Bhubaneswar: January 26, 2011, might seem a far-fetched date where hardly anyone of us could recall what we were doing. But it was a day that would be etched in history and one etching it would be Col (then Major) Mitali Madhumita.
Hailing from Odisha, she had joined the Indian Army in 2000 and got commissioned into the Army Education Corps. She had served right from Jammu & Kashmir to the North East encompassing all the forward areas.
By February 2010, she was leading the Army’s English Language Training Team in Afghanistan. On the fateful day of February 26, she was staying at a nearby guesthouse when got the information of an attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.
As per the norm, Madhumita first checked for her colleagues’ safety. When she received no reply, she called others, only to find out there was a suicide bomber attack.
Madhumita ran to the spot for aid, as there was no vehicular movement following the attack. To her horror, she found most of the colleagues were injured, bullets were flying, and grenade blasts were happening. She did what she was trained to do as her duty, jumped in to rescue people, unarmed. She saved as many as 19 lives, including seven Indians, trapped under the debris, and mobilised local assistance to seek medical help.
For her valiant act, Madusmita was conferred with the Sena Medal, the very first awarded to a woman army officer who went beyond the call of duty and helped save lives. She continues to remain the only woman to have received it.
But that’s not the end of the story for this brave woman.
Col Madhumita being a short service commission (SSC) officer requested the army for a permanent commission, but the Ministry of Defence refused to accept her request. She appealed the Ministry of Defence’s decision not to give her permanent commission before the Armed Forces Tribunal in March 2014.
The Tribunal found her request had merit and in February 2015 directed the Ministry of Defence to reinstate her. However, the Ministry of Defence appealed against the order of the Armed Forces Tribunal in the Supreme Court of India was stating that Col Madhumita had enlisted in the army on a short service commission.
In 2016, the Supreme Court of India rejected the Ministry of Defence’s plea against granting her a permanent commission in the Indian army.
The story of Mitali Madhusmita is anything but inspiring and is filled with positivity.