|Colonel Navjot Singh Bal (SC)|
Col Navjot Singh Bal, a Shaurya Chakra awardee and former commandant of the two Para, gave up the ghost 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 administered .
His death is being mourned within 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 didn't wish to be identified.
Bal was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for an operation within the upper ranges of Kashmir’s Lolab Valley where he and his buddy chased a gaggle of terrorists and shot dead two of them in close combat.
He had also been a 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 commandant of the Bangalore-based 2 Para Special Forces on 20 March 2018. A lump in his right arm was first spotted in May 2018 and subsequent tests revealed a really rare sort of cancer. He was placed on chemotherapy but continued to try to to his work as the CO, sources said.
Referred to as an absolute fitness freak, the officer didn't let his cancer change the way of his life. Despite being sick, he continued together 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.
In January 2019, his right arm had to be amputated but he continued to function as CO because it was felt that the cancer had been taken care of. Another officer, his senior, said the one thing that Col Bal did after he came back from his surgery in January was to switch his cycle. “He didn't see losing an arm as a setback.
Such was his positivity and zest for all times that he modified his bike on his own and made sure both brakes were on his left,” he said. He even learnt to fireside from his left with an equivalent ease because the right.
It was only in April that it had been 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 remain at the para centre in Bengaluru.