Among many brave stories of the Indian Armed Forces, the tale of Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami of the Para Special Forces is legendary. It is an unbelievable story of pride and inspiration. It is the story of a man who volunteered for three missions in eleven days, killed ten terrorists, and captured one terrorist alive—a tale of outstanding bravery.
Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami was born in Lalkuan village about 30 KM from Nainital in Uttarakhand. His father was an Army man, and thus as a son of an Army veteran, he was inspired to serve the country. So he joined the Indian Army, but he was still not satisfied, and thus he applied to join the 9th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, a Special Forces Battalion known for its daring operations in even the most challenging terrains. He went through all the tests and got selected, and soon, he was known as the most formidable soldier in his unit, a not at all ordinary feat as the unit consists of the best soldiers.
In August 2015, he was posted in Kashmir and rejoined his unit at Para Headquarters in Udhampur after spending two weeks with his family and celebrating his daughter Bhumika’s birthday with his wife, Bhawna. He also laid the foundation for building a new house.
On August 21, 2015, a Para-SF squad was deployed in a village named Khurmur in the Handwara district of North Kashmir. They received an intelligence report that three terrorists would arrive at a spot to receive six more terrorists. So the squad hid at the expected location, waiting for the terrorists to arrive. On the night of August 22, three terrorists arrived at the site holding AK-47.
However, the Army had to follow the challenge protocol and make sure that they were not civilians. As soon as they were called and told to clarify who they were, they started firing heavily. In the exchange of fire, Captain Dipesh Mehra, who was the squad leader, was hit by a bullet.
Meanwhile, in Udhampur, Lance Naik Goswami and three other SF officers were traveling in the squad vehicle for a different mission when they heard the radio that Captain Mehra had been shot. Hearing this, Lance Naik persuaded Team Commander Major Kumar to join and support the Special Forces.
They changed the car’s direction and went full throttle towards the location. However, unfortunately, they were spotted as soon as they reached because of the car’s headlights and came under heavy fire.
They instantly took cover and crept behind the terrorists, but the danger was that neither of the Para SF team knew each other’s exact location and could easily get assumed as terrorists and shot down.
Lance Naik Goswami came up with the idea of blinking a flashlight, an extremely dangerous move as it would reveal their location not only to the squad but also to terrorists. As soon as he made a move, as expected, they came under heavy fire from terrorists. Nevertheless, Lance Naik Goswami quickly killed one terrorist.
After which, the team of Para SF relocated and regrouped with the Special Forces squad, where Goswami safely evacuated Captain Mehra by keeping himself at risk and rejoined the squad again once Captain Mehra was safe. By the morning of August 22, the other two terrorists were also shot dead.
Operation Lidder Panzal
On August 26, five terrorists crossed the Line of Control (Loc), infiltrated from the Uri sector, and trekked their way towards the ridgeline on the Shamsharbari, where they suddenly faced off with the men from Army’s 35 Rashtriya Rifles.
One of the terrorists was shot dead, but the other four managed to escape. Immediately a Marker-2 drone was scrambled from an airbase in the valley to search for the escaped terrorists. Finally, at 5:45 PM, the drone tracked them down to a place with a network of caves, where they had taken cover.
By 7:00 PM, an Army Dhruv helicopter lifted off from Udhampur with 12 Para Commandos including Lance Naik Goswami and Major Kumar. The Commandos were dropped at 9:30 PM, about 4 km from the last known location of the terrorists. So they had to trek that 4 km with over 40 kgs of load.
Lance Naik Goswami as a scout, was leading the pack. The drone was still in the air and kept an eye out for them to make sure they did not get ambushed or let the terrorists escape. As soon as they reached, Goswami spotted a terrorist and fired. The Commandos formed a C formation around the cave, and Lance Naik Goswami was placed on the right side of the cave at a distance of 15 meters.
Barging in was not an option. They decided to play the waiting game. The commandos fired two rocket-propelled grenades at the cave’s opening to send the terrorists a message that there is no way out.
Panicked by the blast, two terrorists tried to dash to escape but were shot dead by Naik Goswami as soon as they emerged. The Commando fired two shots from his TAR-21 to kill both the terrorists.
The next afternoon, while still waiting for the other two terrorists, four men, including Goswami, were on a search mission around the cave to make sure that the terrorists had not escaped. Lance Naik Goswami was ahead of the rest and suddenly saw the leg of a terrorist behind a boulder. He aimed and shot.
With just one terrorist remaining, Major Kumar wanted to shoot another Rocket-Propelled Grenade and seal the fate of the last terrorist, but Lance Naik Goswami thought that capturing him alive would be crucial as they would get the information of his handlers. So he appealed to the terrorist to surrender.
Moments later, Sajjad Ahmed, alias Abu Ubaidullah came out with his hands up. He was captured and taken to the base, where he revealed that he was from Muzaffargarh in Pakistan and was sent to inflict casualties.
This time the intelligence suggested that four terrorists would make their way across the Sutsalayar forest of Kupwara, one of the densest forests in Kashmir, where visibility was never more than three meters. A long-haul operation of 96 hours was launched with 36 men, including Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami.
They arrived at the location on September 1 and got divided into two squads, deployed on either side of a broad mountain stream flowing through the forest. At 8:30 PM, the squad of Lance Naik Goswami detected the movement of the four terrorists, but as the procedure demanded, they had to call them out.
Lance Naik Goswami volunteered and shouted, demanding to know who they were. Suddenly a flurry of assault rifle bullets was shot by the terrorists. As a response, the Commando fired and hit a terrorist, injuring him. Then everything went silent, and both sides were playing a waiting game.
Shortly after midnight, terrorists fired from an under-barrel grenade launcher attached to their AK-47 towards a tree where two Commandos had taken the position. The grenade exploded, and its splinters injured the Commandos.
Lance Naik Goswami and his colleague Havildar Mahendra Singh, went from their locations to help the two injured Commandos get evacuated. However, a burst of bullets was fired from the terrorists, one of which went through Havildar Singh’s abdomen and straight into his spine.
To save him, Lance Naik Goswami sprung from his cover and fired furiously towards the terrorists. Two bullets hit him, one going through him and another one stuck inside his body. Then, as he was collapsing sideways, he fired his weapon in burst mode and shot dead two advancing terrorists.
Due to excessive bleeding from his gunshot wounds, Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami was martyred. He died on September 2, 2015. When the flag-draped casket with his mortal remains reached his house, around 10,000 people came and saluted the Commando. He was awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award on January 26, 2016.