In the annals of Indian military history, there are heroes whose sacrifices go beyond their duty and service to the nation. Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonchak are two such heroes who demonstrated unwavering valour and commitment in the face of adversity. As we pay tribute to these extraordinary officers, we also remember the personal aspects of their lives that made their sacrifices even more poignant.
A Friend’s’sestimonial: “An Outstanding Human Being”
Colonel Manpreet Singh, known for his unwavering commitment and leadership, was not just a military officer but an outstanding human being. A close friend of his fondly recalled, “All I can say is that he was an outstanding human being with a big and clear heart. A true commanding officer in every sense who was loved by his peers, seniors, and subordinates alike.”
These words encapsulate the essence of Colonel Singh’s character—a man of exceptional qualities who touched the lives of all who knew him. His journey through the ranks of the Indian Army was marked by dedication, courage, and a deep sense of responsibility.
Colonel Manpreet Singh: A Resolute Commitment to Duty
In 2021, Colonel Manpreet Singh faced a pivotal moment in his illustrious military career. Promoted to the rank of Colonel and offered the option of a peaceful posting, he responded unequivocally with, “No sir.” His unwavering choice was to continue leading the 19 Rashtriya Rifles (19 RR), a unit celebrated for its pivotal role in the neutralisation of Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy, Burhan Wani.
This choice encapsulated Colonel Singh’s deeply rooted belief in leading from the front, ensuring the safety and well-being of every individual under his command. It was a decision that would place him in one of the most challenging and volatile regions of India.
The Battlegrounds of the 19 Rashtriya Rifles: Neutralisation of Burhan Wani
Colonel Singh’s determination to lead the 19 RR meant that he would be stationed in areas such as South Anantnag, Kokernag, Verinag Achabal, and their surrounding regions. These areas had long been plagued by the presence of terrorists, including foreign mercenaries, posing an unrelenting threat to regional security and stability.
The 19 RR was particularly known for its pivotal role in the neutralisation of Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy, Burhan Wani. This significant achievement in counter-terrorism underscored the unit’s dedication and resolve in the face of formidable challenges.
As the second-in-command of the 19 Rashtriya Rifles, Colonel Singh had firsthand experience with the complexities and dangers of these operations. His leadership was characterised by an unwavering sense of responsibility towards his men and an unyielding commitment to their safety.
Colonel Singh’s Impact Beyond the Battlefield
Beyond his military responsibilities, Colonel Singh was an avid sports enthusiast who recognised the transformative power of sports in engaging and uplifting youth in the region. He actively organised sports events, including the ‘Chinar Cricket Tournament’ for women and volleyball matches, even in the otherwise tumultuous areas around Larkipora, where the battalion’s headquarters were located.
The loss of Colonel Singh was deeply felt, not only by his fellow soldiers but also by the residents of the area. Many individuals testified to his constant availability and his encouragement of young people, underscoring his belief in the positive impact of sports. Furthermore, he played a pivotal role in rehabilitating individuals struggling with addiction, emphasising his commitment to building a comprehensive and supportive society.
Major Ashish Dhonchak: An Officer Committed to Excellence
Tragically, the encounter in the Kokernag highlands that claimed Colonel Singh’s life also took the life of Major Ashish Dhonchak. Major Dhonchak, aged 34, was renowned for his enthusiastic and detail-oriented approach to every operation. His dedication to his duties set him apart as an exemplary officer, and his commitment to the safety and security of the region was unwavering.
Major Dhonchak’s recent receipt of the Sena Medal, a prestigious military honour, on the eve of Independence Day underscored his exceptional service and marked him as an officer of great distinction. It was a testament to his dedication and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.
The personal side of Major Ashish Dhonchak
Major Ashish Dhonchak, in addition to his military service, had a life outside the uniform that added depth to his character. He was a loving father to a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and the only brother to three sisters. Just two months before his tragic demise, he had come home, bringing joy to his family.
A pall of gloom descended on his village when the news of his death reached them last evening. Locals gathered at the residence of Major Dhonchak in Haryana’s Panipat to pay their last respects.
“We were informed through the telephone that he lost his life in an encounter. He left behind three sisters. He was my only son,” his aggrieved uncle, Dilawar Singh, told the media while holding back his tears.
Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha expressed his grief over the deaths of the officers in the encounter and also paid tributes to the J-K DSP at Budgam on Wednesday. “Paid tributes to JKP’s DySP Humayun Bhat, who laid down his life in an anti-terror operation in Anantnag. I salute the indomitable courage and supreme sacrifice of Col. Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonack. The entire nation stands firmly with their families in this hour of grief,” LG’s office said in a post on the social media platform.
The Tragic Loss and Its Implications
The untimely and tragic loss of Colonel Manpreet Singh, Major Ashish Dhonchak, and their comrades serves as a stark reminder of the dedication and sacrifice of those who serve in the armed forces, especially in regions marked by conflict and unrest. Their commitment to their duty and their readiness to lead from the front, even in the face of grave danger, exemplify the values and principles that guide the armed forces of any nation.
Their passing leaves a void not only in their respective units but also in the hearts of the communities they served and protected. Their legacy serves as an enduring reminder of the selfless service, dedication, and bravery exhibited by those who choose to wear their nation’s uniform and stand guard against threats to peace and security.
Honouring Their Legacy: A Debt of Gratitude
In the end, the stories of Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonchak serve as a testament to the timeless values of honour, duty, and sacrifice. They remind us that heroes walk among us, quietly bearing the responsibility of safeguarding our freedom and security. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never truly be repaid, but we can honour their memory by aspiring to embody the same unwavering commitment to a greater cause as they did.
As we reflect on their lives and their sacrifices, let us also remember the families they left behind. Colonel Singh leaves behind a wife, a six-year-old son, and a two-year-old daughter. Major Dhonchak’s family must grapple with the loss of their beloved son.