Young men queued up in large numbers at Doda stadium in Jammu and Kashmir for the Indian Army's recruitment rally today, with many saying they were inspired by Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's valour.
Abhinandan Varthaman has become a household name across the country since he pursued Pakistani fighter jets across the Line of Control and shot down their F-16 fighter last month before crashing and being taken into custody. His composure even in custody was widely praised in India.
The army rally was held to select candidates for induction into the territorial army at the sports stadium in Doda. Various tests were organised for the selection process.
There are 59 vacant posts for four districts -- Udhapmur, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar. A total of 2,084 people took part in the recruitment drive.
Mubassir Ali, an aspirant, said: "I am here to join the army. It is our responsibility to serve the nation... I got inspired by Wing Commander Abhinandan. He is my role model."
Another young man, Rohit Singh, also said it was because of Abhinandan Varthaman that he decided to join the Indian Army. "I am following the footsteps of Abhinandan. Every youth wants to be like him now."
On February 27, 34-year-old Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman piloted a MiG-21 Bison aircraft along with seven other Indian jets to intercept a pack of 24 Pakistani aircraft that were targeting Indian military installations. However, he crossed the Line of Control chasing a Pak F-16 fighter jet where he was captured.
He was released on March 1 -- hours after India demanded his "immediate and safe return". Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed the release was a "gesture of peace".
The confrontation erupted after the February 14 Pulwama attack by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed.