Havaldar Gajender Singh (born 1972) was an NSG commando who died during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. His act of bravery was honoured with the Ashoka Chakra award by the President of India on 26 January 2009, India’s republic day.
Hailing from Ganeshpur in Uttarakhand, young Gajender Singh studied at the Janata Inter College in Naya Gaon. He was remembered by his teachers as a disciplined student who participated in every event organised in the school, be it sports or cultural activities. He had a particular interest in boxing.
“He had always wanted to be in the forces and had always wanted to die like a hero. And that is precisely what happened,” said his brother, Birender Singh Bisht, an official in the Uttarakhand Police.
Havaldar Gajendra was the third student from his college to have died for the country in military operations. Earlier, two of his collage mates had died during the Kargil operations. Havaldar Gajendra had also participated in the Kargil operations.
Gajendra joined the Garhwal Rifles in 1991 and then chose to be part of the 10 Para SF (Special Force). Thereafter, he had opted to be a NSG commando. He was based in Delhi when he was asked to be part of Mumbai operation.
After having dinner on November 26, he got a call from his office saying that an alert has been sounded. He had left the house carrying bare essentials, telling his wife that he would be back in a while. It was a couple of hours later that his family were informed that he had been sent to Mumbai.
Operation Black Tornado
Gajender Singh was a member of the National Security Guard’s 51 Special Action Group. Gajender Singh was part of the team of NSG commandos who were fast-roped on the roof of Nariman House in an operation to neutralize the terrorists inside who were holding at least six hostages.
According to Jyoti Krishna Dutt, Director General of the NSG, Singh was leading one of the teams that entered the building. The team came under intense fire from the terrorists and returned fire, while trying to dominate the situation.
The terrorists also hurled a few grenades at the commandos. At this point, Singh had the option of retreating with his team. However, he realized that they had to seize this opportunity to dominate and continued moving ahead.
He didn’t turn his back to the militants and created a way for the other commandos despite a grenade thrown at him. Despite sustaining multiple bullet injuries while doing so, he moved forward and ultimately succumbed to his injuries, making the supreme sacrifice. This selfless and brave gesture of his ensured that his team secured a dominating position in the encounter.
While securing the Nariman House during Operation Black Tornado, Singh, a member of the Parachute Regiment was fatally wounded while storming the Jewish center.
His act of bravery was honoured with the Ashoka Chakra.
Media to Blame?
NSG is miffed with the way its operations at Nariman House were broadcast live. Questions are being raised over the way Havaldar Gajender Singh fell to a terrorist’s bullet at Nariman House.
“TV broadcast our commandos landing from a helicopter on the roof over Nariman House. By the time our men landed and started taking positions, the terrorists were already waiting for them and opened fire,”
Concerned over the way many aspects of its operations got “jeopardized” due to live images being broadcast by TV during the 60-hour siege, the National Security Guard (NSG) is now pushing for restrictions on media coverage wherever its commandos are engaged in combat.
The official citation for the Ashoka Chakra Award reads:
4073611 HAVILDAR GAJENDER SINGH PARACHUTE REGIMENT / 51 SPECIAL ACTION GROUP (POSTHUMOUS)
In the night of 27th November 2008, Havildar Gajender Singh was leading his squad in the operation to rescue hostages from the terrorists at Nariman House, Mumbai.
After clearing the top floor of the terrorists, he reached the place where the terrorists had taken position. As he closed in, the terrorists hurled a grenade injuring him. Undeterred, he kept firing and closing in on the terrorists by exposing himself to the hostile fire. In the act, he injured one of the terrorists and forced the others to retreat inside a room. He continued the encounter till he succumbed to his injuries.
Havildar Gajender Singh displayed most conspicuous courage against grave odds and made the supreme sacrifice for the nation in combating the terrorists.