11 March, 2019
In the last ten days or so, two generations of Indians, who have mostly grown up in ‘peacetime’, so to say, had a glimpse of what could have potentially blown into a war. While the world was celebrating Valentine’s day, a suicide bomber, attacked a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, in Jammu and Kashmir, on the Srinagar highway. This dastardly act resulted, in India losing more than 40 of its brave soldiers; they became martyrs in the cause of India’s long-standing fight against terror.
A Pakistan based terror group called JeM, claimed responsibility for the same, and the whole of India was in sorrow, standing in solidarity with the martyrs and their families. There was rage across the country, and the people were saying that they wanted the government to act tough on terror. The Prime Minister promised the nation that their sacrifice would not go in vain. The dawn of 26th February brought the much-needed news that India, in a highly secret pre-dawn mission, had struck down a huge terror training camp of JeM in Balakot, Pakistan. The country which was in mourning now started celebrating the brave act of the 12 Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots, who flew their Mirage fighters to bomb the area with precision.
The beginning of a Hero
As expected, though, Pakistan promised to retaliate and violated the Indian air space on the border, on the 27th February, in a bid to attack Indian Military assets, as briefed by the government sources. The IAF pilot Wing Commander Adhinandan Varthaman was patrolling the border in his MiG 21 Bison aircraft, when he started chasing and having a dogfight with a Pakistani pilot, flying an F16 fighter aircraft. The F16 is supposed to be much more advanced, than the MIG, however, a resolute Wing Commander Abhinandan chased and shot him down; yet, his plane too was shot and he had to eject.
He landed on the other side of the border in his parachute and was picked up locals, who soon figured out that he was an Indian Air Force pilot. In the meantime, as per media reports, our brave pilot, pulled out his pistol, fired in the air, tried to keep the mob of locals at bay, swallowed a few important documents and tried to destroy the rest of them. He was soon, however, overpowered and manhandled by the mob, and soon videos of this started doing the rounds of social media. Incredibly, the videos showed, how calm, composed and unrattled he was.
Pakistan Army then released a video to indicate that they were treating him well, and even in that he was seen coolly answering their questions, and resolutely said, “I am not supposed to tell you that”, to most questions about his aircraft, background and more unwanted details asked by the Pakistan Army personnel. That is how a much needed real hero was born, for a generation of youngsters who have grown up watching only the reel ones! His dialogue “I am not supposed to tell you that” became the most discussed and famous one, pushing back many of the Bollywood ones.
There was outrage again in the social media, as well as the world media, and under pressure, Pakistan decided to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman back to India, in what they called a “Peace Gesture.” In an most ‘waited with bated breath’ kind of event, the brave pilot crossed over back to his motherland at the celebrated Wagah border late at night after 9 p.m. on 1st March 2019. He spent two days in the custody of Pakistan Army.
In Wing Commander Abhinandan, the new generation found a real hero; his valour, calmness in the face capture by enemy forces, and absolute fearless nature in denying information to his Pakistani interrogators, and his stance, keeping his head high, and shoulders square, even when he was blindfolded, captured the imagination of the young and old alike. This story of the Wing Commander is something that needs to be told, to the much younger ones, to make them understand that if you believe in yourself, you can set out to achieve anything.
It was the first time in world history that a MIG21 downed an F16, and that happened only because he believed he could take that shot. His courage was unwavering, and that came from within, for he believed in his cause, of fighting for his motherland. Stories of real heroes like Abhinandan, and that of the Uri surgical strike, are changing the mindset of our young towards joining the defense forces to serve the nation, as a chosen career.
Hence, in many ways, it was good that out of all that situation of strife, the country got a real hero, who is back home safe as well. For, this bravery and courage, most often comes at the cost of life, as we have seen in the recent past, and most often real heroes, come back in coffins. So, let’s talk about this brave soldier with the younger generation and listen to them about their views on their hero as well.
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