Service No: SS-33343
Date of Birth: Nov 12, 1966
Place of Birth: Chandigarh
Last Rank : Second Lieutenant
Last Unit : 7 Assam
Arm/Regt : The Assam Regiment
Operation: Op Pawan
Award: Maha Vir Chakra
Date of Martyrdom : Jul 19, 1988
2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu was born on 12 November 1966, in a military family in Chandigarh. He was the only son of Shri Devinder Singh Sandhu and Mrs. Jaikanta Sandhu. His father, Shri Devinder Singh Sandhu had served in the Indian Air Force and his grandfather too had served in the Indian National Army during the World War II. 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu completed his Schooling in St John’s High School, Chandigarh and graduated from DAV College, Punjab University.
On 05 March 1988, 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu joined 7th Battalion of Assam Regiment which was deployed in the Peace Keeping Operations in Sri Lanka. In June 1988, he was transferred to C Company under the command of Major Pradip Mitra of 19 Madras.
Op Pawan: 19 July 1988
On 19 July 1988, 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu was leading a small convoy of two vehicles, an open RCL (Recoilless Gun) jeep and a 1-ton lorry to collect rations from 19 Madras post which was about 8 km away. As the convoy was passing an abandoned building in the jungle, the jeep came under heavy automatic and 40 mm Rocket Launcher fire from the right side of the road. Lance Naik Nandeshwar Das and Sepoy Lalbuanga were seated in the rear of the jeep. They were killed instantaneously by the automatic fire while the 40 mm Rocket hit the front of the jeep. The driver, Naik Rajkumar was seriously wounded with the lower half of his jaw blown off and he was thrown out of the jeep.
2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu seated in co-driver’s seat received the direct hit of the rocket that mutilated both his legs and he was totally crippled. While bleeding profusely, 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu managed to roll out of the jeep with his 9 mm carbine and crawled to a fire position nearby. Presuming that everyone in the jeep had been killed, one of the militants came out of the hiding and approached the jeep to pick up weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu’s legs were shattered and his body was riddled with bullets, he lifted his carbine with blood-soaked hands and shot the militant dead. The militant was later identified as the personal Henchman of a sector commander. The militants continued firing at 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu, who determinedly held on to his position and prevented movement of the militants to recover the body of dead militant or take away weapons.
Meanwhile, on hearing the sound of firing, collection party traveling in 1 ton jumped out and crawled forward to engage the militants. Naik Bhagirath came forward towards the jeep and saw 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu firing at the militants despite being mortally wounded and bleeding profusely. 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu signaled him in a choked voice to outflank the militants and block their escape. This was quickly done. The militants, on seeing the flanking movement, fled away into the jungle leaving behind dead bodies of killed militants, their weapons and ammunition. The 1-ton group gave chase to fleeing militants but lost contact.
Meanwhile, Sepoy Kamkholum moved his vehicle forward towards the jeep and came to lift 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu, Naik Rajkumar and the other fallen comrades of protection party. Very weakened by grievous wounds and loss of blood and barely audible, 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu ordered Naik Rajkumar and protection party to be evacuated first; the weapons were collected and a group was left behind to keep the area under surveillance. 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu displayed great courage, determination, professionalism and selflessness in the encounter. However, owing to heavy blood loss he went into coma and breathed his last while being evacuated by a chopper. 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu was martyred and was posthumously awarded ‘Maha Vir Chakra” on 26th March 1990 at Rashrapati Bhavan.
2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu is survived by his parents Shri Devinder Singh Sandhu and Smt Jaikanta Sandhu.
The Citation of Maha Vir Chakra awarded to 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu reads:-
On 19th July 1988, Second Lieutenant Rajeev Sandhu was leading a convoy of two vehicles from Madurang Keni Kulam to Mangani in Sri Lanka for collection of dry rations. On the way, his jeep was suddenly fired upon by militants with rockets, AK-47 and 7.62 rifles. He was seriously wounded and direct hit of a rocket completely mutilated both his legs. Totally crippled and bleeding profusely, he tumbled out of the jeep with his 9 mm carbine and crawled to a fire position. Presuming that everyone in the vehicle had been killed, one of the militants came out of hiding and approached the jeep to pick up weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that his legs were totally smashed and his body was perforated with bullets, he lifted his carbine with blood soaked hands, sprayed the militant with bullets and killed him. The militant was later found to be Kumaran of the group led by Batticaloa Sector militant leader Karuna.
Second Lieutenant Rajeev Sandhu blunted every effort of the militants to come anywhere near his fallen comrades or their weapons. He displayed conspicuous courage and died in keeping with the traditional martial spirit of the Indian Army.
Second Lieutenant Rajeev Sandhu’s parents’ tribute:-
A small room in his house has been converted into a memorial for 2nd Lt Rajeev Sandhu where his parents have kept all of his belongings right from his childhood till his commissioning as an officer in 1988. They have also kept religious books like the Ramayan, Gita, Kuran and the Bible in the room. They spend almost half an hour daily there. The room also contains Army caps, old cassettes that 2nd Lt Rajeev had sent to his parents and various medals he won at national roller skating championship.
“My son was commissioned in the Army on March 5, 1988, and gave his supreme sacrifice while fighting the LTTE on July 19, 1988, in Sri Lanka. We could not see his body, but he will always live with us. I still wear his chain, ring, watch and bracelet,” says Mr D S Sandhu, father of the brave soldier.
Tribute by Col BS Rawat (Retd) :
2nd Lt Rajeev , MVC, was posted to 7th Assam Regt, deployed in Op Pawan, in turn he got attached to B ,company. Under my command , I was Maj BS Rawat OC “B” Coy then. We were deployed in kattankutty near baticola,.coy was involved in cordon & search, road opening raid, ambush road block check post, civic amenities, & helping the civil administration conducting the local elections. Multiple tasking, 2nd Lt Rajeev , fresh from OTA, full of Josh every ready to perform the assigned task. A professionally competent soldier, thorough gentleman, he always led from the front, & was never afraid of any challenge. I was also as a member of board of officers taken his professional part A exam practical approach test. He was the best among his batch. He shared his moments of joy & sorrow with me with no hesitation of being a jounior . For the operation he was awarded MVC, he was temp attached with “C” Coy, being commanded by Maj P Mitra (now Col ). These are the memories which will remain fresh as long as I live. God bless the great soul.
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