Havildar Hangpan Dada of Assam Regiment, who killed four intruding terrorists before laying down his life at the height of 13,000 feet in the harsh and icy Himalayan range of North Kashmir on May 26, was on Sunday awarded Ashok Chakra, the highest peace time gallantry award.
Apart from him, eight Army men from the Northern Command got Shaurya Chakra, the third highest award for gallantry during peacetime. Five of them got this gallantry award posthumously, a defence ministry spokesperson Colonel S D Goswami said, adding that the list also include award of Sena Medal (Gallantry) and Mention-in-Despatches for Operation Rakshak and Operation Meghdoot.
From leading a patrol to leading a church service, Hangpan always led from the front. Born in Village Borduria, Tirap district of Arunanchal Pradesh on October 2, 1979, Hangpan, fondly called Dada by his comrades, got recruited in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment on October 28, 1997. Six years hence, he was transferred to ASSAM Regimental Centre and on January 24, 2008 he was taken on strength of 4th Battalion The Assam Regiment where he served the most.
Dada’s personality had many shades. Out of the many adjectives often attributed with his name, fearlessness and righteousness encompassed almost the entire spectrum of his personality. During testing times, when threat of the militants would loom large, Dada would silently slip into the role of scout and lead the entire patrol safely back to the base. Few can forget the incident when Dada was evacuated in helicopter after bitten not once but twice by a snake while playing with him.
Dada always used to present a cheerful demeanor. His mere presence was a morale booster. He had that unique ability to raise up and perform when the chips were down. As the ad-hoc pastor of his outpost, his Sunday sermons were heavily subscribed. He feared God and was the voice of wisdom among his folks. He showed the way in travelling an extra mile to help his mates. Few can forget how well he took care of his ailing cousin while the unit was deployed in Lucknow and yet discharged all his duties with perfection. He was an epitome of a Humane Soldier, we often talk about.
But all knew, behind his trademark smile, was a resolve tougher than steel, and an unflinching attitude which came to fore on the night of 26 May 2016 when Hav Hangpan Dada, as Sabu Post Commander of 35 Rashtriya Rifles, while establishing a stop along with his Section at 12,500 feet led a charge on hiding terrorists in Naugam, J&K resulting in neutralisation of four heavily armed terrorists. His gallant action of eliminating three terrorists in close quarter engagement and injuring fourth one in utter disregard to personal safety not only foiled the infiltration bid but also ensured the safety of his section. While engaged in fierce gun battle with the third terrorist, Dada sustained a sudden burst of automatic fire from the hiding fourth terrorist. Undeterred by the gun shot wound, Dada continued to pin down the fourth terrorist and later succumbed to his injuries before wounding the terrorist badly.
Dada lived whole life on his terms. Whether it was getting recruited in Special Forces or volunteering out for a tenure in Rashtriya Rifles, he lived with his head held high. In death as in life he stood for the righteous path, leading his comrades on his terms. This supreme sacrifice by Dada, is yet another example of the unflinching love and dedication that people of North East possess for their motherland.