The Indian Army toils day and night to keep the nation safe. And it is in their honour that the Ashoka Chakra is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or an act of daring or self-sacrifice for the nation. It is India’s highest peacetime military decoration award. On April 30, 1962, Alby D’cruz, who was Lance Naik, was awarded the Ashoka Chakra by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the former President of the country. Alby passed away on Tuesday, 6th June, due to old age ailments at the age of 87. But his life serves to be an inspiration for the youth.
What was the act of bravery?
The state honoured him with the Ashoka Chakra for his extraordinary bravery and courage during the civil war with the Naga rebels who demanded an independent Nagaland in 1960. Alby’s post involved fighting the Naga insurgents while serving in the Assam border guard area. This was during the time when guerrilla attacks were common in Nagaland. He was in charge of the signal communication at the attacked post.
His major role was to convey war information to the army headquarters through a wireless set. On the first day of the attack, the wireless battery ran out of petrol. As the militants surrounded the Naga camp, the jawans who were commanded to collect the supplies and bring them from the outer bunk were scared. It was during this time Alby risked his life to take up a mission that wasn’t his and brought in the barrel of petrol.
His second act of bravery was bringing in the two weapon boxes dropped outside the camp accidentally by the army planes. Knowing that if the weapon boxes fell into the hands of the Naga militants, the army amp could be bored down, no one but Alby went ahead alone with the operation and struggled to bring in the heavy box all on his own. After a few soldiers had lost their lives in a few days, the Indian forces reached the spot and commended Alby for bus work. With this recommendation of the Brigadier, he was considered and selected for the Ashoka Chakra. He was amongst the few soldiers who had received the honour at the age of 24.
His humble beginnings
Alby D’cruz’s father, Dominic Dcruz, served as the helmsman of one of the ships owned by the Travancore family. As the returning cargo ship anchored a few miles from the Shankhummugam Palace, Alby would often swim across the sea to the ship and return. One day while swimming back to the shore, he encountered Major Devapalan, the brother of the film stars Lalitha, Padmini, and Ragini. This led to an interesting conversation where the major asked him if he wanted to join the army. He said yes, and an election was held the next day at the Majors residence in Vattiyoorkau. Alby is the only one from the Latin community in Kerala to have won this award.
Alby’s simple lifestyle
After retiring from the army as a Havildar in 1975, Alby worked as a clerk in a Telecommunication equipment store in Dubai. Later when he returned to Chittura, he lived in their family house. All his life, he lived happily, knowing he did his bit to serve the country and led a content life.
He is survived by his wife Matilda and children Gladyston, Ignatius, and Shoba, their spouses and children.
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