The story of Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla is a perfect example of an able Naval leader who showed exemplary courage, determination, devotion to duty, and welfare of the personnel under his command.
He served for his country and sacrificed his life during Indo-Pak war in 1971. He chose to stand by 18 officers and 176 sailors who went down with the sinking ship.
There cannot be a courageous leader than Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla, who through his valour engraved his name in the records of Indian Navy.
During the 1971 war, he was commanding a task force of two ships. The task force was assigned to hunt and destroy enemy submarines in the North Arabian Sea.
The Indian Naval radio detection equipment identified a submarine in the vicinity of Diu harbour on December 3, 1971, then Khukri along with two other ships Kirpan and Kuthar were dispatched to hunt down the submarine.
On December 9,1971, Pakistani submarine PNS Hangoor fired torpedoes at INS Khukri. As a result the ship sank within minutes, taking 176 sailors and 18 officers, and the ship’s captain, to their watery graves in the Arabian Sea.
During the last minutes of his life, Mulla showed extraordinary courage, helping save as many of his men as he could and not abandoning his vessel. Injured, and with his head bleeding, he went down with his ship.
His composure during the crisis, which some describe cool, clam, and resolute lifted the morale of not just the surviving crew but the entire Navy and armed forces in general for years to come.
Commander Manu Sharma, one of the survivors, said that he saw him last time. According to him the Captain was last seen sitting on his chair, smoking and hanging on to the railing.
A memorial for the tribute to Mulla and other dead sailors exists at Diu. The memorial constitutes a full-scale model of INS Khukri encased in a glass house, placed on a hillock facing the sea.
The Capt. M. N. Mulla Auditorium, at Navy Nagar, Colaba, Mumbai, is named after him. A bust of Capt. Mulla stands in the foyer.