A little over a decade ago, a hero sacrificed his life to safeguard his country. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was born on 15 March 1997, was martyred on 28 November 2008 during Operation Black Tornado following the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks.
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was honoured with the Ashoka Chakra, posthumously, for his bravery and courage on 26 January, 2009 (Republic Day).
On his birth anniversary, here are some details about his life and career.
26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack
On the night of 26 November 2008, 10 terrorists from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) had attacked iconic buildings in South Mumbai, including the 100-year-old Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Major Unnikrishnan was the team commander of the 51 Special Action Group (51 SAG) of the National Security Guards (NSG).
In order to rescue the hostages, he entered the Taj hotel with a group of 10 commandos and reached the sixth floor through the staircase.
The team suspected the perpetrators to be on the third floor with few women as their hostages.
As the team broke open the door, it faced a barrage of fire from the terrorists. The Major not only engaged the terrorists in a firefight but also arranged for the injured Commando Sunil Yadav’s evacuation.
Along with his team, Major Unnikrishnan rescued 14 hostages.
He then went ahead, alone, to take on the terrorists. But he was hit by an AK-47 burst from a terrorist who was probably hiding behind a pillar. The injuries proved fatal.
However, his team eliminated the terrorists to complete the assigned mission successfully.
His last words, according to NSG officials, were, “Do not come up, I will handle them”.
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was born in Kozhikode, Kerala, in a Nair family who had later moved to Bangalore.
He was the only son of retired ISRO officer K. Unnikrishnan and Dhanalakshmi Unnikrishnan.
After finishing his schooling from the Frank Anthony Public School in Bangalore, Sandeep did his graduation in Science in 1995.
Joining The National Defence Academy
Sandeep Unnikrishnan joined the National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune, Maharashtra in 1995.
He was a part of the Oscar Squadron and a graduate of the 94th Course of NDA.
He was commissioned as a Lieutenant to the 7th Battalion of the Bihar Regiment (Infantry) on 12 July 1999.
He served the army in different locations in Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan during counter insurgencies for two terms.
He then joined the National Security Guards (NSG) and later was assigned to the Special Action Group (SAG) of NSG in January 2007.
Climbing Up The Ranks
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan participated in various operations of the NSG.
He topped the ‘Ghatak course’ at the Commando Wing (Infantry School), Belgaum, probably the most difficult course of the Army.
Consequently, he earned an “Instructor Grading” and commendation.
On the evening of 31 Dec 1999, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan led a team of six soldiers and managed to establish a post 200 meters from the opposing side against heavy opposition and fire.
He opted for the NSG commando service which he joined on deputation in 2006.