Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered an immediate double promotion for Sepoy Satpal Singh, a hero of the 1999 Kargil war, PTI reported. The decision came on Kargil Vijay Diwas, which marks the anniversary of the Indian forces’ victory over Pakistan in Kargil.
Amarinder Singh promoted Satpal Singh to the post of assistant sub-inspector after reports that he worked as a traffic constable in Sangrur district, directing traffic on the roads of Bhawanigarh.
India observed the 20th anniversary of the victory on Friday. President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and several other leaders paid their tributes to the armed forces.
The Punjab chief minister accused the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government of ignoring Satpal Singh’s credentials when he was recruited in 2010. Satpal Singh’s appointment as assistant sub-inspector will entail relaxation of Rule 12.3 of the Punjab Police Rules, an official spokesperson said.
In 1999, Sepoy Satpal Singh won the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest military decoration, for his “extreme bravery and courage” on the hills of Kargil during India’s Operation Vijay, according to The Indian Express.
Singh, a member of the 8th battalion Sikh Regiment, killed Pakistan Army Captain Karnal Sher Khan and three others on Tiger Hill during the conflict. The recapture of Tiger Hill, one of the highest peaks in the Drass-Kargil area of Jammu and Kashmir, was among India’s major objectives during the war.
“We had reached our position by the evening of July 5, 1999,” Satpal Singh, who is now 46 years old, told The Indian Express. “It was bitterly cold and all we had with us were the clothes we were wearing. Either we could carry extra woollens or extra arms and ammunition. The choice was obvious.”
The Sikh regiment had been directed to help the 18 Grenadiers regiment recapture Tiger Hill. Eighteen people died while pushing back Pakistani forces. Several others, including the two officers in the team – Major Ravindra Parmar and Lieutenant RK Sehrawat – were injured. Following this, Subedar Nirmal Singh of 8 Sikh took command.
Describing the attacks from the Pakistani side, Satpal Singh said: “The attacks came one after another. We would beat one and then there would be another. The Pakistanis had a good officer leading them.”
The war veteran said that before being killed by a direct hit to the head, Subedar Nirmal Singh instructed the regiment’s soldiers to shout out “Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal” and rush the enemy and the officer leading them. “I took four bullets as I fired my LMG [light machine gun],” Singh said. “There was hand-to-hand combat.”
The war veteran said he pounced on a “tall, well-built man dressed in a tracksuit” who was leading the Pakistani troops. “There was chaos all around, both sides hurling abuses at each other as they fought,” Satpal Singh added. “I managed to kill him.”
This Pakistani officer was Captain Karnal Sher Khan, who eventually won the country’s highest gallantry award, the Nishan-e-Haider. “I killed four of them – the officer, his radio operator and two jawans providing him close cover...he fought well,” Satpal Singh said, adding that Khan’s death left the Pakistani troops in disarray.
In the citation for Vir Chakra, Satpal Singh was praised for single-handedly taking on “the enemy face to face in close quarters resulting in motivating the troops around him” and subsequently “repulsing the fierce counter-attacks, displaying extreme bravery and courage”.
Brigadier MPS Bajwa, who was Singh’s commanding officer, said he had recommended the sepoy’s name for the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military award.
The war veteran joined the Punjab Police after completing his service in the Army in 2009. “May be I made a wrong decision,” Singh said. “I did not get any weightage for my Vir Chakra. I joined under the ex-servicemen quota. Sportspersons winning medals are also given higher ranks. I killed a man who was awarded Pakistan’s highest gallantry award.”
But, “God is kind”, he said, adding: “I just feel bad for my unemployed postgraduate son”.