‘Every army begins with one man’ – lines from movie ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’
In late 80’s and 90’s, G.I.J.O.E action figures were craze in the toy stores. Based on the cartoon TV show on Doordarshan, it captured the imagination of little kids like me. I used to play with the action figures and create my own war stories which were quite closer to war movies like ‘Saving Private Ryan’. From that moment I always aspired to become a soldier someday. Somewhere in Palampur, a kid had already decided to dedicate his life to armed forces. This kid was the great Kargil braveheart Captain Vikram Batra who took a bullet on his heart while defending Kargil from invaders.
‘Hamare desh mein army man ko Superman kehte hain’
The TV serial – Paramvir Chakra on Doordarshan was an inspiration for the little Vikram. Instead of opting for merchant Navy, he decided to join armed forces. Despite suffering from high fever, Captain Vikram Batra scaled high peaks even in disastrous weather conditions, motivating his soldiers at every instance.
The intrusion of Pakistani army in Kargil sector was an alarming moment for Indian army. All the official leaves of army officers were cancelled. The year 1999 was a difficult time for every mother who had her son posted on Kargil. Kargil war was the first national event that got media coverage and was reported on news channels by several reporters including Barkha Dutt. Brave officers like Vijayant Thapar and Padmapani Acharya were killed in the horrific war. Reporter Barkha Dutt had personally interviewed Captain Vikram Batra and his patriotism had already won the hearts of several Indians. After capturing Point 5140, Vikram Batra became an inspiring icon for youngsters. His victory cry ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ became a rage among masses. Vikram had plans to marry his fiancée Dimple once the war was over. Unfortunately the point 4875 claimed the life of Captain Vikram Batra before he could fulfill his dreams. While capturing this point, Vikram was shot down by an enemy’s sniper. Though Vikram died defending Kargil, he saved the life of one of his fellow soldier – Captain Naveen Nagappa. In an interview retired captain Naveen Nagappa recounted the war events and how bravely Vikram rescued his life by dragging Naveen out of the bunker. Ironically Captain Vikram Batra collapsed to the enemy’s bullet within an hour after saving Naveen.
Fondly called as ‘Shershah’ Vikram’s bravery had sent shivers of fears among the enemies.
‘Either I will come after hoisting the tricolor flag in Kargil or return wrapped in tricolor flag but I will return for sure – words spoken by Captain Vikram Batra
It will be 18 years this 2017 when the brave boys went to war in Kargil in 1999. Some returned alive while some returned wrapped in tricolor. They did return for sure, giving a befitting reply to the enemies and winning the Kargil war.
It is such a sad irony that biopics have been made on Sachin Tendulkar, M.S.Dhoni but no one has cared to make a biopic in memory of Captain Batra. J.P. Dutta’s 2003 war movie – LOC: Kargil is the only movie that immortalized the courageous story of Vikram Batra. The role of Captain Vikram Batra was brilliantly portrayed by actor Abhishek Bachchan.
Now Palampur is not just the hometown of Vikram Batra, it has become a historical destination where brave heroes like Major Somnath Sharma and Captain Vikram Batra were born.
Today the mountains at Kargil still echo with the victory cry of Captain Vikram Batra – ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’.
Ladakh is not just a location on world map for travelers to visit, but a shrine which has witnessed the sacrifices of countless war heroes who died defending the battle posts during 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999. No one knows about Major Shaitan Singh and his troops who were pitted against 1000’s of Chinese soldiers at Rezang la in 1962. Has anyone heard of Famagusta tank which was used by 2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal in 1971 war? Very few know of Yogendra Singh Yadav’s dare devilry in Kargil war of 1999 where he battled the invaders and survived despite getting hit with 14 bullets.
The Brave (Paramvir Chakra stories) penned by Author Rachna Bisht Rawat is a tribute to the war heroes who were bestowed with the highest honour – Paramvir Chakra, a honor every soldier aspires for. I really appreciate the efforts of Rachna Bisht Rawat for coming up with this book on Indian army and the unconditional sacrifices the soldiers made while defending for our borders. The author has recorded every event of wars starting from 1948, 1962 to 1971 and the 1999 Kargil war. Every single story of soldier is inspiring. Whether it is story of Jadunath Singh who battled against 100’s of soldiers in Indo-Pak war of 1948 or the courage of Flying officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon who destroyed the enemy’s war planes in 1971, every soldier is a legend in his own.
