Someone somewhere is a series of write-ups on brave hearts who made the supreme sacrifice but very little is known about these men. It is a humble attempt to bring to fore the many unsung heroes of Indian Armed Forces.
My earlier articles were about Sepoy Vikas Bhardwaj, who was killed in an ambush in Manipur in 2015
and Capt. Shailesh Rialch who made the supreme sacrifice while fighting terrorists in Anantnag in 1999
This piece here is about Raja. Raja of not any piece of land or kingdom, but one who ruled the hearts. So much so that an entire town mourned him by choosing to close everything down for a day.
This is the respect that Capt. Veera Raja Reddy who was known as Raja by family and close friends, commanded.
A bright youngster turned into an Army Officer
Raja was born in Hyderabad on 22.9.77. He studied in Takshashila Public school and graduated from Little Flower Junior college, Hyderabad. Right from his childhood, he had been taught about our culture and values by his family. During the day he would study whatever was taught in school and after the school studies were done, in the evenings, he would read our religious books like Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas.
He passed his graduation with a distinction and was preparing for Engineering entrance exams. Simultaneously, he also appeared for the exam for National Defence Academy and got selected . This despite the fact that the Reddy family had no army background. He joined NDA in January ’95, despite opposition from his family.
He belonged to the Foxtrot Squadron at NDA. After successful completion of the training at NDA, it was time to graduate to the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. He was a part of the Poonch Company, Cariappa Battalion. During his tenure at IMA, he was among the top 20 in the merit among all the cadets in the Academy.
Life as a young Army officer
After completion of the training at IMA, he was commissioned into 69 Field Regiment and moved to Rajouri in January 2000 with his unit. He would be in the forefront in promoting the ‘psy-ops’ of the Army. In the process, he developed very good relations with the civilians there. During his tenure in Rajouri, he was a part of many operations wherein terrorists were killed and lot of recoveries were made. He was also able to expose many undercover workers of terrorist organisations. In June 2002, he conducted Village Defence Committee trainings for a month, where the youth of ChoudharyNar,Nehra Nagrota and Rajouri township were trained by him. He taught them the basics of Army drills and weapon firing in order to defend themselves against the anti-social elements. Apart from this, he also delivered motivational lecture at the Degree college and also organised meetings between the civilians and army officers. Important personalities from the town met senior army officers to discuss the important issues that they both faced and work towards maintaining law and order and peace in Rajouri. Apart from this, he had ensured protection to the Sadhus while they stayed at Rajouri on their way back from Surankote, where their counterparts at Kali Mata Mandir had been killed. Another incident where his timely action saved a life was, when he provided timely medical treatment to a lady who had suffered a heart attack at 2330 hrs. He was on a night patrol and got to know of it and soon did the needful thereby saving her.
Thoughts about his Senior (Commanding Officer) about Raja
The Commanding Officer of Capt. Raja Reddy’s unit Maj. Gen (Then Col.) Rajiv Mishra has written a very beautiful tribute in his memory; some of which I reproduce here. Col. Mishra mentions in his tribute that Raja was an epitome of exuberance and positivity, he was always full of Josh and enthusiastic about everything. He also recounts some incidents that happened in his presence. One such incident is that of “Dining In”. A Dining In is an officer’s first dining in the Officers’ Mess. It is a ritual where the new officer is baptised into the Unit and he is centre of attraction of all those present there. As a part of this ritual, Raja was asked to sing a song. It was a pleasant surprise to hear a young officer from Hyderabad sing a song in Punjabi. Not only this, he further went on to do what was demanded of him by any officer during the Dining In ritual. Another instance that he recalls is that of the Inter Unit Volleyball Championship at Devlali. While the team had enough skills required, they still lacked the fighting spirit. But Raja ensured that the team’s morale remained extremely high thereby making the entire competition seem like a cakewalk. Maj. Gen. Mishra adds that Raja was extremely good in motivating others and instilling an attitude of positivity. No matter how sceptical a person was; a little time spent in the company of Raja and that person would also be convinced that what Raja believed was true. According to Gen Mishra, he was enthusiastic about anything and everything that happened in the Unit. A testimony to this fact that during his first Raising Day in the Unit he was involved everywhere, from getting the decorations done properly, taking care of the layouts and the entertainment and extending courtesy to the guests, most of whom were from the Battalion itself. Not only this, he also performed a Kathak dance, which was highly appreciated by those present there and also was talked about for a long time later.
