Death defying bear hug: Major (Dr) Laishram Jyotin Singh, Ashoka Chakra (posthumous)
Lt Col L Manongba
In this article, the author, narrates the story of a young martyr from Manipur, who was trained twice over to save lives – One on the Hippocratic oath as a Doctor; the other as a Soldier with a formal promise & covenant for loyalty and allegiance to the country. “The vower agreed to obey all commands of the President of the Union of India and from any officer set over him, even to the peril of one’s life”.
Major Laishram Jyotin Singh’s ‘train ride with us on Planet Earth’ began in Nambol, a small but prosperous town astride the Tiddim Road in Manipur. This satellite township had witnessed the last stand of the Japanese Army at Red Hill (Maibam Lokpa Ching) in the Second World War in Manipur, before the tide turned against them. Today, Nambol is home to the Symbol of Reconciliation & Peace - India Peace Museum, sponsored by the Japanese Foundation. This cocktail of borough cum countryside environs was home to a young boy, Jyotin, son of Laishram Markando Singh and Laishram Ibeyaima Devi. Born on May 14th, 1972 at Nambol Awang Leikai, he was blessed with two kind ladies as elder sisters Dr L Binakumari Devi & Smt L Ragini Devi (Lecturer in Mathematics) & a younger brother Professor L Boeing Singh (Civil Engineering Professor at IIT Guwahati). Children of humble parents (father a State Govt Agriculture & Horticulture Department employee and a home maker mother) they all grew very tall in their own worlds as very highly accomplished professionals.
Jyotin, the third child surpassed them all. ‘Ibungo’ as he was fondly called, did his schooling from Manipur Public School (MPS). He was the Placard holder of the MPS boy’s contingent during state Republic Day Parades at Imphal. This was a position of pride for any teenager. Ibungo was very conscientious and diligent; he would reach Imphal at daybreak for tuitions, rest at a friend’s place, and then attend school. He loved playing football, athletics, bodybuilding and trekking. He was destined for competition right from childhood. He did his MBBS from the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Imphal in 1996. His love for sports made him pursue and complete a two year Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Medicine from Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports in 2001, under Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Patiala.
To quote a friend, “He would always wear a suppressed smile which would explode into a grin occasionally. He was always ready to help a friend in distress.” The desire to reach out far beyond the lovely meadows of his birthplace Nambol, the self imposed disciplined life that he inculcated as a young boy struggling through his schooling days, brought him to the portals of Army Medical Corps (AMC). He was commissioned into the AMC on 15th February 2003. Reminiscing about his initial days after joining the army, his colleague Lt Col (Dr.) MKK Maring narrates “Four of us, Capt Ch Keishing, Capt L Jyotin Singh, Capt M Athikho & self, all from Manipur & alumni of RIMS joined the AMC in the same month. Fresh from medical college and with no army background in the family, we were a big humour in uniform. There were hiccups galore - sudden changes in our daily routine from civil lifestyle to military discipline, coping with mess etiquette, etc. During our pre-induction training in the hospital, the unit Company Havildar Major taught us drills and saluting. One day, the drill master gave a command ‘Baiye Salute’; Jyotin promptly lifted his left arm and saluted in style. The drill master nearly fainted !! We then went for Medical Officers Basic Course at Officers Training School, AMC Centre & School, Lucknow.
After completion of training, Jyotin was posted to Arunachal Pradesh in High Altitude Area with a medical unit of Border Roads Organization. We were all young, handsome but clumsy men. At the end of the course, because of hard and rigorous training we all became refined gentlemen & probably better Doctors. We then parted ways on postings, to meet again for a brief while at Leimakhong / Silchar in 2009. Little did one realise that, this was the last time we would meet. I pulled his legs to get married”. One of his colleagues Major (Dr.) N. Jiten Singh (Retd) recalls that Major Jyotin was looking after not only the GREF personnel but also provided medical care to civilians and their families in that remote area of Arunachal Pradesh. The local populace was so happy with him that one of the local elders wanted him to marry a girl from the village and settle down there.
While serving at the Military Hospital at Agartala, Major Jyotin at times wore several hats as a Medical Officer cum Quartermaster cum Adjutant & sometimes as officiating Commanding Officer of the unit. Apart from routine hospital duties, Jyotin shared his Sports Medicine expertise with his troops. Jyotin, an excellent football and badminton player, would spend most of the evenings playing football with the Jawans of the unit or badminton with the officers of the garrison. This gave him an opportunity to interact with all ranks and he was indeed popular. The shy young lad from Nambol, Major L Jyotin had transformed into a dedicated soldier, officer and doctor. In September 2007, Jyotin was asked if he was keen to go to Hyderabad for the World Military Games in Oct . Maj L Jyotin was advised to volunteer for such events as he had the qualification and experience to deal with athletics and sports medicine. This exposure would widen his horizon and earn him a life time experience dealing with armies of the world. L Jyotin Singh reached Hyderabad for the World Military Games from 14 Oct to 21 Oct 2007. There he worked hard, especially in the anti doping cell of the games, to the satisfaction of all and got a certificate of appreciation from the International Military Sports Council. Due to his competence and previous performance at World Military Games he was again detailed to provide medical cover for one of the disciplines at Pune during the Delhi Commonwealth Games in October 2008.
In December 2009, Jyotin reported to Delhi to undergo training for the Indian Medical Mission to Afghanistan. The night prior to departure for Kabul, Afghanistan, Dr. N Jiten and Jyotin met up at Delhi Haat, a favourite spot for North Easterners based in Delhi. He confided that an engagement was expected soon after his return from the Afghan Mission, with a girl of his parent’s choice. He had not informed his parents about going to Kabul, as they might get worried. As destiny would later unfold, the two friends had their last meal together that evening. A few days after he landed in Kabul, he sent some photographs of the snowy residential compound to Jiten.
On 26th February 2010, news flashed that six Indian nationals had been killed in a terrorist attack in Kabul. The name of Major (Dr.) Laishram Jyotin Singh headed that list. Kabul at an elevation of 1791 metres is pretty cold in February with average temperature normally below 0 Degree Celsius. Major Laishram Jyotin Singh had commenced looking after patients thronging the Indian Mission Hospital as part of the Indian Medical Mission team to Kabul on 13 February 2010. On 26th February at about 06.30 a.m. three Burkha clad terrorists and a driver tried to drive their car past the concrete mobile barriers placed at the entrance to the Noor Guest House in Shar E Naw, an upscale place in Kabul where Jyotin and other Indian staff were lodged. The neighbouring guest house had other international guests. When the Afghan Security guards and private armed security personnel challenged the car, three of the terrorists alighted and rushed away. The driver then detonated the car and himself about 60 metres short of the entrance to the guest houses. The blast left a 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep crater.
To be contd