By- Pinak Mishra
In memory of the two Brave Hearts Sudhir Kumar Tudu and Debasis Sethy who have been awarded the Shourya Chakra Posthumously
The ‘Police Commemoration Day’ in honour of the martyrdom of 10 CRPF men who had laid down their lives at hot springs (Ladakh) in 1959 for the Motherland reminds us of the solemn history of the Indian Police, which is replete with instances of bravery and valour.
The chronicles of unfaltering loyalty to duty, poignant account of daring ventures, stories of incredible victories and tales of gallant sacrifices have always provided inspiration to the members of the police force to make the supreme sacrifice for the country.
The Police force, throughout India are continually engaged in an internecine war with terrorists, maoists, criminals, bandits, dacoits, while also maintaining law and order, securing the country and safeguarding the citizens. Often, in these sacred wars, young lives are offered as a sacrifice at the altar of duty —tales that go on to become folklores for posterity.
Odisha’s War with Maoism is also replete with numerous stories of bravery and valour. In its war with Maoism, Odisha has lost many of her courageous sons, who laid their lives fighting for the integrity and sovereignty of the state, fighting to defeat an insidious ideology that preaches violence and viciousness against fellow citizens that obstructs development and prosperity. While we ruminate over these heroic tales, we remember and honour all our heroes —some noticed, some unnoticed, but often unsung. We salute them all but some stories needs to be told and one such story is about the ‘Battle of Sirki’.
Sirki is a small mountainous hamlet situated in the densely forested border of kalahandi-kandhamal. Due to its dense forest and mountainous terrain it has been a safe haven for Maoists. Although Maoists change their hideouts frequently as part of their tactics, on that fateful day of September 8, 2020, they chose to stay put in Sirki, a place with a predominantly tribal population, cut off from the mainland.
Having received reliable intelligence about the presence of Maoists in Sirki forest, the Police decided to launch an anti-maoist operation to take the insurgents out. The Special Operations Groups (SOG), the elite anti-maoist operational force, was pressed into the job. The SOG, over a period of time has emerged as a professional, battle hardy and a reliable assault force and has brought laurels to its unit.
Responding to the call of duty, the team of trained fearless commandos marched for the assault. It was a dark night with not a streak of light and the autumn of 2020 was knocking at the door.
Oblivious, or rather indifferent to the consequences, like true soldiers, young Sudhir Tudu and Debasis Sethy were also marching ahead in perfect unison with their fellow brothers-in-arm. Commandos are trained with fire in their belly; they march on untired, and stop only with the conclusion of an operation.
True to their training, the SOG’s team of commandos were confidently advancing to their target with the singular aim of hitting the enemy hard. On the morning of 09th September, one among the boys made contact with the enemy and even as he was alerting his team, a volley of fire greeted them. It was the indiscriminate heavy firing from the enemy that caught the team by surprise. Debasis Sethy was the scout leading the charge along with his team leader, and was the first to take a hit, with a bullet hitting his thighs.
Undeterred, he kept firing despite being down. The other brave hearts quickly flanked the enemy from both the sides and rained fire. Sudhir Tudu, who led the charge from the left flank and breached the perimeter of the enemy set an example for the ages with this act of invincible bravery. Fearless Sudhir took a bullet on his shoulder, but shot and killed the enemy before falling down. The exchange of fire lasted for one hour during which the enemy made several attempts to dominate the brave hearts but was repulsed with heavy casualties.
One wonders what was playing on the minds of these young souls at that moment. Fear of a lurking death ahead, anxiety of being hit by the enemy, apprehension of being caught? But no, it was the calmness of a trained soldier, exuberance of a fighter, exhilaration of killing the enemy up front and laying down their lives for a cause dearest to their hearts.
Their gallant act was to a great extent instrumental in demoralising the enemy and forcing them to retreat from the post. So resolute was the retaliation by the commandos that despite their numerical superiority, the Maoists did not dare to launch another attack.
Sudhir and Debasis, both in the prime of their youth were simple, reticent like the boys next door, with dream in their eyes and wings to fly. But by virtue of their fearless demeanour and indomitable courage, they vindicated the gallant sacrifice of all their fallen comrades and lived up to the glorious traditions of the brave soldiers of Odisha Police who had on various occasions, made the supreme sacrifice while protecting the integrity and sovereignty of the State.
In recognition of their gallant action and commitment to the force in the face of certain death both, Sudhir Kumar Tudu and Debasis Sethy have been conferred with Shaurya Chakra. Whenever the ‘Battle of Sirki’ will be remembered, the tales of their valour will be recited and the songs of their courage will be sung with gusto.
IPS Pinak Mishra is presently the Superintendent of Police in Berhampur, Ganjam.