New Delhi: It would have been his 41th birthday today - Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a commando of the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards, died on November 26, 2008, while fighting terrorists of the Lashkar e Tayiba, who attacked the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai.
Major Unnikrishnan was leading his team of ten commandos of the NSG, to flush out terrorists when he was fatally wounded. Colleagues recall, his last words, "do not come up, I'll handle them."
On the sixth floor of the hotel, Major Unnikrishnan rescued 14 hostages and before he breathed his last, he even arranged for his injured colleague's evacuation.
Friends and colleagues say Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan had always aspired to join the Indian army. A good athlete, Major Unnikrishnan, actively participated in school sports events. His friends recall he even sported a crew cut at school just like army men. Classmates at the National Defence Academy remember him as a kind, calm and composed person.
Major Unnikrishnan was conferred the Ashok Chakra, the country's highest peace time gallantry award, on 26 January 2009. His citation reads, "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's father who is a retired ISRO officer says India needs many "Major Unnikrishnans" and he has taken a vow to "create more majors like my son".