Pune, 13th June 2021: A wreath-laying ceremony was held today at the National War Memorial to pay homage to the memory of the seven departed comrades of the ‘Born to Battle’ course of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of fire in the 1971 War.
Over the years, the Course has also lost several brothers to other causes, some as recently as during the current pandemic. To honour their memory, Lieutenant General Deepak Raj (Retd) laid a wreath on behalf of the entire Course and the families.
50 years ago, on the 13th Jun 1971, 349 gentlemen cadets, 307 from the 47th Regular and 42 from 31st Technical Course of the 47th Regular and 31st Technical Course passed out of the portals of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, to be commissioned as Second Lieutenants in various branches of the Indian Army.
That was a momentous period in the history of India. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had declared the independence of the Eastern wing of Pakistan. The Pakistani army had declared war on its citizens and let loose a reign of terror, loot, rape, and murder. Refugees poured into India by the millions, and it was clear that, willy-nilly, India was going to be drawn into the conflict. The question was no longer if, but when.
Within six months of commissioning, before most could undergo even the basic Young Officers Course, they were inducted into battle to participate in the 1971 war against Pakistan. The Course was baptized by fire in the truest sense of the term and for this reason, the 47th Regular and 31st Technical Course has been dubbed as the “Born to Battle” Course. Officers of the course lived up to the expectations of their alma mater and made the country proud. Five officers were martyred during the operations.
The ‘Born to Battle’ course has the unique distinction of being the only course to have been awarded the highest awards for gallantry both in war and peace, the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and the Ashok Chakra (AC) to 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal and Col NJC Nair respectively.
2/Lt Arun Khetarpal, PVC: On commissioning, 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal joined his Regiment, 17 Poona Horse in the midst of the Indo-Pak War. On 16 Dec 1971, in the process of establishing a bridgehead, he came across a heavy anti-tank fire. However, he not only destroyed the interfering Pakistani position but in the tank battle that followed, he personally destroyed four enemy tanks. He embraced death by denying the enemy their intended breakthrough. For this act of exceptional bravery going well beyond the call of duty, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest war-time gallantry award, the PVC.
Col NJC Nair AC, KC: Col NJC Nair, KC was commanding the 16 Maratha LI which had been deployed for mobile counter-insurgency operations in Northern and Central Nagaland. On 20 Dec 1993, while leading the advance party on the Mokokchung-Mariani Road, he and his men were ambushed by insurgents. A JCO and 13 Jawans were killed in the firing and Nair was seriously injured. However, caring little for his personal safety, he crawled across the road and killed an insurgent. Shaken by such raw courage, the insurgents’ broke ranks and fled. Nair later succumbed to his injuries. For this act of exceptional bravery going well beyond the call of duty, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest peace-time gallantry award, the Ashok Chakra.
In addition, officers have also been awarded 3 Shaurya Chakras and 4 Sena Medals for gallantry apart from a host of other decorations. Throughout service, the Course performed consistently well with 77 officers attaining flag rank, with 10 in the three-star category.
Apart from distinguishing themselves on the battlefield and in the senior ranks, officers of Born to Battle Course have also excelled in the field of sports, mountaineering, sailing, entrepreneurship, and aviation. Of special mention are Capts PS Bedi and NS Grewal in sailing, Capt Jai Bahuguna who lost his life while attempting to climb Mount Everest, Capt Gopinath and Col Samuel who pioneered affordable helicopter and aviation services in India.