NEW YORK (TIP): To commemorate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on 29 May, the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations hosted a somber function for all the recipients of the 106 Dag Hammarskjold Medals awarded this year by the United Nations.
The function was held in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Building of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The eight Indian peacekeepers, who laid down their lives while serving on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, were specially remembered on this occasion.
Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Permanent Representative of India to the UN speaking to the UN Peace Keepers to commemorate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on 29 May
In April 2013, five Indian peacekeepers, Lt- Col Mahipal Singh, Naik Subedar Shiv Kumar Pal, Havildars Hira Lal and Bharat Sasmal, and Lance Naik Nand Kishore Joshi laid down their lives in protecting the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). They were part of a 32-member Indian troop contingent escorting five UN vehicles from Gumruk to Bor in the volatile state of Jonglei of South Sudan.
The convoy was ambushed by 200 members of an armed militia, who used rocket propelled grenades and small arms to attack the convoy. Led by Lt-Col Mahipal Singh, the Indian peacekeepers engaged in a fierce battle which lasted for over an hour while protecting the convoy.
Five injured Indian soldiers, including a Captain, were subsequently evacuated to the capital city of Juba in three UN helicopters for medical treatment. A UN spokesman said that the fierce resistance put up by Indian peacekeepers forced the rebels to withdraw and saved the lives of many of the civilians. In July 2013, UN Security Council Resolution 2109 called on the Government of South Sudan to complete its investigations in a swift and thorough manner and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In December 2013, former Indian rower Subedar Dharmesh Sangwan, an Asian Games silver medallist, Asian Championship gold medal winner, and rated among the best rowers India has ever produced, along with Subedar Kumar Pal Singh, were the two Indian peacekeepers killed in cross-fire while protecting civilians sheltering in a United Nations compound in Akobo, South Sudan.
A third Indian peacekeeper, who received a chest wound, was evacuated to the UNMISS facility in Malakal. 43 Indian peacekeepers, six UN police advisers and two UN civilian staffers were present at the base when an estimated 2,000 heavily armed youth surrounded the UN base in Akobo, and opened fire on the civilians seeking refuge inside.
In December 2013, UN Security Council Resolution 2132 condemned the attack on the Indian peacekeepers, and stressed that efforts to undermine UNMISS’ ability to implement its mandate and attacks on United Nations personnel would not be tolerated. Sepoy Rameshwar Singh died in February 2013, while on escort duty in North Kivu as part of the Indian peacekeeping contingent of MONUSCO, the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At India’s initiative, and in a symbolic tribute to those who have collectively given their lives in pursuit of international peace and security, the photographs of the 8 Indian peacekeepers were placed alongside a goldframed board, listing all the 106 peacekeepers from Member States of the United Nations who had lost their lives during the past year.
Candles were lit in their memory on the occasion to demonstrate the solidarity of the United Nations peacekeeping community, and the collective debt owed by the international community to these brave souls. Earlier in the day, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, joined other Permanent Representatives and Military Attaches of Member States at a commemorative ceremony at the UN Peacekeepers Memorial on the North Lawn in the precincts of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The UN Secretary General oversaw the wreath-laying at the Memorial for the first time. The proposal for this commemoration had been made by India, supported by several other Member States of the United Nations, in the C34 Peacekeeping Committee meeting, and endorsed by the 5th (Budget) Committee of the United Nations and the UN General Assembly last year.