21 Years of Kargil Vijay Diwas: Bravehearts Who Won India The War in Summer of ’99
A total of 527 Indian soldiers lost their lives in ‘Operation Vijay’, a significant number of whom were recently commissioned officers.
New Delhi: The nation is today observing the 21st anniversary of India’s decisive victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999. The war took place from May 3-July 26 that year as the Indian Army evicted Pakistani intruders-both regular troops and mujahideens-from the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC).
While a total of 527 Indian soldiers lost their lives in ‘Operation Vijay’, a significant number of whom were recently commissioned officers, there are some names which instantly come to mind whenever someone mentions ‘Kargil War’:
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(1.) Captain Vikram Batra: Arguably the ‘face’ of the Kargil War, the name ‘Vikram Batra’ has become synonymous with the war. Born in Himachal Pradesh’s Palampur on September 9, 1974, Captain Batra almost joined the Merchant Navy before he changed his mind and joined the Army instead. He was famously given the name ‘Sher Shah’ by the Pakistanis and was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain after recapturing Peak 5140 located in the Drass sector.
An officer of the 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (JAK RIF), Captain Batra was martyred on July 7,1999 in the battle to capture Point 4875. Famous for his battlecry of ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’, he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), India’s highest military honour, on 52nd Independence Day on August 15, 1999.
(2.) Rifleman Sanjay Kumar: Another participant in the battle for point 4875 and also from Captain Batra’s unit, Rifleman (now Subedar) Sanjay Kumar, too, was awarded the PVC. He sustained serious injuries on July 4, 1999 in a hand-to-hand combat with the Pakistani troops, in which he killed three enemy soldiers. He and his team were successful in capturing Area Flat Top of Point 4875, the task they were assigned.
(3.) Yogendra Singh Yadav: Only 19 at the time of the war, now-Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav and his men from the 18 Grenadiers were assigned the task to capture Tiger Hill from Pakistan. Leading the assault, he was hit by multiple bullets, but managed to climb up and kill four Pakistani soldiers. The platoon was finally able to capture Tiger Hill on July 4, 1999, but Yadav ended up being hit by 21 bullets in the operation.
Though, initially he was presumed dead and awarded a PVC posthumously, it later came to light that he was recovering in a hospital and it was, in fact, a namesake who was martyred in the war.
(4.) Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey: The fourth and final recipient of the PVC from the war, Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey, of the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, was martyred on the night of 2/3July, 1999, during an operation to capture Khalubar Top. He killed a total of four enemy soldiers during the assault but lost his life to a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) burst to his forehead. The top was eventually captured by the Indian Army.
“If death strikes me before I prove my blood, I swear I will kill death”, “Some goals are so worthy, it’s glorious to even fail”: Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey.
(5.) Captain Anuj Nayyar: Another casualty in the battle to secure Point 4875, Captain Anuj Nayyar was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), India’s second-highest gallantry award, for his bravery. An officer of the 17 Jat, Captain Nayyar was the second-in-command of his platoon and was killed in action on July 6, 1999 in an assault to capture Pimple Complex of Point 4875. He killed nine Pakistani soldiers and destroyed three MMG bunkers before being killed. Pimple Complex was eventually won by the Indian troops.
(6.) Captain Vijayant Thapar: Son of Army veteran Colonel VN Thapar, Captain Vijayant was martyred on June 29, 1999, during an assault to capture a point called ‘Knoll’. An officer of the 2 Rajputana Rifles, Captain Thapar and his troops came under artillery shelling and suffered several casualties. Despite this, the officer and his troops surged ahead and eventually seized the Knoll. Captain Thapar, however, was shot in the head and was killed in action.
(7.) Major Padampani Aacharya: It was Major Acharya who was leading the 2 Rajputana Rifles assault on point Knoll in which Captain Thapar was martyred. Originally from Odisha but a resident of Hyderabad, Major Padampani Aacharya was tasked with capturing the Three Pimples, Knoll and the Lone Hill area. During the assault, he sustained serious injuries but ordered his troops to move on and the point was eventually captured. He succumbed to his injuries shortly after the completion of the mission and was posthumously awarded the MVC.
(8.) Captain Saurabh Kalia: An officer of the 4 Jat Regiment, then-Lieutenant Saurabh Kalia was the first officer of the Indian Army to observe and report large-scale intrusion by the Pakistan Army and foreign mercenaries on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) in Kargil. On May 15, 1999, Kalia and five other soldiers were on a border patrol when they were attacked and captured by Pakistani forces. While in custody, they were allegedly tortured by Pakistani forces and their mutilated bodies were returned to India on June 9, 1999.
(9.) Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa: Parallel to the Indian Army’s ‘Operation Vijay’, the Indian Air Force (IAF) launched ‘Operation Safed Sagar’ in a bid to support the ground troops. As part of this, Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa took part in a strike in the Batalik sector on May 26, 1999. However, during this operation, his fighter suffered a ‘flame out’, forcing him to eject and getting captured by Pakistani forces. He was released after eight days and is currently a Group Captain in the IAF.
(10.) Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja: A day after Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa’s capture, Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja had to eject from his fighter on May 27, 1999, after it was hit by a Pakistani missile. According to reports, while he landed safely on the ground, he was captured and killed by Pakistani soldiers. Reportedly, he sustained a left knee fracture when he parachuted down but was later shot dead.
Others to be recognised for their heroism during the war were: Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari (posthumous), Captain Gurjinder Singh Suri (posthumous), Naik Digendra Kumar, Lieutenant (now Colonel) Balwan Singh, Major (later Colonel) Sonam Wangchuk, Captain Clifford Nongrum (posthumous), Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguruse (posthumous), Major Vivek Gupta (posthumous) etc.
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