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Major David Manlun (KC)


Major David Manlun

KnowYourHeroes

18/11/2021

 

A man too positive to be doubtful, too optimistic to be fearful and too adamant to be defeated. Small in stature yet full of determination, David was a flamboyant and exuberant Manipuri boy who confidently sang Bollywood songs with all wrong lyrics and duelled it with playing the guitar in an uncanny style to impress his friends. A high-spirited and jolly person who took joy in making others happy, David Manlun was someone you would want to hang out with. He was an excellent athlete, if it wasn't for his motorcycle rides in the chilly winters of Shillong, David would always be in for enjoying a football match alongside his friends and smashing the ball from the centre-forward like no one else. Apart from this dazzling and ostentatious personality, he had a sophisticated side too that had kept the flame burning within. Born in Manipur to an army man and brought up in Shillong, David was a typical army brat who grew up seeing his father, a Subedar in the Indian Army give it all whilst fighting for the nation. Young David was an ardent proponent of the Indian Army who alike his father wanted to serve the nation while living a life full of adventures and thrills, something he had always been passionate about. David had made up his mind to join the Indian Army and don the ever-exquisite olive green quite early in his childhood. Despite two failures in joining the Army, David's fortitude never wavered rather got even stronger and the resolute young Manipuri boy fought his way through sundry obstacles to realise his holy grail.


In the year 2009, David enduring all the impediments made his way to the Officers Training Academy. As restless as he was to get into the Academy, he was equally excited to get out in the open and hunt the militants and to all his delight, he got the first posting to Naugam sector, a place in North Kashmir truly known as hotspots of militants. Taking part in various search and cordon operations, David Manlun transformed into an avid soldier and a proficient leader. After a five year stint in North Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, he got the second posting and this time he was headed closer to his home. David was asked to report to the 164 Infantry Battalion in another militant dreaded area of Nagaland where the extremists of the ULFA(United Liberation Front of Assam) and NSCN-K(National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang) were known to be operating.


In the year 2015, the NSCN(K) terrorists ambushed a military convoy in the Chandel district of Manipur that resulted in the loss of 19 military personnel. Although the Indian Army's 21 PARA SF avenged the death of its personnel by crossing over the Myanmar border and launching the first of a kind surgical strike on these terror outfits, the Chandel incident however kept the whole of the northeast on high alert especially the Nagaland-Myanmar border. Operating in a familiar environment to mop out the tribal militancy in the northeast, David, newly promoted to the rank of Major toiled hard to educate the youth to walk the right path and helped them drive away from militancy that was on a surge in the northeast.


On June 6, 2017, Major David Manlun received vital inputs from a local informer that a group of ULFA(I) terrorists had crossed the Myanmar border and were moving towards Assam with a bulk of arms and ammunition. Quickly pouncing upon the credible input about the infiltration, Major David Manlun along with a team of PARA SF and 164 Infantry Battalion reached the Lapa Lempong area in Mon District, a hilly place where the militants were supposedly seen by the informer. It was dark, about 10 pm when suddenly two auto-rickshaws emerged, at first glance they looked suspicious. On being asked to stop, the rickshaws took a U-turn and accelerated towards the hill. David and his team gave the suspicious three-wheelers a chase on their gypsies. It was a steep narrow path and at a blind curved turn, one of the rickshaws fled while the rear stopped. Three terrorists jumped out hurling fury of bullets at the gypsies, 3 SF men were down in a brisk, Major David too took a blow in his chest. In the darkness, it wasn't possible to take on the terrorists who were at an advantageous height on the hill, Maj Manlun thence asked his buddies to give him cover, while slowly crawling his way onto the top, David emerged from the darkness and blew the head of the three terrorists from point-blank range but only to roar like a tiger and fall on the slope with a thud. David was no more, he had killed three terrorists and saved his men. He was a true leader and an avid soldier whose glory just like a lion rested in the field hunting and pouncing on its prey. A few days back, he was given a staff posting to do a desk job at a peaceful location however David opted for deployment in NSG(National Security Guards), 'Normal was too boring for the stout-hearted man'. Major David Manlun was honoured with Kirti Chakra posthumously which was received by his parents who were in tears but nevertheless had an ardour of pride in their heart for their son's service to the nation.

