It was just another working day in 1999 when LeT terrorists stormed into Major Pramod Purushottam’s room in a hail of gunfire, killing the Army officer and five members of his team in what was the first and only fidayeen attack at the fortified Badami Bagh cantonment here. Twenty-one years to the day, as the Army paid tribute to its six men on Tuesday, there were many who doffed their hat to the bravery of the quick-thinking officer – the Public Relations Officer (Defence) saved the lives of three Kashmiri journalists who had come to meet him that fateful evening by pushing them and personnel into a washroom minutes before two armed Lashkar-e-Taiba men barged in.
“Having been engaged in a hand to hand fight with the terrorists, he and his colleagues made the supreme sacrifice of their lives while trying to save media persons,” a statement from the Army said. The selfless act of bravery by the late officer and his team — Subedar Brahm Dass, Havaldar PK Maharana, Sepoys Choudhary Ramji Bhai, Md Razaul Haque, and C Radhakrishnan – was remembered at a solemn and poignant ceremony at the cantonment. Defence spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia and his team paid floral tributes to the officer and others.
Additional Director General (Media and Communication) A Bharat Bhushan Babu also paid rich tributes to the brave soldiers who had made a supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. “We will always draw inspiration from the heroic deeds of the Bravehearts,” he said and called upon all ranks to always keep ‘Nation First’. Puroshottam, who was 39 years old, left behind his daughter and wife Valsa, who was in the nursing unit of the Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
The Army, after 16 years, instituted an award recognizing Purushottam’s presence of mind and supreme sacrifice. The award is given for best performance to one of the 30 Army Goodwill Schools run by the XV Corps in Kashmir Valley. The six men breathed their last at the entrance of the high-security XV Corps headquarters.
Recapping the events of that terrible day, officials said Purushottam lived up to his name which translates to “highest being” in English. As the gunshots rang out one after another, the officer, without caring for his own safety, pushed the journalists and a colleague into the washroom attached to his office. The terrorists entered, firing indiscriminately. By the time they left, Purushottam and five members of his staff lay dead. All three journalists cheated death, thanks to the squad of brave men.
Commissioned in the Army in June 1982, Purushottam, who had joined the Bihar regiment, had arrived in the Valley around 1997 when terrorism was at its peak. Misinformation against the Army, engaged in counter-insurgency operations, was spreading fast due to the involvement of terror sympathizers. Journalists credit Purushottam with helping build a rapport between the media and generals and getting the Army viewpoint across to newspapers.