Neha Unnikrishnan is the wife of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan who was martyred in action during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.
Who was Sandeep Unnikrishnan?
Sandeep Unnikrishnan was a 31-year-old officer in the Indian Army from Kozhikode, Kerala who laid down his life, fighting terrorists while serving in the elite Special Action Group of the National Security Guards.
26/11 Mumbai Attacks – Operation Black Tornado
On 26 November 2008, a group of ten terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist terrorist organization in Pakistan, launched a series of attacks in Mumbai and invaded Mumbai’s several iconic buildings including Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi Trident, and Nariman House, where the terrorists held many hostages.
Following the attacks, Sandeep Unnikrishnan was given charge of the ‘team commander’ of the 51 Special Action Group (51 SAG) that was deployed in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel to rescue the hostages. Soon after entering the hotel with ten commandos, Sandeep Unnikrishnan and his team evacuated the hostages on the fifth and sixth floor, Later, while descending through the staircase, Unnikrishnan and his team of ten commandos suspected the presence of terrorists inside a room on the fourth floor that was locked from the inside. When Unnikrishnan and his team broke open the door, Commando Sunil Kumar Yadav injured both his legs in a crossfire by the terrorists. Major Unnikrishnan, somehow, managed to save and evacuate Commando Sunil Kumar Yadav; however, the terrorists managed to escape the room after blasting a grenade inside the room. For around the next 15 hours, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and his team continued evacuating hostages from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Martyrdom and Ashoka Chakra
On 27 November 2008, around midnight, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan sacrificed his life while chasing terrorists alone in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Before he laid down his life, he had cornered all four terrorists to the Ballroom in the northern end of the hotel.
Following his martyrdom, he was awarded India’s highest peacetime gallantry award, Ashoka Chakra, on 26 January 2009 by President Pratibha Patil; the award was received by his mother, Dhanalakshmi Unnikrishnan. The official citation for the Ashoka Chakra award reads –
Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan led the commando operation launched on 27 November 2008 to flush out terrorists from Hotel Taj Mahal, Mumbai in which he rescued fourteen hostages. During the operation, his team came under intense hostile fire, in which one of his team members got grievously injured. Major Sandeep pinned down the terrorists with accurate fire and rescued the injured commando to safety. In the process, he was shot in his right arm. Despite his injuries, he continued to fight the terrorists till his last breath. Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan displayed most conspicuous bravery besides camaraderie and leadership of the highest order and made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.”
The Last Phone Call
According to K. Unnikrishnan, a retired Indian Space Research Organisation employee, and the father of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, on the night of 26 November 2008, when he (Sandeep’s father) was sleeping, Sandeep called him and told him to switch on his television to watch the unravelling terror in Mumbai; it was the last conversation between Sandeep Unnikrishnan and his father. The Indian Express
Major – A Biopic on Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan
In February 2019, Telugu film actor Mahesh Babu announced a biopic titled ‘Major,’ displaying an inspiring journey of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, right from his childhood to his final hours; the film was produced by Sony Pictures India and A+S Movies in a collaboration with Mahesh Babu’s studio G. Mahesh Babu Entertainment.
2 July 2021 was chosen as the theatrical release date of the film. The film was shot in two languages, Malayalam and Hindi. Directed by Sashi Kiran Tikka, the film stars Adivi Sesh in the titular role, while Prakash Raj and Revathi appear as Unnikrishnan’s parents. Sobhita Dhulipala and Saiee Manjrekar are also a part of the film. On 12 April 2021, the film’s teaser was launched by its makers. The last words of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan thunder in the gritty teaser –
Don’t come up, I’ll handle them.”