December 15th, 2015
Image Courtesy: Sify
“The captain goes down with the ship” is an idiom and maritime tradition that every captain of the ship abides by. We are proud that Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla chose to stand by 18 officers and 176 sailors who went down with the sinking ship. He lived the life of a warrior and even chose the death that engraved his name in the golden annals of Indian Navy.
A plethora of examples worldwide says that various Captains abandoned their ships while saving their own lives.
* On July 17, 1880, the captain and crew of the SS Jeddah abandoned the ship.
* On August 4, 1906, captain Giuseppe Piccone abandoned the SS Sirio at the first opportunity. Around 400 people died when the ship sank.
* On November 12, 1965, captain Byron left the ship with the lifeboat and let 90 crew die with the sinking ship.
In stark contrast with the above mentioned cases, we can beam with pride that Captain Mulla set n example that will inspire generations to come.
Captain Mulla was a Kashmiri born in Uttar Pradesh. He was commissioned in the Indian Navy on May 1, 1948.
During the 1971 war, he was commanding a task force of two ships. The task force was assigned the task of hunting and destroying enemy submarines in the North Arabian Sea.
On December 3rd 1971, Indian Naval radio detection equipment identified a submarine in the vicinity of Diu harbour. Khukri along with two other ships Kirpan and Kuthar dispatched to hunt down the submarine. Then came the fateful night of December 9, 1971, when the enemy submarine PNS Hangoor fired torpedoes at INS Khukri. Some sources say that it was hit by more than one torpedoe.
Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla ordered his men to abandon the ship, while he himself stuck to the deck. He gave his life-saving jacket to a sailor and preferred to go down with 18 officers and 176 sailors. INS Khukri was the only Indian Naval ship which has sunk till date.
One of the survivors, Commander Manu Sharma, said that he got a last glimpse of the Captain. The Captain was last seen sitting on his chair, smoking and hanging on to the railing.
He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra. His saga of courage will inspire future naval officers. He set an example keeping with the highest tradition of armed forces. We salute the valour of this unsung hero.