|Native name||സന്ദീപ് ഉണ്ണിക്കൃഷ്ണന്|
15 March 1977|
|Died||28 November 2008
|Cremation||Hebbal, Bangalore, Karnataka|
|Years of service||1999–2008|
|Unit|| 51 SAG, National Security Guards
7th Battalion, Bihar Regiment
|Battles/wars||Operation Black Tornado|
Sandeep Unnikrishnan (15 March 1977 – 28 November 2008) was an officer in the Indian Army serving in the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards. He was killed in action while fighting terrorists in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. His bravery was honoured with the Ashoka Chakra, India's highest peace time gallantry award, on 26 January 2009.
“Do not come up, I will handle them”, were the last words which Major Unnikrishnan told his men as he was hit by bullets while engaging terrorists inside the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower during Operation Black Tornado, according to NSG officials.
Later, NSG sources clarified that when a Guardsman got injured during the operation, Major Unnikrishnan arranged for his evacuation and started chasing the terrorists himself. The terrorists escaped to another floor of the hotel and during the chase Major Unnikrishnan was seriously injured and succumbed to his injuries.
Sandeep Unnikrishnan came from a Nair family residing in Bangalore, where they had moved to from Cheruvannur, Kozhikode District, Kerala. He was the only son of retired ISRO officer K. Unnikrishnan and Dhanalakshmi Unnikrishnan.
Unnikrishnan spent 14 years at the Frank Anthony Public School, Bangalore, graduating in 1995 in the ISC Science stream. A popular figure among his contemporaries, he wanted to join the Army, even attending school in a crew cut. His peers and teachers recalled him as being a good athlete who was active in school activities and sports events. He was also a member of the school choir, and very interested in movies.
Sandeep joined the National Defence Academy (India) (NDA), Pune, Maharashtra in 1995. He was a part of the Oscar Squadron (No. 4 Battalion) and a graduate of the 94th Course of NDA. He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts His NDA friends remember him as "selfless", "generous" and "calm and composed".
In 1995, we were a bunch of gangly 18-year-olds, wondering what the hell we were doing climbing up Sinhgad fort on a miserable, rainy day, when I first met Unni. He was an ikki, a first termer, bone-weary, but always gung-ho. When we made it to the top, the first stop was for a fill of water. Soggy, bushed and thirsty, we ran to the natural spring that has been feeding soldiers since the days of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Unni was the first to reach and started drawing water from the well. We lined up with our canteens, but a tourist first held out her water bottle. Unni filled it. Then, another. Unni filled that too.
Within seconds, there was a long line of tourists waiting for water. Without a word - and with a smile to us - Unni dutifully doled out his generosity. He never got to us. He himself never got a sip. The order came to move on.
— An NDA coursemate
His happy-go-lucky face masked a ruthless and determined soldier, so did his thin physique hide a tough, never-give-up spirit that was seen in various training camps and cross country races he participated in with in the NDA.
He was commissioned as Lieutenant to the 7th Battalion of the Bihar Regiment (Infantry) on 12 July 1999. After serving the Indian Army in different locations in Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan to counter insurgencies for two terms, he was selected to join the National Security Guards. On completion of training, he was assigned to the Special Action Group (SAG) of NSG on January 2007 and participated in various operations of the NSG. He was a popular officer who was loved and adored by his seniors and juniors alike. During the 'Ghatak course' (at the Commando Wing (Infantry School), Belgaum), the most difficult course of the Army, Major Unnikrishnan topped the course, earning an "Instructor Grading" and commendation from seniors. Perhaps this was the reason or his passion for bravery that he opted for the NSG commando service which he joined on deputation in 2006.
During Operation Vijay in July 1999 he showed grit and determination at the forward posts in the face of heavy artillery firing and small arms fire by Pakistan troops. On the evening of 31 December 1999, Major Sandeep led a team of six soldiers and managed to establish a post 200 metres from the enemy and under direct enemy observation and fire.
Operation Black Tornado
On the night of 26 Nov 2008, several iconic buildings in South Mumbai were attacked by terrorists. One of the buildings where the terrorists held people hostage was the 100-year old Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Major Unnikrishnan was the team commander of 51 SAG deployed in the operation at the Taj Mahal Hotel to rid the building of terrorists and rescue the hostages. He entered the hotel in a group of 10 commandos and reached the sixth floor through the staircase. As the team descended the stairs, they sensed the terrorists on the third floor. The terrorists had held a few women as hostages in a room and locked it from the inside. After breaking open the door, the round of fire by the terrorists hit Commando Sunil Yadav, who was Major Unnikrishnan's partner.
Major Unnikrishan led his team from the front and engaged the terrorists in a fierce gunfight. He arranged for Commando Sunil Yadav's evacuation and regardless of personal safety, chased the terrorists who, meanwhile, escaped to another floor of the hotel, and while doing so Major Sandeep continuously engaged them. In the encounter that followed, he was shot from the back, seriously injured and succumbed to injuries.
Ashoka Chakra Award Citation
The official citation for the Ashoka Chakra Award reads:
IC-58660 MAJOR SANDEEP UNNIKRISHNAN BIHAR REGIMENT/51 SPECIAL ACTION GROUP (POSTHUMOUS)
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan led the commando operation launched on 27th November 2008 to flush out terrorists from Hotel Taj Mahal, Mumbai in which he rescued 14 hostages.
During the operation, his team came under intense hostile fire, in which one of his team members got grievously injured. Major Sandeep pinned down the terrorists with accurate fire and rescued the injured commando to safety. In the process, he was shot in his right arm. Despite his injuries, he continued to fight the terrorists till his last breath.Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan displayed most conspicuous bravery besides camaraderie and leadership of the highest order and made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.
At Unnikrishnan's funeral, mourners shouted “Long Live Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan“, “Sandeep Unnikrishnan Amar Rahee”. Thousands lined up outside the Bangalore house of the NSG Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan to pay their respects. The funeral of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was held with full military honours.
Nobody represented the Kerala government in Major Unnikrishnan's funeral. Local and national media criticized the decision of the politicians. However the then Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. Achuthanandan and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan called on the Unnikrishnan's family on 30 November 2008. Sandeep's father K. Unnikrishnan was angry, criticized the visit and asked them to leave. He even threatened to commit suicide if any politician from Kerala entered his home. When V.S. Achuthanandan visited his home, Unnikrishnan roared at the Chief Minister and his delegation and said that "No dog would enter my house". Later, V. S. Achuthanandan told media that had it not been for Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, not even a dog would have visited his parents' house. This again invited harsh criticism from the media and public. However, Achuthanandan stated that he would not apologize to the Major's family. He added that he respects the slain Major's family.
On 2 December 2008, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat expressed his apology for Achuthanandan's 'dog remark'. On 3 December 2008, Achuthanandan expressed his regrets over the incident.
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