Bravehearts bag gallantry awards

New Delhi:President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday conferred 14 gallantry awards and other distinguished service medals during a defence investiture ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ceremony saw the introduction of a new tradition to honour soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

NATIONAL HONOUR: President Pranab Mukherjee greets the wife and the mother of Sepoy Dharma Ram after presenting the Shaurya Chakra posthumously to him on Saturday.

Two Kirti Chakras and four Shaurya Chakras were conferred posthumously.

In a new initiative, the government has decided that as a mark of respect, the parents of the posthumous award winner can accompany the next of kin to the investiture ceremony, officials said.

As per the dispensation till the last ceremony, the next of kin alone received the award from the President, a defence official said.

Posthumous winners
The posthumous Kirti Chakras went to constable Gautam Koch from the Assam armed branch and Naib Subedar Rajesh Kumar from the Mahar Regiment, Rashtriya Rifles.

Constable Koch sustained a bullet injury in his head while engaging United Peoples Liberation Army insurgents who took shelter in a house at Ramsing Hanse Gaon on June 23, 2014. He died of injuries in a hospital. His wife, Monalisha Borah Koch, accompanied by his mother Putuli Koch, received the award.

Naib Subedar Kumar was on a search and destroy operation in the Wadarbala forest of Kupwara district in Jammu & Kashmir on October 28, 2014 when they noticed terrorists trying to escape. He killed one terrorist and despite being injured, crawled and killed another before he breathed his last. His award was received by his wife, Nisha Devi, accompanied by his father Rup Chand.

The Kirti Chakras were conferred on them for conspicuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy.

Civilian winners
Two civilians from Jammu & Kashmir, Bikramjeet and Rakesh Kumar Sharma, were among those awarded Shaurya Chakra for their presence of mind and exemplary bravery displayed by them in a hostage situation. They were among five people taken hostage by a terrorist who was looking for a safe passage after being chased by security forces. The two managed to strike a conversation and eventually overpowered the terrorist and tied him with a rope. Mr. Sharma has now joined the J&K police.

A total of 42 distinguished service awards were conferred.