The government has announced one Kirti Chakra and 20 Shaurya Chakras as part of the Independence Day gallantry awards for 2018. There are 131 awards in all for the armed forces and paramilitary forces.
The awards include three Bar to Sena Medal (Gallantry), 93 Sena Medals (Gallantry), 11 Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry), and three Vayu Sena Medals (Gallantry).
Posthumous Kirti Chakra Honour
Sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh has been named for the Kirti Chakra (Posthumous) as part of the Independence Day gallantry awards. He died during an encounter with Jaish-e-Mohammed militants in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir in November 2017.
Sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh was part of a search and cordon operation after information was received about the presence of three terrorists in Algar village. Because of his technical and tactical excellence, Singh was in the inner cordon of the Combat Action Team.
He cleared two houses along with Rifleman Aurangzeb, but came under fire from an adjoining cowshed where the terrorists were holed up. He retaliated, providing cover fire that helped Aurangzeb to move out.
Sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh pinned down the terrorists in the cowshed long enough for the Indian Army cordon to be readjusted.
The brave soldier sustained bullet injuries in his leg and chest, but he continued firing, killing one terrorist and injuring another, before succumbing to his injuries. The Army personnel subsequently killed another terrorist during the operation.
The 30-year-old had joined the Indian Army in 2004 and belonged to a village in the Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh.
The Kirti Chakra is the second highest gallantry award during peacetime (otherwise than in the face of the enemy).
Shaurya Chakra Awards
The 20 who have been honoured with the Shaurya Chakra in the Independence Day gallantry awards include Major Aditya Kumar of the Indian Army’s 10 Garhwal Rifles, and Rifleman Aurangzeb (posthumous) who was killed by militants in Jammu and Kashmir in June this year.
Rifleman Aurangzeb of 44 Rashtriya Rifles was active in counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir. He was part of the search and cordon team with Sepoy Vrahma Prakash Singh (honoured posthumously with the Kirti Chakra) in Algar village, Pulwama district, in November 2017.
When Singh was injured in firing by the three terrorists holed up in a cowshed, Aurangzeb helped move him to safety. He, along with Singh, prevented the terrorists from escaping and ensuring that they were killed.
Rifleman Aurangzeb was abducted by militants on 14 June this year, when he was going home to spend Eid with his family. A massive search was launched but he was later found dead, with multiple bullet wounds and signs of torture.
Major Aditya Kumar of 10 Garhwal Rifles was in the news after his unit opened fire at a stone-pelting mob in Shopian in January that left three persons dead. The Jammu and Kashmir Police lodged a case against the Army personnel involved, including Major Kumar.
The Supreme Court, however, restrained the police from taking any coercive action against them. The police later said that the officer had not been named as an accused.
The act of bravery for which he has been honoured with the Shaurya Chakra had played out in Budgam, in November 2017. Major Kumar, who had developed a highly-effective intelligence network, led a team when he came to know about the presence of four terrorists.
Along with his men, he surrounded the house where the terrorists were holed up and killed two of them.
The Shaurya Chakra is India’s third-highest military honour during peacetime (otherwise than in the face of the enemy).
Riflmeman Jaiprakash Oraon (4th Battalion, Assam Rifles) and Dhanawade Ravindra Baban (182 Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force) have been awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously.
Four other personnel of the CRPF have also been named for this honour. They are Head Constable AS Krisha, constables Dinesh Raja and Prafulla Kumar (all three from the 45 Battalion deployed in Bandipora, Jammu and Kashmir), and Kuldeep Singh Chahal, Deputy Commandant of the 182 Battalion posted in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir.
Captain P Rajkumar of the Indian Navy has been honoured with the Shaurya Chakra for his heroic role in search and rescue operations after Cyclone Ockhi struck the southern coast of India in end-November/early-December 2017.
Gallantry awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day as well as on Independence Day.
Sena Medal Awardees
Two Captains and a Naik of the Indian Army have been honoured with a bar to Sena Medal (Gallantry). The three, Captain Rakesh Nair, Captain Umesh Lamba, and Naik Nazir Ahmed Wani, have already received a Sena Medal in the past.
Ninety-three others have been named for the Sena Medal (Gallantry) as part of the Independence Day gallantry awards; eight of these are posthumous honours.
Nao Sena Medals
Nao Sena Medals have been awarded to Lieutenant Commanders Anil Raina, who was the Team Leader of the Naval Marine Commandos at Wular Lake as part of Op Rakshak, and Kunal Saini, a Marine Commando (MARCO) with the Naval Detachment in Jammu and Kashmir.
Six Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry) have been given to the all-woman crew of the INSV Tarini of the Indian Navy. They completed circumnavigation of the globe in May this year, the first Indian woman team to have done so.
The six are Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, who was the skipper of the sailing vessel, Pratibha Jamwal and P Swathi, both Lieutenant Commanders, and S Vijaya Devi, Payal Gupta, and Aishwarya Bodapati, all Lieutenants.
The other recipients are Deepak Saini, Sumit Raj and Vijay Kumar Verma.
Vayu Sena Medals
Seargeant Shashidhar P Prasad of the Indian Air Force (Garud) has been named for the Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) for his role during Op Rakshak in Jammu and Kashmir.
On 10 October 2017, the Garud team and the Indian Army units launched a joint operation against terrorists in a village in Bandipora district. Seargeant Prasad killed two terrorists as they tried to escape.
Squadron Leader Vernon Desmond Keane, who showed presence of mind to safely land the Jaguar aircraft he was flying after both the engines caught fire, has also been named for the Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).
Another recipient of the Independence Day gallantry awards from the Indian Air Force is Group Captain Abhishek Sharma. In July 2017, the officer, who was then a Wing Commander, has been recognised for his role in safely landing a Mig-29 training aircraft after a serious technical problem.