Man of His Word
Mission: His and a colleague were part of an ambushed patrol. They were killed trying desperately to reach the dead.
As a child, he peeped through the neighbours’ windows to catch a glimpse of the Republic Day parade on television. The soldiers in sprightly alive green fascinated him. Those images were so powerful and enduring that even before his matriculation examination, Amardeep Singh had resolved to wear the uniform.
The same resolve was on abundant display atop the icy ridges of Kargil on May 8. Hand-picked to be a part of the first patrol sent in to detect and repulse the intrusions because of his sharp-shooting skills, Amardeep and another colleague — also shortlisted for an award — Havaldar Jai Parkash, faced enemy bullets at a height of 14,000 ft for four hours. When his JCO asked an injured Amardeep to evacuate his position, he refused to leave. He held fort alongside Jai Parkash while the rest of the patrol retreated. With six men lost and all communication with base cut off, their first job was to evacuate the dead. Crawling on their stomach to avoid relentless enemy fire, the two provided covering fire to each other to reach their dead colleagues. But with multiple gunshot wounds in the chest and abdomen, the two met the same fate as the colleagues they were trying to evacuate.
Amardeep loved to arrive home unannounced. The surprise on the faces of his family members filled him with glee. But on May 13 there were no surprises. “This time he gave us a shock,” says Prem Singh, his grieving father. Amardeep returned home in a coffin, his body wrapped in the tricolour. Prem Singh is still trying to come to terms with the death of his son.
In the not-so-prosperous Bandh village, in the interiors of Haryana’s Panipat district, Amardeep has overnight become a role model for youngsters, with village boys wanting to become heroes like him. Bandh has a tradition of sending men to the armed forces, with two dozen men in a population of 4,000 in the military.
A teetotaller and a man of his word, Amardeep would regularly send home his savings. Sitting disconsolate in the dusty courtyard of his ramshackle two-room house, Prem Singh says, “He had promised to get the house plastered.” That’s one promise Amardeep won’t be able to keep.