Mumbai: It is a usual day at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, the hotel is buzzing, coffee shops are full but the family of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan are quietly remembering him today after all he would have turned 42 on March 15.

The commando of the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan gave his life on November 26, 2008, while combatting Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists who carried out one of the deadliest attacks at Taj hotel. 

Unnikrishnan who was leading a team of 10 commandos was fighting from the front. While shooting at terrorists he told his team members, “Do not come up, I’ll handle them.”

The NSG major not only rescued 14 hostages from the hotel but also made sure that his injured colleague is evacuated before him.

Major Unnikrishnan was conferred the Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest peacetime gallantry award, on 26 January 2009.  His citation reads, “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.”
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s father who is a retired Indian Space Research Organisation officer says India needs many “Major Unnikrishnans” and he has taken a vow to “create more majors like my son”.

The 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guard (NSG), the Black Cats, are the most lethal of India’s elite warriors, skilled as much in stealth as in warfare in just about any circumstance. Sandeep, who had completed three Kashmir tours, including a posting on the Siachen glacier, one of the world’s most dangerous battlefields, was already an instructor. But he volunteered for the Mumbai operation when NSG men were informally assembled on the night of 26 November 2008 in Manesar.

His family, earlier in an interview, said that Unnikrishnan always had this attitude of winning in everything that he did. He liked Sachin Tendulkar for this reason. Sandeep Unnikrishnan always wanted our country to win. When India lost a match, he used to be very disappointed. He also used to console his father whenever an ISRO project failed. He did not like defeat.

For Major Unnikrishnan, nationalism meant that you do something good for the country, not extract benefits from it.