Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria PVC
Capt Gurbachan Singh Salaria was born on 29th Nov 1935 in Jamwal village near Shakargarh( erstwhile united Punjab) and subsequently his family moved to Jangal village in Gudaspur district of Punjab. Son of Sri Munshi Ram and Smt Dhan Devi, he joined the illustrious King George Royal Indian Military College (Now known as Rashtriya Military School) Bangalore in 1946 and later moved to the King George Royal Military College Jalandhar (Now Rashtriya Military School Chail in Himachal Pradesh). Capt Gurbachan then went on to join the 9th batch of National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla and subsequently the Indian Military Academy. IN 1957, he was commissioned into 1 Gorkha Rifles, an infantry regiment known for its fearless soldiers and numerous battle exploits.
Capt Gurbachan Singh Salaria was part of the Indian contingent for the UN operation in Congo. The UN operation in Congo lasted from July 1960 to June 1964. The objectives of the operation included ensuring the withdrawal of Belgian forces, preventing civil war and removing all foreign military personnel not under UN command and all mercenaries. India sent 99 Infantry Brigade for the operation in March 1961 and Capt Gurbachan Singh Salaria’s unit, 1/3 Gorkha Rifles was part of that brigade.
Congo Ops: 05 Dec 1961
During Dec 1961, Capt Salaria’s unit, 1/3 Gorkha Rifles was deployed in Elizabethville in Katanga province, the Headquarters of UN Command. It was located in the conflict ridden south eastern part of the country. On 5th Dec 1961, Capt Salaria was tasked for a challenging mission of removing roadblocks set up by the rebels near the airfield. Capt Salaria with a small force of 16 soldiers, supported by a 3-inch mortar, attacked the enemy roadblock near Elizabethville airfield and established a UN roadblock there. However, Capt Salaria and his platoon met strong opposition from a large number of rebels armed with automatic weapons and armoured carriers. The rebel force consisted of 90 heavily armed men and two armoured carriers.
Despite a numerically superior enemy Capt Salaria decided to take them head on and launched a deadly assault leading his men with the Gorkha cry, ” Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali” meaning “Victory to Mahakali, Gorkhas are here”. He moved on the battlefield exemplifying the motto of his regiment, which says, “Kafir hunu bhanda marnu ramro” meaning “It is better to die than to be a coward”. Capt Salaria was like a man possessed and his naked courage came to the fore during the operation. He attacked the rebels ferociously and eliminated many of them quickly in close combat. However during the heavy exchange of fire he got a burst of automatic fire into his neck and fell down. He later succumbed to his injuries and was martyred. The entire rebel force soon got disintegrated owing to the sustained assault by Capt Salaria and his comrades.
Capt Gurbachan Singh Salaria was given the nation’s highest gallantry award, “Param Vir Chakra” for his cold courage, unfaltering leadership and supreme sacrifice. He became the first and the only recipient of this coveted award given to a soldier in an UN operation.