At 1 am, on 28 November, This was a critical mission for the Major. He was accompanied by his hit team which consisted of Sunil Jodha, Manoj Kumar, Babu Lal and Kishor Kumar. They were walking through the piece de resistance a single, long staircase of Taj, which resembled a ‘Y’. The floors were wet because the fire brigades had poured in gallons of water to stop the fire. A thick red carpet on the floor was soggy and oozed water. There was silence except for the pouring water. They walked up the stairs on the darkened alley way. Only a soldier can draw so much of courage to walk through the valley of death, I feel. The major asked the team to split. The two commandos were signaled to move towards the doors that lead to the Palm Lounge. They moved and took positions. They did not know that it was an ambush. The enemy was waiting for the right time to start an attack.
There was a heavy AK-47 fire and two grenades fragged out. Sunil Jodha was hit by Sharpnel and he collapsed. Major rushed back to his fallen man. ‘Take him back for first aid,’ he hissed at Babu Lal. He decided to move to the palm lounge alone. With absolutely no cover fire the Major hurled into the palm lounge through the other set of doors. His only companion was his MP5 rifle which kept firing rounds. His target was the ballroom. The last white flash grenade was in his hands now. He flicked the pin and threw the grenade into the lounge. The grenade exploded and The Major followed in with a hurl of bullets. There was absolutely no response. The lounge was clear!!! This was like a game of hide and seek, but life was at stake. He had seen his target behind the brown ornate grills, the Ballroom. He held his submachine gun and moved in through the corridor. Death waited for him there behind a small alcove with a granite table top and two sofas. There was a burst from an Ak47 and a simultaneous MP5 response.
“Sierra five” was down. A terrorist was hiding behind the alcove and he had attacked the major who was charging down the corridor with his Ak47. A bullet had riddled through the Major’s left jaw and passed through the skull. He had instinctively fired back at the terrorist and hurt in on his way down. The Major succumbed to his injuries. He had fought a brave battle and had martyred for a cause. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was no more. He had yet again chosen to move in to the kill zone leaving his team behind. Well his NDA learning had thought him, “The safety, honor and welfare of your country come first always and every time. The honor, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.” And he had lived by it and had died for it too.
Today is his birthday. An emotional moment for every patriot of India. A Soldier was born this day. Had he been alive today would have been his 39th birthday. But he couldn’t make it till this day. But the memories that he has left behind, and the legacy that he set distinctively defines this NSG commando and his fearless nature. He stands in as a voice of a true patriot for whom the nation and its safety is beyond his personal comfort.
Let us take some time to thank the supreme sacrifice of men like him who for our safety and lives, gave theirs. Our prayers are with the families of these men, and we are indebted in their great contribution to this nation. Jai Hind! Major Sandeep Unnikrishanan Amar Rahe!