An extraordinary martyr from Kerala remembered
– S. Anandan
Considered to be a great healer, time ruthlessly reopens old wounds all the same. Forty years after Second Lt Radha Mohan Naresh made the supreme sacrifice while fighting to defend his post in Jammu and Kashmir, grief has only grown deeper in the minds of his family members.
While his mother Subhadra Amma continues to be traumatised, his brothers – defence scientist Praveen Naresh and paediatrician Gopi Mohan Naresh, who were five and 17 when the tragedy struck the family say that over time, they have been able to strike an emotional bond with their deceased brother.
On Friday, the two brothers, accompanied by scores of alumni of the Sainik School at Kazhakuttam, near Thiruvananthapuram, and officers from the 2 JAT Regiment of the Army, paid tributes to their hero at the Akhnoor War Memorial. Wreaths were laid at the Memorial as JAT regiment troops offered ‘Shok-Shastra’, a tribute to the fallen soldier.
Senior officers led by Major General K.S. Venugopal, Major General Operations Logistics (MGOL) of the Southern Army Command, Pune; and Colonel H.S. Mavi, Commanding Officer of 2 JAT, were present when the brothers lit the ‘Memorial Torch’ again near the Raipur Crossing along the Munawar Tawi river where the brave warrior went down fighting. The Old Boys’ Association of the Sainik School, coordinated by the former naval Captain Ramesh Babu, and the Army organised the event.
At 21, Second Lt Radha Mohan Naresh was in the prime of youth when he was called in, barely a week after being commissioned into the JAT Regiment, to defend a post along the Munawar Tawi River in Jammu & Kashmir’s Chhamb sector. He was commanding a platoon and tasked with defending Raipur crossing, where the Pakistani Army had launched a major infantry offensive, supported by an armoured squadron. Second Lt Radha Mohan Naresh led his platoon from the front till reinforcements would arrive. He refused to withdraw despite being outnumbered and surrounded from all sides. He fought gallantly and fell in one of the most ruthless battles of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.
“He was laid to rest somewhere along the Indo-Pak border”, says Captain (retd) Ramesh Babu, who had won the Radha Mohan Naresh Memroial Trophy for the best outgoing captain instituted by the Sainik School.
Second Lt. Naresh was the first alumnus of the school, in its golden jubilee year now, to lay down his life in war. However, barring the school, where successive generations of cadets have yearned to emulate him, the valiant soldier’s ode has gone largely unsung.
There are no memorials, epitaphs or memorabilia for Naresh, but for a passport-size photograph still held dear by his mother, rues Captain (retd) Ramesh Babu.
“It was the collective decision of our parents and grandparents to enroll him at Sainik School and he lived up to their dream with all-round excellence. The news of his martyrdom, however, shocked us all to such an extent that it took decades for us to come to terms with the loss. Till about a few years ago, we would take care not to mention him in conversations within the family”, says Praveen Naresh.
“We were so benumbed that we never wanted to find out how it all happened. None in the family approached the army with queries. Maybe that’s why no military honours were conferred on him”, he adds.
Second Lt Naresh was martyred as the war was winding down. “The war had ended and we all heaved a sigh of relief. Life was back to normal. One day, we were in our classroom. My mother, who was a teacher, was walking to her class when a postman came running to her. He held out a telegram. My mother unsuspectingly opened it and saw lightning, fire and thunderbolts in front of her. She heard a child scream for help.
“She had to be carried home. Whenever she recovered, she would cling on to me and hold my hands to her chest”,Dr. Gopi Naresh recalls.
As part of its golden jubilee celebrations, the Sainik School has evolved a unique, meaningful programme of honouring its martyrs. In January 2012, as the curtain comes down on the jubilee fete, a bust of Second Lt Naresh will be unveiled on the school premises.
[ Courtesy : Murali Nair ]