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Fearless son of the soil

Service to nation comes first so at the grave and critical moments though thoughts go back home, they are only fleeting moments.

His is a brave heart. After all, fearlessness runs in his blood, coupled with a spirit to serve the nation. Devarakonda Sesha Sai Murthy's is not an ordinary life; it makes a difference even within his clan - his father, Krishna Murthy, is Lt Col (retd) and brother, Srinivas Murthy, is a Major. He not just joined them in the true tradition of the family, but did them proud as well with his dauntless acts of courage.

It was pitch dark on the night of February 14, 2002, at Mendhar, about 200 km. from Jammu. Major Sesha Sai Murthy, was leading one of the six surveillance teams on duty which were all braving the fierce winter chill. The troops noticed movement of the terrorists on the LoC in the village of Basuni in Mendhar sector in the wee hours. The soldiers, who were maintaining a high alert on the LoC in view of massive build-up, became alert on noticing the terrorists intruding into the Indian territory and allowed them to come within the firing range.

As the terrorists reached close, they were challenged and asked to lay down the arms. The terrorists scattered themselves and unleashed heavy firing on the troops, which returned the fire. What followed was a non-stop heavy exchange of fire, which lasted more than six hours - from 12.20 a.m. to 6.30 a.m.

The security forces successfully eliminated eight hardcore terrorists, including a `divisional commander' of the Lashker-e-Toiba outfit. The combing for the remaining terrorist began after dawn and he was found at a distance of 3 km. from the encounter site. He engaged the security men in a hide-and-seek battle in the surrounding forest for more than one and a half hours before getting killed. The terrorist `group commander' was identified as Abdul Rehman, son of Abdul Rashid, a resident of Kot Sabjal in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

A huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives, which were being smuggled by the sneaking terrorists, were recovered from the encounter site. The haul included six AK-56 rifles, one Pika gun, one AK rifle with drum magazines, one pistol, 3,657 AK rounds, 359 Pika rounds, one pistol with two magazines and 50 rounds, 21 AK magazines, five RPG, three boosters, two Yessu wireless sets, one I Com, a cellular phone, 10 hand grenades, 80 rifle grenades and 49 packets of deadly RDX weighing more than 25 kg.

This operation was widely acclaimed and their unit was awarded one Sena Medal and two Shaurya Chakras for their valiant efforts in eliminating the enemy.

The pride of that episode is Maj. Sesha Sai Murthy, an illustrious son of north coastal Andhra, whose exemplary act of courage not only resulted in the elimination of deadly infliltrators but won him the prestigious Shaurya Chakra as well.

He says that the civil populace, specially those in South India, is unaware of the hardships of the soldiers particularly in the hostile environs of cross border terrorism. Of course, soldiers are equally home-sick like any other human being. But, service to nation comes first so at the grave and critical moments though thoughts go back home, they are only fleeting moments.

For Maj. Sesha Sai Murthy, a complete success means not just elimination of the enemy but it should include no casualty on our side. Then only it can be termed a true military success.

"'The Mendhar pocket is a hotbed of infiltration for which our army is equipped with advanced surveillance systems to flush out intruders," he says.

He was awarded a Sena Medal in 1995 when he was instrumental in killing three militants at Sogam in April 1995. He is also the first Shaurya Chakra awardee from the coastal districts.

A student of Kendriya Vidyalaya-Malkapuram, he joined the three-year National Defence Academy training course at Khadakvasla in Pune after Std.XII. He also underwent one year training at Indian Military Academy in Dehradun and was commissioned into 7 Jat Regiment on December 14, 1991.

Maj. Sesha Sai Murthy has completed the prestigious Defence Services Staff course at Wellington and will be joining duties at Jammu. He is happily married to Kameswari, a bright engineer, and blessed with a son, Sai Sreekar.

PUSHPA BHARGAVA

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