The main sources for this essay are newspaper reports and army records found in the public domain.
Mangerira C. ‘Vinod’ Muthanna was an army officer who
guarded India’s frontiers in the Kashmir valley against
cross-border terrorists. He was born in 1964 in Chettimani
village, near Bhagamandala town, Madikeri taluk in Kodagu. Joining
the Officer’s Training Academy in Chennai in 1984, he was
commissioned into the army the following year. He first served in
Jammu and Kashmir (1985-1991), then in Punjab (1991-1993), next in
Arunachal Pradesh (1993-1996), later in Bangalore (1997-1999) and
finally again in Jammu and Kashmir (1999-2000).
his 15 years’ tenure he rose from the position of a Second
Lieutenant to that of a Major. He was part of the 5thSikh
Light Infantry unit, Rashtriya Rifles. In the year 2000, Major
Muthanna was posted at Khanabal in Anantnag district, Jammu and
Kashmir. This remote army base was however near Srinagar and along
the main National Highway of Kashmir. Under constant attack from
terrorists, it was the army’s responsibility to guard the civilians
and the infrastructure around the camp.
eventful day, the 12th of
January that year, four Lashkar-e-Toiba militants arrived in a
Maruthi Omni van, at around 6 in the evening. Armed with AK47s,
grenades and rocket launchers, they forced themselves into the
barracks and began to fire indiscriminately. But the Jawans returned
fire and stopped the moving vehicle. One militant was promptly shot
dead and another was wounded by the soldiers. However, the remaining
two escaped unseen into a small, two-storey building nearby.
Muthanna informed his Commanding Officer about the situation. The
attack had stopped for a while but the militants’ location within
the camp was unknown. Upon the CO’s instructions the Major had the
area sealed and searched. The militants were discovered in that
building, which was across the road. It had only one entry-point and
a stairway. Two jawans then entered the building in order to capture
the militants. But they were shot at and cornered.
moment Major Muthanna decided to risk his life in order to save his
men. He quickly entered the building after them. While he provided
cover to the two injured jawans, they were taken away to safety. In
the meantime he managed to shoot dead one of the two militants. But
in the process he was fatally wounded himself. He sustained a bullet
wound on his right side below the hips. A grenade hurled at him had
exploded in his face, again on the right, and badly injured him.
Seven hours had flown by since the militants’ arrival. The time was
1.30 in the midnight. The Major had lost consciousness by then.
Jawans who were undergoing treatment had informed the others that
Major Muthanna was fine when they parted. The Army had fired upon the
building in order to save the Major trapped within. The remaining
militant pretended to surrender and was to be taken away. Before he
was to be disarmed an interrogation took place. It was then that he
began to fire again at the soldiers from inside the building. The
soldiers shot back at him. He was killed but not before he removed
the pin of a grenade and held on to it while dying. His intention was
to blow up anybody who would lift his corpse.
building was taken by the army at 3.30, in the wee hours of the
morning. Meanwhile the Major, aged 36, succumbed to his injuries. His
corpse was found inside the structure. The alert soldiers became
aware of the unexploded grenade. They were able to prevent any
further damage to themselves from the probable explosion. The
terrorist’s final plan was hence thwarted.
of civilians and soldiers were saved by Major Muthanna’s courageous
deed. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously. This military
decoration, an equivalent of the Vir Chakra, was for his bravery and
self-sacrifice, beyond the call of duty, during an enemy attack in
times of peace.
M. C. Muthanna Marg (road),
Major M. C. Muthanna Army Goodwill High School / Public School and a
recreation hall named after him, all three in Khanabal in Jammu and
Kashmir, were inaugurated by the Indian Army. Manjunath Acharya of
Somwarpet made the sculpture of him which was unveiled near the Town
Hall at Madikeri in 2010.