By P.T. Bopanna
The statue of Squadron Leader Ajjamada Bopayya Devayya, the only Indian Air Force officer to be awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously, was unveiled on September 7 at Madikeri in Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka.
The bronze statue has been installed at the old private bus-stand circle which has been named after Sqd Ldr Devayya. The war hero from Kodagu was martyred in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan conflict.
But for a British writer, the heroics of the Coorg-born Indian Air Force officer would have remained unsung.
It was only after the publication of the book Battle for Pakistan by John Fricker on the 1965 India-Pakistan war, the courage and bravery of Sqd. Ldr. Devayya came to be known.
Fricker was commissioned by the Pakistani Air Force to write an account of the war derived from Pakistani sources in 1979. Fricker was given an account of the heroics of Devayya by Pakistan Air Force officer Flight Lieutenant Amjad Hussain.
In the 1965 war, Devayya was part of a strike mission on the Pakistani airbase Sargodha when he was attacked by an enemy aircraft.
Devayya was intercepted by an enemy F-104 Starfighter flown by Pakistani pilot Flt. Lt. Amjad Hussain. Devayya successfully evaded the Starfighter’s attacks. But the faster aircraft caught up with him and damaged his plane. Yet Devayya attacked the Starfighter and struck it. The Starfighter went down while the pilot Hussain ejected from his seat and parachuted.
It was not known what had happened to Devayya. The IAF Mysteres were short on fuel and efficiency. The Mystere aircraft was destroyed and it was assumed that Devayya died on Pakistani soil.
The IAF was not aware of what had happened to Devayya, first recording him missing and later declaring him dead. It was revealed much later by Pakistan that Devayya’s body was found almost intact by villagers not very far from Sargodha and buried.
Devayya was born on 24 December, 1932, at Coorg, Karnataka. He was the son of Dr. Boppayya. In 1954 he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a pilot. During the outbreak of the 1965 war, he was an instructor at the Air Force Flying College. He was posted to No.1 “Tigers” Squadron and flew the Mystere IV fighter bomber.
Mrs. Sundari Devayya accepted the posthumous Maha Vir Chakra awarded to her husband in 1988, nearly 23 years after the war.
The statue weighs around 600 kg and it was sculpted at Kengeri near Bengaluru. The initiative for installing the statue was taken by the Ajjamada family members, Squadron Leader Ajjamada Devayya Memorial Trust, Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa and General Thimayya Forum, and Kodava Makkada Koota. Air Marshal (Retd) Nanda Cariappa and Sundari Devayya were present at the statue unveiling function.