Reminiscing the Past: INS Khukri

By Ms Maitre Shah, Research Intern, Maritime History Society

Introduction

In the Indo-Pak War of 1971, at the naval frontiers many warships played important roles, INS Khukri (F149) being one of them. INS Khukri was attacked and sunk during the war. To commemorate its valour, a Khukri class corvette was commissioned in the same name. 23 August 2022 marks the 33rd commissioning anniversary of the Indian Naval Ship INS Khukri (P49). On this day, let us revisit the past and reminisce the journey of both the majestic vessels.

INS KHUKRI (F149)

INS Khukri (F149) was a Type-14 blackwood class anti-submarine frigate built by Britain in the 1950’s. It was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 16 July 1958 and inducted by the end of 1959. Its crest represents two curved swords known as the ‘Khurkis‘ with its handles facing downwards and blades pointing outwards. This symbol on the crest represents courage. Its motto is Bal, Sahas, Josh Aur Dum, KHUKRI Nahi Kissi Se Kam (Power, Courage, Passion and Strength, KHUKRI is no less than anyone).

Figure 2 INS KHUKRI(F149) Source – Wikipedia

Like the ensign on its crest, the crew on-board the warship showed great courage during its sinking in 1971, especially its Commanding Officer Capt. Mahendra Nath Mulla. Standing true to the testimony of the motto all of them showed great power, strength and courage in serving the nation.

Role of INS Khukri in 1971 war

The Indo-Pak War 1971 started with the launch of a pre-emptive strike on Indian airfields by the Pakistani Air Force on 03 December 1971. All the 3 forces, Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air force played a significant role in this war. On the naval front, both the countries had deployed many warships for patrolling purposes in a ready to combat mode if the need arose. PNS (Pakistan Navy Ship) Hangor was one of the submarines that was sent by Pakistan for the same purpose.  PNS Hangor received direct orders to replace PNS Mangro for patrol duty at Bombay on 01 December 1971. On December 02, Hangor was located outside Bombay. On the same day when the Western Fleet of the Indian Navy had set out for the bombing of Karachi, it was spotted by the Hangor. The launch of torpedoes and sinking of one or more ships of the Indian Navy would have been considered as an act of war by Pakistan. INS Khukri was a part of the Western Fleet Task Force which was hunting enemy submarines in the Arabian Sea. The attack by PNS Hangor was successful and INS Khukri was hit by more than 1 torpedo which led to its sinking, on the evening of 09 December 1971. At the time when the fateful incident took place, the frigate was testing its hardware with one of the improved versions of sonar 170/174.

The sinking of INS Khukri resulted in the loss of 18 officers and 176 sailors including the captain of the ship Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla.  6 officers and 61 sailors survived this incident. The survivors remember how the captain helped the crew on-board to escape from the fateful incident but chose to go down with the ship. INS Khukri remains the only post-independence Indian Navy’s warship that has sunk. To commemorate the sinking of the warship, a Khukri Memorial was erected in Diu, close to where the ship had sunk. The memorial consists of a life size model of INS Khukri. As they say “old ships never die, they reincarnate”. A Khukri-class corvette was named INS Khukri to commemorate the warship that sunk.

INS KHUKRI (P49)

Figure 3 INS KHUKRI (P49) Source – Shipspotting.com

INS Khukri (P49) was the first of the indigenously built Missile Corvettes. The corvette was built by the Mazagaon Dock Ship Builders and it was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 23 August 1989. It carries the same crest and motto as the one on INS Khukri (F149). It had the distinction of being part of both the Western and Eastern Fleets. The ship was commissioned in Mumbai by the then Defence Minister Krishna Chandra Pant, and Mrs Sudha Mulla, wife of late Capt. Mahendra Nath Mulla, MVC. Commander (now Vice Admiral Retired) Sanjeev Bhasin as her first Commanding Officer.

The ship was commanded by 28 Commanding Officers during its service. It traversed a distance of over 6, 44, 897 nautical miles during its 32 years of service before its decommissioning on 23 December 2021. After its decommissioning, it was handed over to the Diu administration to be converted into a full-scale museum. This museum was inaugurated by Union Minister Amit Shah on 11 June 2022.

In the course of time, both the warships, INS KHUKRI (F149) and INS KHUKRI (P49) served the nation with great valour and courage. Through its service it portrayed and fulfilled the meaning of its motto and set an example for others.

References

Cardoza, A. (2006). The Sinking of INS Khukri: Survivors Story. India: Roli Books Private Limited

Rai, R. (1987). A Nation and Its Navy at War. India: Lancer International.

Hiranandani, G. M. (2000). Transition to Triumph: History of the Indian Navy, 1965-1975. India: Lancer Publishers.

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