Awarded Vir Chakra for successfully conducting a near-suicidal mission

by Col Dilbag Singh Dabas (Retd)

One of the oldest living Chakra awardees and still fit at 96, he can take on any teenager in swimming. Lieutenant Commander Inder Singh, son of Rati Ram Malik, was born on October 4, 1924, at Anwali village in present day Sonepat district of Haryana.

After matriculation from Jat High School, Sonepat, Inder joined the Indian Navy as a sailor in the Royal Indian Navy in June 1944. He had his initial training at His Majesty's Indian Ship (HMIS) Akbar at Thane in present day Maharashtra. Early in service, Inder was nominated to attend anti-aircraft first class course at Portsmouth in England. He steadily rose through the ranks and was Petty Officer (equivalent to Subedar in the Army) when he was commissioned into the Navy on September 30, 1958. During operation 'Cactus Lily' (India-Pakistan war in Eastern Theatre), Lieutenant Commander Inder Singh Malik was in command of Indian Naval Ship INS Rajput.

First war with Pakistan in 1947-48 and the 1962 India-China conflict happened mostly in the mountainous terrain, wherein the Indian Navy had no role to play. In 1965, despite provocation by the Pakistan Navy by bombarding the Dwarka port city, the Indian Navy was advised to remain defensive. Although raring to go and display its might, it was strained at the leash. Probably the Government of India decided to restrict the scope of the war.

The 1971 war with Pakistan, however, was a different ball game altogether. On the word go, the Indian Western Naval Command blasted the formidable Karachi harbour and reduced it to ashes within 48 hours after the declaration of the war and the Eastern Naval Command pulverised the entire East Pakistan coastal installations and blocked the Pakistani logistics reaching the eastern theatre by affecting naval blockade in the Bay of Bengal.

Even before the hostilities broke out between India and Pakistan on December 3, 1971, anticipating a near certain war, Pakistan Navy deployed its American Made Tech Class attack submarine PNS Ghazi in the bay of Bengal with the mission to sink INS Vikrant, the flagship of the Indian Navy. Ghazi was also to mine the approaches to Indian ports on the eastern seaboard. As a precautionary measure, INS Vikrant was made to sail out to unknown location far away from Vishakhapatnam harbour.

After a pre-emptive attack on Indian air fields by Pakistani aircrafts on the evening of December 3, 1971, the Indian Navy visualised that a similar underwater attack against naval base at Vishakhapatnam might become a reality. Therefore, all naval defences around the harbour were alerted and the ships were ordered to sail out of the harbour before midnight.

On the intervening night of December 3 and 4, 1971, a very loud explosion was heard by the coastal battery deployed near Vishakhapatnam Naval Harbour at 12:15 am. The intensity of the explosion was such that the window panes of the houses half a mile away from the coast got cracked. In the morning, some fishermen reported oil patches and some flotsam just off the harbour. And the word went around that it was PNS Ghazi that exploded and sank. Various causes of her sinking were presumed, but the cause most widely believed and officially recorded was that Ghazi was destroyed and sunk by the depth charge fired at it by INS Rajput commanded by Lieutenant Commander Inder Singh Malik. The watch retrieved from the wreckage of Submarine Ghazi showed that it had stopped ticking precisely at 12:15 am.

For successfully conducting a near-suicidal mission and destroying the most modern submarine, Lt Cdr Inder Singh Malik was awarded the Vir Chakra.

Before hanging his Navy whites in 1979, Lt Cdr Inder Singh Malik, Vr C, commanded an NCC Battalion for three years. After retirement, he served as the district president of Ex-Servicemen (ESM) league in Rohtak from 1984 to 1990 and the state president ESM League, Haryana, from 2011 to 2014, throughout on a token salary of Re 1 per month. The balance of his salary he contributed for the welfare of the ESM and the war widows of Haryana. The old soldiers were, and are, like that.

(The writer is a veteran Gunner, 6 Field Regiment)

The account of his bravery reads…

"During 1971 India-Pakistan war, Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Inder Singh was the commanding officer of Indian Naval Ship INS Rajput. As per the orders, he took his ship out of Vishakhapatnam harbour on the intervening night of December 3 and 4 1971 at midnight. Intelligence intercepts had revealed the suspected location of the submarine 'Ghazi' and for safety purposes, Lt Cdr Inder Singh was advised to keep his ship away from that area. Since the area was not entirely banned by the higher ups, with utter disregard to his personal safety and having full faith on his men and his ship, Lt Cdr Inder Singh steered INS Rajput towards the forbidden waters. After some distance, during the sail, a sea turbulence caused by a possible submerging periscope alerted his ship about something moving underneath the deep water. Suspecting it to be the enemy submarine Ghazi, without giving a second thought, Inder Singh attacked the submerged Ghazi by releasing the depth charges aimed at it and sailed forward with speed to keep his ship away from the point of explosion. After INS Rajput sailed forward half a nautical mile towards east, a very loud explosion was heard and seen at the point, where Inder Singh attacked the suspected vessel underneath. On early December 4 morning, the Eastern Command diving team confirmed that the submerged vessel was a submarine. And after more probes by the naval divers led by Lt Cdr Sajjan Kumar Dahiya in the next 48 hours, it was established with 'ocular proof' that the sunken vessel was indeed Pakistan submarine - Ghazi. The damaged clock recovered from the wreckage of Ghazi had its needles stopped at 12:15 am. It was precisely the time at which Lt Cdr Inder Singh, commanding INS Rajput, had fired the depth charges at a suspected object underwater. For his spot decision, gallant action and bravery of a high order in the face of the enemy, Lieutenant Commander Inder Singh Malik was awarded the Vir Chakra."

About The Award

  • Vir Chakra was established by the President of India on January 26, 1950, with the awards effective from August 15, 1947
  • Awarded for gallantry of a high order in the face of the enemy on ground, at sea or in the air. The decoration may also be awarded posthumously
  • Award of the decoration carries with it the right to use Vr C as a post-nominal abbreviation. (Note the care to distinguish this abbreviation from that for the Victoria Cross which is VC)
  • Provision was made for the award of a Bar for a second (or subsequent) award of Vir Chakra
  • Among 10 known awards of the Bar to Vir Chakra, two brave hearts, namely Wing Commander Purshotam Lal Dhawan (1948 and 1962) and Wing Commander Vinod Nebb (1965 and 1971), have been nurtured by the Haryana soil