A soldier's emotional journey

Lpabram (Manipur):  In the Northeast, soldiers of the Army have often been accused of indiscriminately attacking innocent people in the battle against militancy. But there are clear exceptions. An Indian Army officer who nearly died saving the life of a young girl in a Manipur village, returned to her village for a reunion.

The lady was eagerly waiting to receive the officer who had saved her life 16 years ago. NDTV followed the journey of the officer travelling to the village where he says he was reborn.

On January 25, 1994, Captain DPK Pillay was on out a patrol. That night when he reached Lpabram, four militants were waiting for him. A fierce gunbattle followed, in which one militant died and Pillay was grievously injured.
      
But a wounded Pillay saw a young girl also injured in the crossfire. When the helicopter arrived to evacuate him, he insisted that the girl be saved first and as a dying wish he convinced his men and his officers not to launch any attack on the village sheltering the militants. Neither did he allow any action against the two cadres apprehended in action.
 
Pillay recovered and recently established contact with Lpabram and journeyed back to the village. The reunion was touching. The mother of the girl cried inconsolably after meeting the officer who had saved her daughter and grandson's life almost sacrificing his own.

"It's something anyone would do I think. She did not know why she was shot, I knew what I was doing there, they knew what they were fighting for. So we owed it to her. It's amazing coming back here," said Lt Col DPK Pillay.
 
Village Chairman Mr Atanbo remembers every moment of that night. "Mr Pillay forgave us. Without him, we couldn't have survived."
 
The girl, Maseliu, who was caught in the crossfire, is now a mother; Dingamang, the six-year-old nephew of Maseliu, was also injured in that gunfight. "I am happy and sad at the same time."
 
But Pillay wasn't prepared for another encounter - to come face to face with the man who had shot him.

"I just can't believe it! I came to see to see the village, I didn't know I'd meet him," Pillay said.

The Army officer hugged a former militant .They both came close to killing each other 16 years ago in the same attack.
 
Pillay's colleague, Col Chonker, who commands a battalion near the same village, says this story is like a soldier's dream "It's a dream of every soldier to be known as a saviour rather than a killer."

It's rare for a soldier to return to a village 16 years after he led an attack against militants and almost died in that attack. It is even more rare for a village to invite a soldier who had saved the life of a girl as well the village, particularly in a state fighting intensely against the armed forces act.
Story First Published: March 13, 2010 22:10 IST

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