 

Born on July 27, 1985, to Subedar(retd) M. Khamzalam and Shrimati Nan Nuan Niang Manlun, David hailed from Beihang village of Churachandpur district in Imphal, Manipur and had four siblings, the elder brother Naik Jimmy Manlun is serving with the 8th Battalion of the Assam Regiment and elder sister Melody is married to Colonel Ashutosh while the younger sister Siampu is still pursuing her education. The Manlun family belongs to the Zou tribe and came from a village very close to the Myanmar border that roughly had a population of 1000. To give their children a better life, David's mother moved to Shillong, Meghalaya while David's father Subedar Khamzalam was away for postings. David completed his initial schooling at Army Public School, Shillong and graduated from St Anthony College, Shillong in the year 2006. David was an accomplished athlete, NCC Cadet, footballer and fanatic for International football. Not only was he an outstanding centre-forward for his football club in Shillong but also he kept a good taste in music too. Boy oh boy! did he ever miss a chance to flaunt his vocals, a bottle of coke, an acoustic guitar and a bunch of friends that were all required for his inner Bollywood actor to unleash, rip off the shirt and dance like there was no tomorrow. The multi-talent facets of David don't end here, apart from speaking his mother tongue Zou, he had a good command over English, Hindi, Mizo, Kuki and Paite languages.

Major David Manlun
Major David Manlun

David willingness to join the Indian Army was no secret, he wasn't even out of his school when he made up his mind to serve the nation but things weren't coming that easy for him, despite appearing twice for the National Defence Academy's entrance, he could not succeed to make the cut. His parent's thought that their son's confidence and spirit would be broken after the two failed attempts but it wasn't to be. The young Manipuri boy was cut apart, his determination had only intensified with each letter of rejection. In the meantime, his elder brother made it to the Indian Army and got recruited to the 8th Battalion of the Assam Regiment while David headed to Delhi for studying at the Army Institute for Management and Technology. Counting his days at the Institute, David would spend most of his days playing football, hanging out with friends, and participating in various activities accessible to a student in Greater Noida.


David's classmate at AIMT would recollect how restless he was to join the Forces, 'Army was everything for him,' recalled David's classmate while remembering the wonderful days spent at AIMT, Delhi. He was a person full of life, frolic and a jolly man who would go at length to make other's happy. His love for bikes was evident from the fact that he would take his friends for fun rides and get them back to their hostels in the chilly, bone shivering winters of Delhi. 'David knew how much I loved winter bike rides, he would borrow someone else's bike to give me a lift back to the hostel right before the gate shuts, he enjoyed enduring pain to make his friends happy', said David's classmate.


In June 2009, David finally succeeded in his SSB interview and a rugged medical test thereafter to get an opportunity to train at the prestigious Officer's Training Academy(OTA), Chennai. The OTA is well-known to train the cadets for Short Service Commission. David was on cloud nine ever since he received the news, everyone at the AIMT was equally happy for him. This occasion deserved nothing but a devilish celebration and so it was. A bottle of an old monk rum that had been lying in the cupboard for this very moment was brushed open to fill the plastic glass that quickly rolled among the cheering crowd who eagerly waited to see David's air guitar make its way out. It was the most memorable day at the AIMT that still remains eternally embedded in the hearts of his friends.