Maj Gen Mishra adds that Raja had a great grasping power. In the Young Officers’ course, he had secured an ‘Alpha’. He was always keen to prove himself and liked to be in the forefront and would not shy away from even the most challenging tasks. During the training exercises, if there was something new to be tried, he would always volunteer for that. And in case, he would not be taken for that task, due to lack of experience or exposure, he would be visibly upset. Then Gen Mishra would personally speak to him explaining the reason and he would understand and finally give a smile. Maj Gen Mishra writes that when he had met Raja in the beginning of his days in the Unit, he had told Raja that he ought to remember to eat and sleep only after his men did and to be one up on his team in everything related to Military life be it profession, games, outdoor exercises etc., and he had imbibed it totally.
His Unit had been posted in Rajouri in Jan’2000 which saw peak counter insurgency movement. At times, Raja and his men had to conduct operations that lasted for 2/3 nights which meant they would be without food, sleep or rest for all that period. Raja and his team were always so high in motivation that even if they returned after a 36 hour operation, and if they had further intelligence input about any militants, he and his men would be willing move on to the next task without bothering about their food and rest. He was always willing to take risks and for this reason, he had been put through the formal as well as informal trainings in counter insurgency operations and eventually had become the most experienced officer. Gradually, his ability to handle counter insurgency operations had started to be recognised by his Seniors as well as subordinates. Raja had not only become proficient on the operations’ front, he was also very good with creating goodwill among civilians. He would always be around, providing help and agreeing to participants in events of the civilians. 80% of Rajouri town knew him by the name and face. Gen Mishra adds that someone had actually suggested to Raja to stand in the forthcoming assembly elections because he was bound to win. Whenever any untoward incident like a grenade blast or a rocket attack would happen in Rajouri, he would be the first to reach there with the Quick Reaction Team.
On 31st July 2002 at 1945 hrs, upon an input by DIG Police, Rajouri and Poonch Range, about terrorists holed up in a house, a joint operation by 69 Fd Regiment, 200 Fd Regiment, 3 Dogra, 7 Sikh and 6 Grenadiers, along with police personnel was launched. Capt. Reddy was leading his team and made an audacious move of closing in to nearly 10-12 meters of the house to confirm the presence of terrorists. The terrorists inside opened a volley of fire thus injuring Capt. Reddy grievously. Despite that Capt. Reddy continued pinning down the terrorists, to ensure safe evacuation of the civilians in the vicinity of that house. He eventually succumbed to his injuries. 4 terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed in this operation, 4 AK-47 and a substantial amount of ammunition was recovered thereby resulting in the foiling of a well-planned terrorist attack.
Gen Mishra recalls that he was so popular among the people there that they insisted that his last rites should take place in Rajouri itself so that all the people there could take part in his final journey. Maj Gen Mishra concludes his tribute by saying that he was the best officer that he had come across.
At the time of the supreme sacrifice, Capt. Veera Raja Reddy had been married for less than three months. The family received a compensation of mere 5000 Rs. from the State Government in 2003 and the compensation from the J & K government was received in 2012, after intervention and multiple correspondence from his Unit.
On his first death anniversary, the family of Capt. Reddy got a statue erected at Habsiguda Street No.8, at their own expense, partly assisted by American Telugu Association. There is also a memorial park built in their village Saidapur. This year marks twenty years of the Reddy family losing their only son in the service of the Nation. The parents of Capt. Veera Raja Reddy ensure that the bravery and sacrifice of their son is not forgotten. Every year on his Balidan Divas and his birth anniversary, a solemn ceremony of the garlanding of his statue is held and homage is paid to him.
Such is the cost of our freedom. Someone somewhere guards our borders on icy heights, someone somewhere spends sleepless nights so that we sleep peacefully and someone somewhere came back wrapped in the Tricolour.
Let us remember those who never came back and keep them in our thoughts always.