New Delhi: Col Navjot Singh Bal, a Shaurya Chakra awardee and former commanding officer of the 2 Para, passed away in Bengaluru Thursday. He was 39.
Col Bal had been battling cancer for the last two years.
Hailing from a military family, Col Bal was posted at the Northern Command’s Operation section when the 2016 surgical strikes were carried out.
His death is being mourned in the Army, especially by personnel of the special forces community for whom he was a living icon.
“Col Bal was involved in multiple anti-terror operations and was a living icon in uniform,” said a Para officer, who did not wish to be identified.
Bal was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for an operation in the upper ranges of Kashmir’s Lolab Valley where he and his buddy chased a group of terrorists and shot dead two of them in close combat.
He had also been part of a United Nations mission in Congo.
Col Bal is survived by his wife and two sons aged 8 and 4 years.
Having done his initial schooling from Army Public School in Delhi’s Dhaula Kuan, Col Bal joined the National Defence Academy in 1998 and was commissioned into 2 Para in 2002.
‘Didn’t let cancer deter him’
Col Bal took over as the Commanding Officer of the Bangalore-based 2 Para on 20 March 2018.
A lump in his right arm was first spotted in May 2018 and subsequent tests revealed a very rare form of cancer.
He was put on chemotherapy but continued to do his work as the CO, sources said.
Known as an absolute fitness freak, the officer did not let his cancer come in way of his life.
Despite being sick, he continued with his fitness regime that involved 50 pull-ups with one hand.
“Such was his fitness that he even ran a 21-km half-marathon in spite of cancer hampering his normal breathing,” another officer said told ThePrint.
In January 2019, his right arm had to be amputated but he continued to serve as the CO as it was felt that the cancer had been taken care of.
Another officer, his senior, said the first thing that Col Bal did after he came back after his surgery in January was to modify his cycle.
“He did not see losing an arm as a setback. Such was his positivity and zest for life that he modified his bike on his own and made sure both brakes were on his left,” he said.
He even learnt to fire from his left hand with the same ease as the right.
It was only in April that it was realised that the cancer had spread to other parts of the body.
It was then that he handed over charge and sought full-fledged treatment.
He continued to stay at the para centre in Bengaluru.
(This report has been updated to incorporate details about Col Bal’s early life and family.)