Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav: 1947-2022 | Saluting Brave Army Officers —1
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Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav: 1947-2022 | Saluting Brave Army Officers —1

August 11, 2022

Excelled during their service in Indian Army and selected Mysuru city to spend retired life

By Dr. Manik A.V. Bengeri

There goes a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Shateshu Jayate Shoorah’ which tells us that in society all cannot be brave as there is only one brave soldier in 100 persons — all cannot be brave and all cannot join Army, Navy or Air Force — hence the importance of such brave heroes.  

 Exactly 75 years ago on 15th August 1947, India was declared Independent by British Government and became a free Nation. We have seen the freedom struggle movement from 1857 to 1947. However, to safeguard our Independence and our country, the brave people have come forward by joining Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.

On the occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it is our bounden duty to remember the Army officials and their services. We civilians can lead a peaceful life only when we are safeguarded from the danger of encroachment, terrorist attacks and war. Army life is adventurous and full of challenges. But the most prominent factor remains that they serve the country at the cost of their lives sacrificing family happiness. Let us take this opportunity to express our gratitude to them, if not everyday, at least on such important occasions like Independence Day and Republic Day.

Here is a small effort to get connected to some of those who have completed their tenure in the Army and selected Mysuru to settle down after retirement. Rather we are fortunate for their decision to be with us civilians and common people of Mysuru. I made an attempt to contact a few retired Army Officers who were kind enough to respond and share their memorable incidents.

We observe that from our Karnataka region majority of people who join Army are from Coorg (Kodagu). Genealogically they are very brave, good fighters and non-tolerant towards injustice by birth. As such, they are protectors of our freedom. In true sense, they follow the main principle and ideology of our ancient Indian culture, Janani Janmabhumishcha Swargadapi Gariyasi which clearly tells us that Motherland and Mother are greater than Heaven. Hence, Janmabhumi (Motherland) and Janmadaatri (Mother) can’t be replaced or neglected at any cost. 

Following such great values of our culture, we see that Lt. Gen. P.C. Thimmaya (Lieutenant General Pattacheruvanda Chengappa Thimmaya) is the best example of these principles. He is the recipient of  top honours such as Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) during his unblemished service of 40 years.

Born on 4th April,1960 at Somwarpet in Kodagu, his father left Coorg to join Sainik School as a teacher in Bhubaneswar, Odisha (formerly Orissa). Thimmaya completed his education at Bhubaneswar and graduated from National Defence Academy, Pune, in the year 1980. He was awarded the Sword of Honour at Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun as the All-round Best Cadet. Thus his achievements started at a very young age. 

In 1984 when he was posted in Kapurthala, Punjab, he had the opportunity to take part in Operation Blue Star, which was against the tyrant Bhindranwale, who had sieged the Golden Temple at Amritsar. During the operation the driver of his Armed Personal Carrier (APC) was hit by a sniper bullet in the face and he was incapacitated. Thimmaya then had to drive the vehicle himself into the Temple complex, helping  the soldiers to take shelter of the APC and move forward. Narrating the incident of seeing bloodshed and dead bodies everywhere, he says that was when he understood the value of life, its fragility and how precious human life is. He believed that every soldier must see death of a loved one and birth of a child to understand the true value of life.

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He was commissioned into 5th Battalion of Mechanised Infantry Regiment (14 KUMAON) on 13th June, 1981. He has served in all types of terrain, high altitude, counter insurgency, deserts, plains and mountains along the Eastern as well as Northern borders as part of both defensive and offensive formations. In 1989-90 for one year he was in Ladakh deployed along the Chinese border. After this he accompanied his unit to North Kashmir, where they were deployed for counter infiltration operations along the Line of Control.

Bandipora in North Kashmir was then a very disturbed area — Pakistani terrorists would infiltrate across the border and enter civilian population attacking the army convoys or killing innocent civilians. It was hence necessary for the troops deployed along the border to stop the terrorists at the border and deny them access to the villages, where they could easily merge with the local public.

At one point a firefight took place between the terrorists and a patrol of Thimmaya’s unit in which a Jawan was hit with a bullet in his head at midnight. Thimmaya managed to reach the soldier with medical assistance and keep him alive till he was airlifted in the morning. The only worry at that moment was to keep the Jawan alive and Thimmaya was successful in this job. Lt. Gen. Thimmaya remembers the Jawan’s name as Naik Shekhar Singh, who had tears in his eyes when he saw his boss with him. This human approach keeps the bondage evergreen and such memorable incidents become a real treasure for people in uniform.

Narrating another incident that took place in the year 2005 when he was on duty at Manipur, North Eastern Border – Burma (Myanmar) Border, he says he was then posted with the Assam Rifles and had the responsibility of planning and co-ordinating counter insurgency operations in Manipur. The area had  thick jungles with very limited roads. As most operations were conducted at night, movement in these area were difficult. The greatest concern was evacuating casualties. Most of the time it was by helicopters, depending upon the weather and time of the incident. In one of the operations, a militant camp was destroyed along the border with Myanmar by a team of our soldiers. Unfortunately during the operation one of our soldiers got hit badly with multiple gunshot injuries to his leg. Although he was bleeding profusely the doctor accompanying the team managed to stabilise him. However if he was not evacuated in time for surgery he would have died. Movement by road was not feasible and weather was not conducive for air evacuation. Thimmaya had however anticipated such an eventuality and had placed a helicopter in the vicinity. This enabled the soldier to be evacuated in time and his life was saved. Thimmaya firmly believes that it doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.

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The tenure in Manipur was very stressful and challenging. At this juncture, Thimmaya adopted yoga sessions to keep himself calm and cool. He firmly believes in this quote about Life & Death,  “To every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods.” For him, his God was his Nation, its protection and safety was paramount.

While sharing his experiences Lt. Gen. Thimmaya said, “Joining the Army was not for it as job but a way of life. Once a soldier, we remain as soldiers throughout our life. Our achievements in terms of promotions and medals / awards is not too relevant. What is relevant is our service to the Nation irrespective of our personal sacrifices and losses.”

He says he encouraged the following of yoga practice for his soldiers to maintain equilibrium in a tensed environment. This was also made a part of the daily Physical Training exercise in the mornings. He also introduced the practice of CPR and enhanced medicinal skills to all troops, as there would be occasions when the doctor is not available to treat the wounded during emergencies. He says the ability to build trust, faith and unquestionably loyalty between the soldiers and the officer is the biggest awards one can get, when compared with other rewards. Even after retirement, he visits his Battalion people frequently and guides them. Indeed, a rare quality.

Lt. Gen. Thimmaya was the Commandant of  the prestigious Army War College, Mhow, Indore, MP.  Before being appointed as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Army Training Command, Thimmaya has attended various mandatory courses including a course in erstwhile USSR. He also served with the United Nations in Angola and was the Defence Advisor (Defence Attache) to the High Commission of India in Bangladesh. 

On retirement, Karnataka Government honoured Thimmaya with the ‘Kempegowda Award’ in appreciation and recognition of his services. Though retired he has plans to work for the retired Army soldiers by providing them with legal and moral support and most importantly take care of his 85-year-old mother. She is always with her son,  irrespective of his postings during his service and even now after settling down in Mysuru at an apartment in Lakshmipuram. What a dedication and love towards the Mother!

His advice to the common man is, “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys, look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”

 Thus we can say that Lt. Gen. P.C. Thimmaya’s ideologies are as tall as his towering personality. On this solemn occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, let us salute the great soldiers of a Free Nation. Jai Hind

[To be continued]


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