Chetan Cheetah: Always the first to face the bullets

Slipping into a coma for nearly two months after being shot nine times in a gun battle, CRPF commandant Chetan Kumar Cheetah is back to normal.

Published: 05th April 2017 09:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th April 2017 05:44 AM   |  A+A-

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju seeing the CRPF Commandant Chetan Kumar Cheetah at AIIMS | PTI

Express News Service

"Inko dekh lenge sir (We will deal with them sir)..." Chetan Kumar Cheetah would tell his senior colleague Rajesh Yadav while leading his team in operations against terrorists in the Kashmir Valley. And he would be the first to volunteer. Commanding the 45 Battalion of CRPF at Sumbal, Bandipora, Cheetah used to tell his colleagues in the CRPF, "We are no less than the Army when it comes to dealing with terrorists."

"At the base hospital in Srinagar, when I first saw his x-ray and other medical reports, I was shocked to see the way the bullet had pierced his skull and other parts of the body. He was badly wounded. But his determination achieved a miracle. Though he was my junior, we never had that barrier of senior-junior between us. He was like my younger brother and we used to discuss professional and personal things,'' says Cheetah's senior colleague Rajesh Yadav, Commandant of 161 Battalion of CRPF.

Both had together worked in CoBRA as well (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) and Cheetah was posted in Srinagar in September last year.

"I remember that day, February 14, when the information regarding terrorists trickled in. He was the first to opt to be in the striking party as always. He never believed in sending his junior officers for operations which he could easily have. He always led from the front. Although he was hit that day, he still continued firing even as he collapsed. Once a task was given to Cheetah, it meant mission
accomplished," recalls Rajesh Yadav.

He says ever since Cheetah took over as commandant of 45 Battalion, the results were there for everyone to see. "He participated in a few encounters earlier and achieved great results. He is a true leader, always eager to do something. He was also in the signals (technical) wing of CRPF besides CoBRA. He has undertaken some exemplary operations alongside the Army. When not participating in operations, Cheetah was a known fitness freak who would spend hours in physical activity. Otherwise, a jolly person. But tell him the word operations and he won't think twice and say "Don't worry, I will take care."

Besides a thorough professional, Cheetah was also a dedicated family man. "His family visited Srinagar just few days before he got injured in that encounter on February 14. He had posted all photographs on Facebook as well. I pray that he recovers completely and is back with us at the earliest," says Yadav.

Former CRPF director-general K Durgaprasad told Express that Cheetah is a fighter ''On field and off field.'' I went to see him sometime back but he was still in coma. I was keeping track of his condition on a daily basis and I was happy to know that he was shifted to a room from ICU. It is his sheer fighting capabilities that brought him back so fast. It is a miraculous recovery. I can only say that his fighting spirit brought him back.''

"I would expect him to don the uniform soon and be an inspiration for both senior and junior officers in the force,'' Durgaprasad added.


What makes soldiers take bullets for the sake of the nation?

While Chetan Kumar Cheetah's example is a one of its kind case wherein the CRPF soldier took nine
bullets and also suffered splinter wounds, former DGP of Jammu and Kashmir K Rajendra, who hanged up his boots in December last year, says it is a question of conviction among the soldiers like Cheeta who fight and are ready to lay down their lives for the motherland.

While Rajendra is all praise for Cheetah, whom he met a few times, the former DGP himself suffered three bullet wounds in a fidayeen attack while he was serving as IGP, Kashmir region.

The date May 21, 2006 is a day Rajendra can never forget in his lifetime. At a rally organised by the Youth Congress to mark the 15th death anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, at Sher e Kashmir park in Srinagar that day, two militants entered the premises clad in police uniform and began firing indiscriminately at the podium. Six persons were killed and 35 including Rajendra were injured. Three bullets pierced his body and he too was in a near-death situation but eventually came out of it.

"I underwent half a dozen surgeries and was hospitalised for six months before I could recover fully. Like Cheetah, there are many officers and soldiers who are ready to lay down their lives for motherland. Cheeta's willpower and determination is phenomenal. It is a question of one's conviction."

"I met Cheetah during a few meetings and he is one of the finest officers in the fore front. I know him, he will bounce back. Though some of his injuries may be permanent, he will come out of it, just like a true soldier," Rajendra told Express.



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