Lieutenant General AC Soneja, a resident of Royal Residency Apartments, Sector 9, Dwarka, has spent four decades in the Indian Army. He was inspired to join the Armed Forces during the Indo-China War in 1962. Soneja was commissioned in 1972 after completing his academics from Sainik School Kapurthala, National Defence Academy (Pune), and finally from Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.
About his contribution to the Army, Soneja says, “From 1972 to 2012, a period of 39 years, I participated in several operations to control insurgency both in the Northeast and in Jammu & Kashmir. During my service as Commanding Officer in Jammu & Kashmir, we neutralised more than 370 terrorists and antinational elements, and recovered 247 sophisticated weapons. There were 86 awards conferred on my unit during my tenure as commanding officer, before I retired in January 2012. It was a glorious time for all of us as a unit, as I was awarded AVSM and VSM by the President of India twice each.”
When the bad condition of roads became a life saviour
Sharing one of his most memorable experiences, Soneja says, “I was in south Kashmir as battalion commander between 1992 and 1995. This was a time when militancy was at its peak — the area was terrorist-infested. I remember in September 1994, we were caught in a gunfight with terrorists hiding in a three-storey house. Though we eliminated three of the terrorists, we lost three of our soldiers as well. One of my boys was hit by a bullet in the neck and he passed away in seconds, even before we could evacuate him. It was one of the saddest moments for me, as I could not do anything for him. In the meantime, another bullet hit Lieutenant Colonel Gulshan Chadha, who was standing beside me in the same room. The bullet hit the officer in the lower abdomen. Later, as he was being taken to hospital, the condition of the road was so bad and the drive so bumpy that the bullet just fell right out of his wound! I don't think I'll ever forget that incident. That day bad roads helped save a life!”
Book on militancy in Kashmir
Lieutenant General AC Soneja has penned down his experiences in a book titled Militancy in Kashmir: The Untold Saga of Counter Insurgency Operations.
His book records the exceptional performance of the 2nd Battalion of the Jammu & Kashmir Rifles in anti-insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley beteen April 1992 and April 1995. “It is a saga of bravery, fearlessness and courage. The unit conducted 192 successful operations, resulting in the elimination of a large number of militants. The battalion was lauded by all senior officers, including the Chief Of Army Staff," he says.
In service of Dwarka residents
Lieutenant General Avinash Soneja heads the NGO Parmarth Chetna at present, along with Lieutenant General R Roy and Brigadier VK Saxena and Dr Chauhan. The NGO helps educate children in Sector 1, Dwarka. The NGO, with the help of volunteer teachers, holds classes for about 60 children every Sunday at a night shelter.