December 16 is commemorated as Vijay Diwas, to mark India’s military victory over Pakistan in 1971 during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. The anniversary is observed across the nation by paying tribute to the martyrs who laid down their lives for the nation. Here’s the riveting story of Indian Air Force’s only Param Vir Chakra winner NJS Sekhon
Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon was born on 17 July 1945 at Rurka Isewal village in Ludhiana District in the house of Sardar Trilok Singh Sekhon, a retired flight lieutenent of Indian Air Force. As any normal Sikh child, he was raised with the virtue of gallantry and sacrifice by his parents. He joined Indian Air Force as a Flying officer in 1968.
It’s a glory to die doing one’s duty and keeping the traditions of the Indian Air Force in the family, Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon made a supreme sacrifice in the 1971 war that changed the outlook of the world. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration, in recognition of his lone defence of Srinagar Air Base against a PAF air raid during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. He is the only member of the Indian Air Force to be so honoured
Being a son of an ex- Air Force Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Tarlochan Singh Sekhon, Nirmaljit too joined the Air Force. He got commissioned on June 4, 1967.
During the 1971 war he was deployed with no. 18 squadron, ‘the flying bullets’ of IAF, flying the Gnat’s aircraft based at Srinagar. Just two days before the war came to an end, Srinagar airfield was attacked by six Pakistan Sabre jets. As soon as the first aircraft attacked, he rolled for take-off no 2 in two gnat formation. Meanwhile the Pakistan jets kept firing. Nirmal could not take-off at once due to the cloud of dust raised by another aircraft which had just taken off.
In the ensuing battle, Sekhon hit one aircraft directly and set another ablaze. He was advised to return to the base as he was outnumbered and hit. His ejection proved futile. The wreckage of the aircraft was found in a gorge. Despite many search operations his body was never found.
The pilot who shot him, Wing Commander Salim Beig, has praised him in his article. He said “The Indian pilot Flg Off Nirmal Jeet Singh Sekhon put up a brave fight and was awarded Param Veer Chakra.”
Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon was only 28 years when he gave up his life for the country and is the only Air Force Pilot to have received Param Veer Chakra.