Major Harminder Pal Singh hailed from Mundi Kharar village in Ropar district in Punjab. At the age of 25, he was posted in the 18 Grenadiers battalion in the year 1992. His father Harpal Singh also served the Indian Army and retired as a Captain. He was a very likable person and a very popular figure in his battalion. The Grenadiers revere the Major as a `Sant-Sipahi’ (saint soldier) and the safety of his men was his utmost importance. He was an officer who dined with his men and played cards with them. He boosted the morale of his soldiers by leading always from the front, whenever situation warranted.
The village of Sudarkut Bala in Manasbal is located approximately 40 km north of Srinagar in Baramulla district of Kashmir Valley. This village witnessed a daredevil action by soldiers of an elite Infantry Battalion on 13 April 99, in which three foreign mercenaries were eliminated.
Search & Cordon Operation : 13 April 1999
At about 1 p.m. on 13 Apr 99, information was received by the battalion that some Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence mercenaries were hiding in the congested locality of Khan Mohalla, in Sudarkut Bala. Working swiftly on this tip off, Maj HP Singh with approximately 50 men under his command, reached the locality by 1.30 p.m. and established a cordon around it. Soon after, they commenced a search for the mercenaries. According to Havildar Vishnu Prasad, the Major’s buddy commando, the visibility was low because of a sand storm. When the search party was approximately 40 meters from the suspected houses, the mercenaries opened heavy automatic fire, and a fierce firefight ensued thereafter. They were armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades.
In this fire, Maj HP Singh sustained bullet injuries on his left arm, while two other soldiers received splinter injuries from a rifle grenade fired by the mercenaries. He faltered and fell but recovered just enough to take cover behind a rock recalled Vishnu. The fire fight continued. The search party was now pinned down in the open, and fire intensified. Maj HP Singh and his troops held their ground. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Maj H P Singh, in spite of being injured, and with utter disregard to personal safety, boldly charged towards the side window of a room. He opened fire at one of the militants who was poking his head out of the second floor window of the house. The AK burst took the militant’s head and he came tumbling down. Another one died when the wounded officer managed to lob a grenade through the ground-floor window with his right hand and followed it up with a burst. The Major’s bullet-proof helmet slipped off when he was crawling to cut off the third militant’s escape from the main entrance.
The surviving militant pierced his temple with bullets. He died at once. The mercenary tried to flee, but was shot dead by the search party, and the firing died down. Maj HP Singh had fearlessly led his column from upfront, setting a personal example for his command to emulate. He made the supreme sacrifice of his life while fighting the Pak ISI sponsored proxy war and safe guarding the integrity of his motherland. His mortal remains, draped in the tri-color, were sent to his village, on 14 Apr 99 where he was cremated with honors reserved for the bravest.
Lt Gen Krishan Pal, Commander, 15 Corps spoke of Major Harminder’s death, “He was a brave man who led from the front. It was a very difficult operation as the soldiers had to expose themselves in the built-up area to prevent collateral damage to civilian houses and life.” The Major’s action is significant, particularly in light of the Khalsa tercentenary. He has upheld the spirit of Guru Gobind Singh by rising to fight the evil. Sikh troops are amongst the most gallant and have repeatedly proven themselves.”
When the nation celebrated the tercentenary of the Khalsa Panth, this brave soldier upheld the martial spirit of the Khalsa by his supreme sacrifice. There can be no better example of the spirit of Service before Self – the motto of the Indian Army. He was honored with the Shaurya Chakra, for his gallantry and devotion to duty. He is survived by his wife, very young son and his parents.