Lt David Manlun Passing Out Ceremony at OTA, Chennai
Lt David Manlun's Passing Out Ceremony at OTA, Chennai

A year went past and David was commissioned into the 1st Battalion of the Naga Regiment, that's known for its intrepid soldiers who had cut their teeth in the 1971 Indo-Pak war just a year after it was raised. On this momentous occasion, David's parents travelled all the way from Shillong to Chennai to see their son's dream come true. At the pipping ceremony, the teary-eyed mother Nan Nuan Niang tapped her son's shoulders with one look at his ravishing stars. Those dazzling two stars on either side of the shoulders were worth years of perseverance and obligation that persisted through failures and the test of time. During the training period, his coursemate would discuss where they want their first posting to be, David's constant reply was, 'A place where I can hunt and kill'. He was a daredevil who thrived on challenges and was always willing to put himself in the worst of the situation. For most, he was a maniac but for those who truly knew him, David was a force to be reckoned with, he was a Warrior.


March 2010, After commissioning, Lieutenant David Manlun joined the 1st Battalion of Naga Regiment in Naugam, North Kashmir. Naugam sector in the Kupwara District is extremely close to LoC that suffers to both; infiltration from Pakistan sponsored terrorists and unprovoked ceasefire violations from Pakistan Army throughout the year. In a two year stint in Naugam, David carried out several Counter-Insurgency and Search & Cordon operations alongside his unit, he even gave up his leave in order to be present at the ground zero during various combing missions. During his stay at the Naugam sector, David would intrepidly throw himself at the helm of the affairs, something he was always fond of but his non-stop volunteering for the operations had made his parent's a little concerned. David's father Subedar (rtd) M. Khamzalam was aware of the dangerous trails of the Naugam sector, years ago, he himself had served with 35 Rashtriya Rifles Unit in the Naugam forests. During the short telephone calls, he would always advise David to give his best but remain vigilant because the Valley is very unforgiving even to the bravest.

Major David Manlun
Major David Manlun

After serving in Kashmir and Regimental Training Centre in Himachal Pradesh, David had been promoted to the rank of Captain and was nearing a second posting. For what had been a 5 year run away from home, David had hardly been to Shillong even if he came on leave, it was too short. Over a call, David informed his parents about the posting. They were fervently hoping the deployment to be somewhere safer and closer to home and to all their delight David was asked to move to Nagaland and report to the 164 Infantry Battalion of the Territorial Army. Despite the Nagaland-Myanmar border being another militant dreaded area, David's parents were relieved that he was coming closer to home at least this time.


On December 5, 2014, with the military rucksack on the back and the enamoured guitar in his hand, Captain David Manlun reported to the 164 Infantry Battalion headquarters in Zakhama. His gleaming record in previous operations in North Kashmir was a stone engraved proof of his bravery, his Commanding Officer, Colonel KVK Prakash couldn't hold himself back and without a delay dispatched David in the field to command a company of Infantry soldiers in Mokokchung. David Manlun was thrilled to lead his company into an area so close to the international border. In a jovial manner, the Unit's CO recalls, how David was a Manipuri raised in Meghalaya and was operating in Nagaland. Over the next two years, David carried out several counter-insurgency operations in the troubled areas. During this time, he had several encounters with the NSCN-K and ULFA terrorists, over two occasions he had successfully nabbed the terrorists alive while recovering a heap of arms and ammunition.


NSCN-K(National Socialist Council of Nagaland) is an insurgent group formed by Myanmar based SS Khaplang in 1988, this rebel group includes Nagas from both India and Myanmar. Since its formation, the NSCN terrorists backed by the Chinese have been one way or the other involved in violence along the Indo-Myanmar border but in 2001, an agreement between the NSCN and Indian government had been packed to call for a ceasefire between the two camps. However various instances of violent faceoff have been reported between the Indian Army and the NSCN terror outfits and the same goes with the ULFA(United Liberation Front of Assam) who are a banned terror organisation that has been mounting several small and large scale ambush against the Indian Army and the citizens of North-east especially near Indo-Myanmar border since the early eighties.


Over the next two years, David lead several successful confrontations with the terror outfits who had been desperate to cause an uprising among the North-eastern people against the Indian Army. During this point in time, David was aware, if these terror outfits have to be defeated then the youth of the eastern states had to be driven away from the militancy. In order to gain the trust of the local youth, he organised several football tournaments and various athletic camps to lure the minds of the youth towards a positive outlook. As a football-obsessed person, David's work in organizing tournaments and camps was a direct reflection of how much he loved and valued North Eastern football, as is apparent from the pictures on his Facebook wall. Apart from these, he also took great initiative to organise vocational training, career counselling and medical camps in his area of operation.

Major David Manlun

The Chief of Army Staff's Commendation from General Dalbir Singh Suhag in 2016 recognized Major David Manlun for his goodwill missions to drive north-eastern youth away from militancy and a successful operation in Dimapur to capture a top NSCN-K militant. Seeing his excellent record, the Unit's Commanding Officer moved David to Mon District from Mokokchung, Mon is a crucial juncture and the northernmost tip of Nagaland. Surrounded by Arunachal Pradesh and Assam but most importantly Indo-Myanmar Border to the east, Mon District holds great importance as most militants use the Mon District routes to infiltrate from Myanmar to other eastern states.


Along with getting major responsibility of a border area, Major Manlun was also notified of his next posting, although he wasn't pinpointed with the location but for someone who had served two deployments in an active operation zone, it was certain a desk job/ staff posting was in the queue. He called his friends back in Shillong to give them the news but the sad voice of his could tell all the story, he hated a staff posting, it was the least he expected out of his Army life. 'Desk job is too boring', said Major David to his friends over WhatsApp but David had a year of time to figure out things before he would report to his next posting, his unit's buddies advised him to apply for deployment in NSG(National Security Guards), that was the only way for him to escape the mundane desk job life. Major was just hopeful and asked his parents to pray that the NSG plan works out. His father, a little concerned seeing his son anxious advised him to 'stay focused and not give much attention to the posting, everything will turn out fine'.


Meanwhile, after the 2015 Surgical Strike in Myanmar following the Chandel district ambush, the ULFA and NSCN-K terrorists were arming themselves heavily to avenge the great loss they suffered at the hands of 21 PARA Special Forces. The buzz for a desperate attack meant the Indo-Myanmar border needed to be much more secured and for Major Manlun who was at the helm of the affairs along the Myanmar border in Mon District, the jittery situation meant no time to think beyond operation. On June 4, 2017, Major Manlun received inputs from his vital sources, which he had cultivated since he moved to Nagaland. According to the local informer, a few heavily armed ULFA-I terrorists had infiltrated from Myanmar and were planning to move to Assam trailing the Nagaland. Although there had been several false buzzes before too, Major Manlun knew he and his boys have to be alert at every nook.


Over the next two days, David kept pursuing the information and building on the buzz, David alerted his Infantry company of a possible faceoff. On the night of June 6, 2017, Major Manlun was mitigating after a hectic day at the base, more so the news of the infiltration had kept him wide awake. Sitting back, relaxing at the station, David WhatsApped his parents and friends to tell them that he would return back home in a week. Just then his phone rang, it was the local informer who in a trembling voice informed Major Manlun about the terrorists. Unlike the earlier buzzes, this information was much more reliable, the informer not only specified the militant's headcount but also gave a location where the terrorists were headed.

Trail followed by ULFA(I) terrorists; Tizit to Lapa Lampong. Pic credit: Google Earth/ Hrishabh Tiwari
Trail followed by ULFA(I) terrorists; Tizit to Lapa Lampong. Pic credit: Google Earth/ Hrishabh Tiwari

Within moments, Major David Manlun along with soldiers of 164 Infantry Battalion and 12 PARA Special Forces jumped into two camouflaged gypsies and headed towards the Lapa Lampong area. Lapa is a hilly place in the Mon District, according to the inputs from the local sources, six ULFA(I) terrorists carrying heaps of arms and ammunition were travelling towards Tizit to cross the Lapa village and enter Assam. At around 9 pm, David once again received vital information, the terrorists had commandeered two autorickshaws and were impelling towards Lapa Lampong. Taking in regards, all the inputs, Major Manlun stationed himself around a corner in the Lapa village eagerly waiting for the militants. An hour passed yet there were no signs of perpetrators, in the dark night hours in a remote village, untrained ears would only hear the cracklings of nocturnal insects or their own breath but somewhere in the distance, Major Manlun could perceive the sound of the engines rolling rapidly, the frequency of which increased with every passing moment.


