It all happened on the night of 25th January 1994, DPK Pillay, then a young Army captain decided to take a patrol. He was tasked with protecting a few tribal villages during a highly charged phase of violence in Tamenglong, Manipur.
During his patrol, he had tracked down the terrorists to a locked room. Pillay decided to take on the terrorists himself than to wait for back up to arrive. He broke open the door only to be welcomed by a burst of bullets. One grazed past his shoulder. This was followed by three more, one of which hit him in the chest. To make matters worse, a grenade was hurled at him too which managed to take a portion of his leg.
“I don’t know how I saw the grenade in the darkness but instantly, I kicked the grenade and the grenade blew on my leg, taking a portion of my leg away,” he say
While lying in a pool of blood, Pillay saw two children – a boy and a girl -wounded and with a determined thought to save their lives, the kind-hearted solider had the kids airlifted first for immediate medical aid before he was himself evacuated from the spot. Make no mistake the Colonel himself was fatally wounded, but despite that he hung on and decided to save the lives of the two children.
“The nearest hospital was about 6 hours away. There’s no way the children would have survived. I think I knew that I had 5 minutes of life left in me and I can hang on for a little bit. So I told the pilot not to worry about me,” he says.
Colonel Pillay, now decorated with Shaurya Chakra, paid a visit to the village in March 2010 for the first time on the invitation of the villagers. It seems the village hasn’t forgotten it’s saviour as the entire village gathered around him. Not only that, he was also inducted as an important member of the local community.
Today, Colonel Pillay overseas livelihood programmers for the village and is instrumental in bringing a motor-able road to the village. He organizes developmental activities in the region. Prompted by Pillay’s initiatives, the BRTF has started the groundwork to construct a new 28-km road connecting the village with Tamenglong district headquarters. The soldier’s humanitarian service has also earned him the moniker of ‘Pillay Pamei’ among the local population. ‘Pamei’ is the surname of a clan of the influential Zeliangrong community residing in the village.
It is not every day that we get to witness such selfless service and Colonel Pillay is an example of incredible bravery and kindness. He saved the lives of two children, as well as paving the way to a better future for them. No wonder he has aptly earned himself the title ‘Hero of Manipur’ and ‘Savior of Longdipabram.’