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A Tribute to Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla: An Epitome of Bravery

Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla was an Indian Navy officer who died in Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. He was the captain of the ship INS Khukri. This Indian Blackwood anti-submarine warship was deployed to fight against Pakistan during Operation Trident for the general people; it was the war of 1971. INS Kukri and its captain Mahendra Nath Mulla is the history the Indian Navy will never forget. It is a fascinating thrilling battle story that salutes courage. Captain M N Mulla is a model of courage and a great leader who fought courageously and faced all challenges of Pakistan. Finally, he went down with his ship and fellow officers during the war. He was given Maha Vir Chakra respectively for showing noticeable chivalry and devotion to his duty.

It was December 9, 1971, when the violent war took place between India and Pakistan 40 nautical miles away from the coast of Diu in the Arabian Sea. Two ships of the Indian Navy, Khukri and Kirpan, under the captaincy of MN Mulla, were allocated the task of locating and destroying the Pak submarine PNS Hangar. Ruined by Pakistani Submarine PNS Hangor, INS Khukri was the only ship to sink to continue this battle. But INS Khukri was hit by three torpedoes fired by the Pakistani submarine and submerged into the sea. Captain MN Mulla decided not to abandon the ship. He didn’t care about his safety and supervised all the rescue operations calmly and methodically. Captain Mulla stayed on the deck. He ordered his men to leave the ship and jump into the icy water of the Arabian Sea to save them. But he didn’t leave the ship. He passed his life-saving jacket to a sailor. He went back to the bridge to see what further rescue operations could do to save other officers and sailors. Even in the later phase, while the ship was drowning, he showed his presence of mind and tried to save as many sailors as possible. Captain Mulla was last seen going down with his ship. He fought and died with the honor of a great leader and the ship’s captain at 8.45 pm when Khukri sank into the Arabian Sea. He chose to stay with his 18 officers and 176 sailors. They all went down with the ship. Still, now he is the only Indian captain who went down with his ship for a watery grave. He set an example of bravery to the Indian Navy and to the whole nation. He taught naval officers not only how to live but how to die. India is proud to have a son like Captain MN Mulla and the story of his courage and Khukri.

One of the survivors’ Commander Manu Sharma, has not forgotten the night of December 9. Once, he said in an interview that he remembered when the ship sank after being hit by the Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor, there was a small doorway escape from where they were pulling the sailors, and everyone was trying to save his life. That is the moment when he cried. His captain MN Mulla pushed him and Lieutenant Kundan Mall. Captain also said them to go ahead without thinking of him. At that time, he saw Captain Mulla holding the ship’s railing with a cigar in his mouth.

A memorial function was organized where the book was released on what happened to the Khukri. The book ‘The Sinking of INS Khukri-Survivors’ Stories’ was written by Maj. Gen. (retd.) Ian Cardozo. According to the book, many factors are responsible for losing the warship. The warship was tailored with experimental radar that slowed its speed on that war mission. It was a great opportunity for Pakistan to destroy the warship. The submarine of Pakistan was encouraged further by the failure to implement the standard operating procedure. The submarine hunters’ Sea King helicopters were not under the supervision of Captain Mulla. These helicopters failed to act and returned to the coast after running out of fuel and stores. This was the major reason for Khukri’s watery grave. Sea King helicopters were the strength of the troop. When they left, the squadron was helpless to the submarine. According to Commander Manu Sharma, When Sea Kings were operating there in the mission, the Pakistani submarine Hangor did not surface. Later that evening, it became powerful when Pakistan found that Sea Kings were not on the mission. Hangor became more dominant and started firing. Commander Sharma also disclosed that the Khukri was hit because its captain ordered the slow movement to perform that experimental war equipment mounted on the ship’s sonar. When the submarine Hangor fired at the Khukri, Khukri was experimenting with the improved version of the sonar.

Mahendra Nath Mulla was born in Uttar Pradesh and joined the Indian Navy on May 1, 1948, at 22 years of his age.

The Indian Government awarded Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla Maha Vir Chakra to respect him for his bravery and devotion to duty. Indian Navy decided to honor the sacrifices of INS Khukri. A memorial establishing an entire model of INS Khukri, which is 15 meters long, two meters wide and seven feet tall, is faced at the area where the team of Captain MN Mulla fought bravely. It is situated on a small hill facing the Arabian Sea at Diu. It was inaugurated by Vice Admiral Madhvendra Singh in 1999 during his period as FOC-in C Western Naval Command. On the Golden Jubilee of the Republic Day, Indian Post Office stamped Captain Mulla to pay tribute to his bravery and sacrifice for his country. Admiral Madhvendra Singh, former Chief of the Naval Staff, inaugurated ‘Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla Auditorium’ at Navy Nagar in Mumbai. It is a 968-seated, air-conditioned auditorium.

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