'Be Alert!', murmured Major Manlun as he got out of the gypsy firmly holding his AK rifle and looking towards the ghosted road. Just then a beam of light flashed from around the corners of the hill, two rickshaws accelerating on the narrow Lapa-Oting road emerged from the gloom. Captain Nitesh Kumar, commanding the 12 PARA SF signalled the tuk-tuks to stop, instead of slowing down, the two rickshaws swerved away and sped their way uphill. 'They are moving, they are moving', shouted a PARA soldier in a demanding voice that wanted nothing but an order to pour those 7.62 mm bullets in the moving vehicle. But for Major Manlun, giving the firing orders wasn't that easy, he had to make sure there were no civilians held hostage in the tuk-tuks. A discriminate firing might result in killing of innocent civilians which would aggravate the already tensed situation in the north-east. The reputation that the Indian Army had been building over the years in the hearts of North-eastern people would turn to dust with a wrong call.


It was a matter of few seconds, David had to take a quick call otherwise the militants would get away. Instead of opening fire at the speeding tuk-tuks, Major decided to give them a chase, he got into the front seat of one of the gypsies while Captain Nitesh and his PARA team jumped into the other gypsy. Following the rickshaws for few kilometers with a marginal 20 metres distance into the narrow dusty mountain roads, Major Manlun came across a blind turning corner that are very common in the hilly areas of Mon District. Although the rear rickshaw stopped, the one ahead accelerated and flew away. Midst the tumult, Major David saw 3 ULFA(I) terrorists jump out of the tuk-tuk and run away uphill to take shelter behind a big boulder. David, who sat in the front seat, immediately ordered the driver to pull over and screamed at everyone to jump out and take cover, David's vehicle had merely stopped when a rage of bullets were pelted by the terrorists. Jumping out quickly, David and his men took cover, some crawled behind rocks while some hid themselves behind the vehicle. As the first round of fire stopped, the gyspy carrying the PARA SF men reached only to meet the same fate as Major Manlun and his men were welcomed with.


Bullets kept flying through the vehicle as the PARA commandos tried to jump out and join the firefight soon after a sleet of bullets came knocking down three SF men. Major Manlun once again screamed at the soldiers to quickly take cover, just then a bullet pierced the metallic hull of the gyspy and tore open David's chest. He was hit and bleeding yet had the composure to provide a cover fire as his men took protection. Hadn't he fired and asked everyone to take cover, the entire group would have been eliminated in seconds. The terrorists were heavily armed, soon after they hurled a grenade towards the vehicles. David attempted to jump away from the blast, but a few granade splinters hit him the head, he was shaken up, probably on the verge of loosing consciousness. A few minutes of indicriminate firing from both sides gave David a moment to gather himself, by the time he shook the pain away, he had realized the firefight was of no use unless he gets a clear shot of those terrorists.


Major Manlun asked his men to give him cover fire, nobody knew what David was planning to do but they did as their commander had asked them to. Holding his rifle and slowly crawling his way up, Major Manlun reached near the rock where the militants had taken cover. Using the last of his energy left, Major David Manlun emerged from the darkness and in a brisk emptied his rifle's magazine in the head of those three terrorists. Killing those ULFA(I) militants, Major Manlun with a loud roar fell on the sloping ground with a thud. With his fingers still curled around the rifle's trigger, Major David Manlun closed his eyes never to open them again. The operation was over.