
We may fail in knowing American history or history of Britain but being an Indian it is our duty never to forget the sacrifices which our young countrymen make in the line if duty to safeguard us.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth