Sandeep Unnikrishnan was an Indian Army officer who served in the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards. He was killed in action during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He was consequently awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India's highest peace time gallantry award, on 26 January 2009.
Early Life and Education
Sandeep was born and brought up in Bangalore, Karnataka. He was the only son of retired ISRO officer K. Unnikrishnan and Dhanalakshmi Unnikrishnan. Unnikrishnan pursued his formative education from the Frank Anthony Public School in Bangalore before graduating in 1995 in the ISC Science stream.
He was a die hard army aspirant right from his school days. His classmates and teachers remember him as a good athlete who was active in school activities and sports events.He was also a member of the school choir and enjoyed watching movies.
Unnikrishnan joined the National Defence Academy (India) (NDA), Pune, Maharashtra in 1995. He was a part of the Oscar Squadron (No. 4 Battalion) and a graduate of the 94th Course of NDA. He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts.
He was commissioned as a lieutenant to the 7th Battalion of the Bihar Regiment on 12 July 1999. After serving the Indian Army in different locations in Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan during counter insurgencies for two terms, he was selected to join the National Security Guards.
On completion of training, he was assigned to the Special Action Group (SAG) of NSG on January 2007 and participated in various operations of the NSG. During the 'Ghatak course' at the Commando Wing (Infantry School), Belgaum), the most difficult course of the Army, Unnikrishnan topped the course, earning an "Instructor Grading" and commendation. He opted for the NSG commando service which he joined on deputation in 2006.
2008 Mumbai Attacks - Operation Black Torando
On the night of 26 Nov 2008, several iconic buildings in South Mumbai were attacked by terrorists. One of the buildings where the terrorists held people hostage was the 100-year old Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Major Unnikrishnan was the team commander of 51 SAG deployed in the operation at the Taj Mahal Hotel to rid the building of terrorists and rescue the hostages. He entered the hotel in a group of 10 commandos and reached the sixth floor through the staircase. As the team descended the stairs, they sensed the terrorists on the third floor. The terrorists had held a few women as hostages in a room and locked it from the inside. After breaking open the door, the round of fire by the terrorists hit Commando Sunil Yadav, who was Major Unnikrishnan's buddy partner.
Major Unnikrishan led his team from the front and engaged the terrorists in a fierce gunfight. He arranged for Commando Sunil Yadav's evacuation and regardless of personal safety, chased the terrorists who, meanwhile, escaped to another floor of the hotel, and while doing so Major Sandeep continuously engaged them.In the encounter that followed, he was shot from the back, seriously injured and succumbed to injuries.
Ashok Chakra Citation
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan led the NSG commando operation launched on 27th November 2008 to flush out terrorists from Hotel Taj Mahal, Mumbai in which he rescued 14 hostages. During the operation, his team came under intense hostile fire, in which one of his team members got grievously injured. Major Sandeep pinned down the terrorists with accurate fire and rescued the injured commando to safety.
In the process, he was shot in his right arm. Despite his injuries, he continued to fight the terrorists till his last breath. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan displayed most conspicuous bravery besides camaraderie and leadership of the highest order and made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.