Service No : 10575 F(P)
Date of Birth : October 6, 1945
Place of birth : Nilambur(Kerala)
Last Rank : Flying Officer
Unit : 20 Sqn
Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force
Operation : Op Cactus Lily
Martyrdom : December 4, 1971
Flying Officer Kotteiezath Puthiyavettil Muralidharan hailed from Nilambur Kovilakom, a royal family in Malappuram district of Kerala and was born on 06 Oct 1945. Son of Shri Padmanabhan Thirumalpad and Smt Malathy Thirumalpad, Fg Offr Muralidharan did his initial schooling in the Nilambur Town Upper Primary School and Govt Manavedan High School, followed by higher studies at Devagri College Kozhikode and Yuvaraja College Mysore.
He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force on 29 Oct 1966 at the age of 21 years. He joined the flying stream of the IAF and got trained as a fighter pilot as part of 96th Pilots' course. After completing his multi-stage flying training, he served with various flying squadrons located at different Air Force bases. By 1971, Fg Offr Muralidharan had put in around 05 years of service and evolved into a professionally competent fighter pilot having expertise in various air operations.
Offensive Air Operation (Indo-Pak War) : 04 Dec 1971
During 1971, Fg Offr KP Muralidharan was serving with 20 Sqn, known as “Lightenings” and was based at Air Force Station Pathankot. 20 Squadron was raised on 01 June 1956 at Halwara with Squadron Leader Krishna Mohan Ram as its first commanding officer. Immediately after the 1965 War, 20 Sqn. moved to Hindon, its new airbase outside Delhi. The squadron was re-equipped with the F Mk.56A Hunter aircraft and moved to Pathankot airbase in July 1971. Initially the primary role of 20 Sqn was of air defence but later, all Hunter squadrons were prepared for support & offensive operations. As the war broke out in December 1971, No.20 Sqn focused on counter air and interdiction missions, with close air support coming in later part of the war. 20 Sqn undertook numerous offensive air operations with Wing Commander Avinash Wasudeo Lele as its commanding officer. On 04 Dec 1971 Fg Offr KP Muralidharan was tasked for one such operation.
On 4 December 1971, Fg Offr KP Muralidharan in his Hunter ( A-462) took off as planned for the mission from Pathankot. He was No.2 in a two-aircraft strike mission to attack Peshawar airfield with Sqn Ldr KN Bajpai as the leader of the mission. It was a second strike mission of the day over Peshawar airfield. While conducting the raid they ran into Pakistan air opposition and were intercepted by PAF’s F-86 Sabres. Fg Offr Muralidharan instead of evading the attacking Sabres got involved in a dog-fight and in the ensuing fight he was last seen flying north of Peshwar in combat with a PAF Sabre. Eventually he was shot down by enemy sabre and the aircraft crashed inside the enemy territory. This was later substantiated in the 1971 War Experiences narrated by a retired PAF pilot Wing Commander Salim Mirza Baig, who has claimed to be the opponent then. Though Fg Offr Muralidharan was officially declared Killed (presumed) in Action (KIA) on 04 Dec 1971, he is presumed to have been taken over as a POW (Prisoner of War). However, successive regimes in Pakistan have denied the existence of Indian POWs in its jails. Presently, Fg Offr KP Muralidharan's name features on the official list of the ’54 Personnel Missing in Action’, tabled in the Lok Sabha in 1979 by the then Minister of State of External Affairs Shri Samarendra Kundu.
Shri K Rajendran Nair, a relative of Fg Offr KP Muralidharan reportedly had received a letter from the IAF headquarters on February 14, 2011. As per the letter the Air Force headquarters had taken a decision to recommend Maha Vir Chakra for Fg Offr KP Muralidharan on January 26, 2010. But unfortunately the Central Honours and Awards Committee of the government of India turned down the recommendation citing a two-year clause which said that the act of conferring the gallantry award had to be made within two years from the ‘date of act.’
Fg Offr KP Muralidharan is survived by his sister Smt Lalitha Krishnakumar settled in Mysore in Karnataka.
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Rajagopal C P2021at5:27 pm
One of the Great Sons of India and a Courageous Soldier he must be duly honoured by the nation, though it is late..
Hari Kumar A M2022at7:43 pm
He was a braveheart from a royal family (Nilambur Kovilakam) that too from my hometown. That’s why I heard a lot about him since my childhood. I am really sad that I didn’t get a chance to meet him in person as his house is a kilometer away from mine. More disturbing are the rumors of his disappearance. According to official records, he was KIA (Killed in Action). However, like many others, I believe he is a Prisoner of war in a Pakistani prison.
It is very sad that he was not respected enough by the air force, the country and even his own countrymen. In 2010, the Air Force recommended giving him the Maha Vir Chakra. But the Honors and Awards Committee rejected the recommendation citing the two-year requirement. It is not clear how the two-year deadline clause imposed by the government in 2010 prevents the government from honoring a brave young air force soldier who made the supreme sacrifice in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Even if any award committee forgets his bravery and sacrifice, many veterans like me have mentally awarded him the Param Vir Chakra for his most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy.
Sub Maj (Retd) Hari Kumar A M