Udayavni Special

New book to tell untold story of Indian Army’s brave mission in Africa


PTI, Jul 3, 2021, 6:46 PM IST

New Delhi: Some of the little-known details of ‘Operation Khukri’ — the Indian Army’s peacekeeping mission in the jungles of Africa — will be told in a first-hand account by author Major General Rajpal Punia, slated to release on July 15.

”Operation Khukri: The untold story of Indian Army’s bravest peacekeeping mission abroad”, published by Penguin Random House India (PRHI), is the story of the Indian Army’s successful rescue mission of over 200 India peacekeepers who were sent to Sierra Leone in year 2000 by United Nations to help the government there in tackling Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group. July 13 marks the 21st anniversary of the operation.

The book is co-written by Major General Punia and his daughter Damini Punia. Punia, who was then the CO of the 58th Gorkha Rifles, orchestrated the operation, survived the ambush of the RUF in a prolonged jungle warfare twice, and returned with all 233 soldiers.

”Operation Khukri is a story of survival, courage and immense love for the motherland. The book ‘Operation Khukri’ is symbolic of my duty towards the soldiers who I led into battle in a far-off land against an unknown enemy,” Punia, who was decorated with the Yudh Seva Medal in 2002, told PTI.

”It will give you an insight into how a soldier’s life unfolds, how children long for their fathers, how 233 soldiers faced death without food for close to three months and ultimately chose to die fighting than of hunger,” he added.

In 2000, Sierra Leone, in West Africa, ravaged by years of civil war saw an intervention by the UN, and the two companies of the Indian Army were deployed in Kailahun as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

Soon, the peaceful mission turned into a war-like stand-off between Punia’s company and the RUF rebels in Kailahun, with the Indian peacekeepers cordoned off for 75 days without supplies.

”The only way home, they were told by the RUF, was by laying down their weapons,” reads the book.

According to Damini, the book is indeed a restructuring of Punia’s memories and an ”attempt to highlight the courage and valor of every soldier donning the olive-green uniform in India”.

”It is truly unfortunate that people are not aware of an operation that transpired a year after the Kargil War, an operation where soldiers chose death over cowardice, dignity over two meals and honour over freedom,” she writes in the introduction.

The book, a maiden attempt by the father-daughter duo as authors, is dedicated to Havildar Krishan Kumar, Sena Medal (posthumous), the only gallant warrior India lost in the operation.

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