Scores of Indian movies have portrayed the life of the Indian soldier; newspaper reports have described their valour; social media ‘forwards’ have extolled their sacrifices and chance encounters with defence personnel have offered a glimpse into their life; but nothing prepares one for the matter-of-fact manner with which they are ready to forfeit everything for their country. Their nationalistic attitude, their patriotism and their discipline are legendary. Delving into the life of one such decorated army man, Yo! Vizag Team interacts with Colonel Seshasai Murty.
There was not much thought given to young Murty’s induction into the army; his father and brother were already serving in the defence forces, so it was a natural progression for him to do the same. In fact he candidly quips, “Initially it had nothing to do with motivation or to do something for my country; that came later.” When his father, post retirement, settled in Vizag in June 1985, Murty was studying in KV Malkapuram, after which he joined the National Defence Academy (Vizag) in 1988. He trained rigorously in National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy till he received his posting as an Officer in the 7th Battalion JAT regiment on December 14, 1991. His first posting took him to Sri Ganganagar, a town situated near the border of Rajasthan and the international border of India and Pakistan. His first experience with militancy was in June 1994 but the stage hadn’t been set yet.
It was in Kashmir, Budgam, when he was posted in 1994 along with his unit of 900 soldiers that he had his first brush with militancy. A Captain by then, his unit was a part of an operation that involved cordoning off a house, with suspected militants holed up within. As the soldiers surrounded the house, three militants came out firing in all directions. After they were taken down, the remaining holed up militants gradually emerged and were shot down. This was the first of many such encounters that he faced in his career.
Responding to whether he felt fear in such horrific situations, he replied, “Every single day, it is scary during an operation, but that fear is not because of cowardice. As a leader you are responsible for your team’s lives and that is not an easy job, and being afraid keeps you alert. In Kashmir, 68 villages were under our unit. We would carry a notebook with the name of the village, name of the militants and their groups written in it. The list that once filled a whole notebook would now hardly fill a single page”, he says pointing out how the level of militancy has fallen down through the years.
He was awarded his first Sena Medal for gallantry in 1996 for facing militants in Kashmir. It was killing three militants in a chance encounter during his stint there that got him the medal. He received his second Sena Medal for his role in the rescue and relief operation after the Sikkim earthquake in 2011. He was the Commanding Officer of 16 JAT at that point.
His crowning achievement though was getting the Shaurya Chakra for an operation carried out in February 2002 at the Line of Control (LoC). It was during the India-Pakistan stand-off; his team had ambushed and killed nine terrorists who had breached the border. He was the Company Commander, overseeing an area of 3 kms. Describing the situation along the LoC, with constant inputs about terrorists waiting to cross the LoC and increased firing, he says that “The operational experience gained differs from place to place.”
Describing his most fulfilling moment as a soldier to the country, he says, “As an individual soldier there isn’t much that can be accomplished because soldiering or fighting a war is a team effort. However, as a leader of men there have been numerous instances and incidents looking back on which I feel a sense of satisfaction and pride. Each successful operation conducted against militants has made me proud to be an Indian.”
A true-blue army man, for him, his whole unit is family; “It’s not about operations or heroics or wars, it is about how your unit grows on you as a family. I am out of the family now; I’ll never go back to the unit, but the bond is still there. Anyone from 7 JAT and 16 JAT has a right to call me and ask for help. They can depend on me, not just them but their families too. It’s only in the infantry that you have to motivate another human-being as a leader. It is a life-long bond.”
Colonel Seshasai Murty is one of the most decorated officers from our State, and is still serving the country, from his current posting in Delhi. He says that the only negative aspect of his life in the army is missing out on watching his children grow up owing to his postings in field areas. And in spite of all the risks he faced in active duty, he unhesitatingly says “I would definitely encourage my children to join the Armed Forces, if they show an inclination for the same. As it stands, my son wants to pursue studies in the engineering stream and my daughter is still in standard seventh; we will have to wait and see.” Contrary to the popular gripe of all elders, in his opinion, “Today’s youth are just as patriotic as all of us. Patriotism is an intangible asset which manifests differently, it may be on a battlefield, a sports arena or elsewhere. Today’s youth should work hard, inculcate good habits, set high goals in life, respect the country and elders, and be proud to be an Indian.”
Note : Published on print - Aug'2015. This article is a repost.