Naib Subedar Bana Singh- The Forgotten Hero of Siachen

Naik Subedar Bana Singh P.V.C. was born on 6th January 1949 into a Punjabi Sikh family, at Kadyal in Jammu and Kashmir. He enrolled in the Indian Army on 6 January 1969 into the Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK LI). He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal in India.

During June 1987, the 8th Jammu & Kashmir LI, was deployed in the Siachen area. It was then found that a large number of Pakistani infiltrators had intruded over the Siachen Glacier. The ejection of these infiltrators was considered difficult but necessary and a special task force was, constituted for the purpose. Naib Subedar Singh volunteered to join this force.

The Pakistani intrusion had taken place at a height of 6450 metres, one of the highest peaks in the Siachen Glacier area. From this feature the Pakistanis could snipe at Indian army positions since the height gave a clear view of the entire saltoro range and siachen glacier. The Pakistanis called this post 'Quaid post' after their founder Quaid-e-azam Md Ali Jinnah. The enemy post was virtually an impregnable glacier fortress with ice walls, 457 metres high, on either side. Operation Rajiv, named after 2nd Lt Rajiv Pande VrC, was launched to evict the Pakistanis from that post. Naib Subedar Bana Singh led his men through an extremely difficult and hazardous route. He inspired them by his indomitable courage and leadership. He and his men crawled and closed in on the adversary. Lobbing hand-grenades, charging with a bayonet and moving from trench to trench, he cleared the post of all intruders.

In the year 1987, the dauntless soldier made progress inch by inch climbing at a 90 degree angle followed by four of his men. They could not tell if it was day or night, as the heavy snowfall erased all sense of time. Every pore of their body strained and yearned to reach that single bunker at the top. Slowly but surely they were moving up the 1500 km icy wall. After several hours, they were now very close to the top. The soldier suddenly stiffened. He remembered Guru Gobind Singh’s voice from the night before, “I wanted to test you, Bana.” That voice charged him and his infectious enthusiasm spurred his followers. His hand slowly closed upon the grenade as he evaluated the situation.

Meanwhile, on the top of the 21,000 feet high peak, the Pakistanis were safely ensconced. When they were at the height of their jingoistic banter, suddenly a door opened, a grenade was dropped and the door closed. And before they could open their mouths, the grenade exploded and all was silent in the make shift bunker. Bana Singh personally led the assault on the remaining Pakistanis outside the bunker. On the slippery slopes, there was hand to hand fighting. Some were bayoneted, and some slipped and fell to their death. It was an arduous battle fought between men who gave it their all with a do-or-die ferociousness.

Finally, on June 26, 1987, the victorious Indians, Rifleman Chunni Lal, Laxman Das, Om Raj and Kashmir Chand led by our hero, Naib Subedar Bana Singh, captured the post. For his daredevil assault, Bana Singh received the Param Vir Chakra. The “Quaid” now became “Bana Post”. The Tricolor flew high on the freezing heights and history smiled once again on the sleeping nation.

One would think that a man such as Captain Bana Singh whose wondrous feats of endurance and valor erased the enemy’s script for Siachen, would be in every Indian’s consciousness. One would also think that a grateful nation would include him in the pantheon of valiant heroes who fought against all odds to procure for India a very vital post. But no, such natural reactions are beyond India’s capacity. Today, he is barely even recognized in military circles. Reports indicate that the Government of India turned down his request for a petrol pump and he had to take up farming in his village to support his family. Moreover, the state of Jammu and Kashmir of which he is a resident gives him a paltry amount of 160 rupees per month as an allowance for having won the highest bravery award.

The Punjab Government has a deep respect for the Indian Army. They have offered him Rs 25 lakhs and a monthly allowance of Rs 15,000 and a 25 acre plot of land if he accepted and moved to Punjab. But he refused. Because he considers himself a State Subject of Jammu and Kashmir which gives him only Rs 160/month as an allowance for having won the Param Vir Chakra, the highest bravery award. Each state in Indian varies in its awards for winning the P.V.C.

Naib Subedar Bana Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal in India, for conspicuous bravery and leadership under most adverse conditions. The peak which he captured was renamed Bana Top in his honour. At the time of the Kargil War, he was the only PVC awardee who was still serving in the Army.