Through this book, the author has highlighted the emotions of soldiers during the war front. Far from home, these home-sick soldiers battle every adversity – chilling cold, scorching heat, hunger and melancholy. When we watch cricket matches, we cheer for our players, showing our patriotism and excitement. But for these heroes, there is no one to cheer up. On the contrary, soldiers are labeled as killing machines by politicians and media. No one knows the inside story of soldiers stationed at war posts. Here movie heroes earn crores of rupees while on other side, the war heroes even don’t get sweaters and food rations during peak times. During Kargil war, Captain Manoj Pandey was more concerned about ammunitions than food rations.He was ready to face hunger but couldn’t see any soldier dying due to lack of ammunition. Such was the fervor of Captain Manoj Pandey.
History is witness that every soldier has taken bullet on his heart to save his comrades and one such soldier was Captain Vikram Batra. Risking his own life, he entered crossfire to rescue one of the young soldiers from his team. Captain Vikram took bullet on his chest for sake of friendship and humanity. Very few have the guts to do that.
The survivors of Rezang la war in 1962 are the witness to the horrifying aftermath which left the Indian soldiers dead on the battlefield. Even in death, the soldiers lay motionless holding weapon in their hands. These fallen heroes are forgotten. No one cares to know about the families of soldiers.
I am hopeful that at least one person will take a time out to read this article on a soldier who is posted on a battle front, guarding the Indian post without blinking an eye.
After writing this article, I will definitely travel to the freezing landscapes of Ladakh and pay respects to the forgotten war heroes. In the mountains of Kargil, I want to hear the echo of Captain Vikram Batra’s victory signal – ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’.
Irony is that our soldiers will be forgotten and so will be my story on these war heroes.
Far away from the cities, surrounded by hills, icy mountains, a soldier is always awake on the battle front guarding the border from the enemies. Braving all the odds, he never blinks an eye. I wonder what keeps these melancholic soldiers going so strong. The memories of his family, his beloved keep him motivating to guard the nation. The photograph of his sweet heart – (it may be his wife or a long lost soul mate) which keeps him closer to her.
While I was researching data while preparing for a story on Kargil war, I came across a love story that stood the test of time in hours of pain, separation and tears. This story is of late Captain Vikram Batra, the Great War hero of Kargil and his soul mate Dimple. Vikram had met Dimple during his college days at Punjab University. It was love at first sight. After completing his graduation, Vikram applied for IMA. During his training in military, Vikram kept in touch with her via letters and phone.
Vikram was committed to his love. He had made a vow that once the Kargil war is over, he will get married to Dimple. But this love was short-lived. After capturing point 5140, Captain Vikram Batra was assigned to capture the peak – point 4875. This battle for conquering 4875 turned out to be the last battle of Captain Batra. He died while conquering point 4875 from the intruders. He took bullet on his heart for his team mate. Captain Vikram Batra breathed his last on 7th July 1999 on the soil of Kargil. His death was a big tragic blow to his family and Dimple who awaited his return. He did return, wrapped in tricolor flag. His twin brother Vishal Batra couldn’t gather up the courage to reveal the news of Vikram’s martyrdom to Dimple.
Dimple attended the funeral of Captain Vikram Batra. It was the last time she was seeing him. Dimple decided never to get married. She still lives on, dedicating her life to teaching and keeping Vikram Batra’s memories safe in heart. The cupboard of Dimple is adorned with letters and gifts Vikram had presented her.
Really in memories, love lives forever. I salute Captain Vikram Batra and his undying love for his country. I even respect the commitment of Dimple who dedicated her life in memories of Vikram.
Anuj Nayyar was one more soldier in Kargil war who had high hopes to get married once he returned back from war. Anuj and Vikram Batra were posted in the same regiment and were great friends. Before heading for his mission of capturing 4875, Anuj requested his senior officer to keep the engagement ring safely with him. He never wanted his engagement ring to fall in the hands of enemy. Anuj was recently engaged. The senior officer kept Anuj’s engagement ring with a prayer for safe return of Anuj. Sadly, Anuj Nayyar died on 7th July 1999 while capturing point 4875. A heavy grenade hit Captain Anuj and he breathed his last remembering his love. Captain Anuj never returned to take back the ring.
My eyes were wet with tears when I read these two stories. What a commitment!! Nowadays I hardly see such passion and commitment in relationships. Today love happens on Facebook and ends on Whatsapp. Whenever I feel melancholic, I gaze at the photograph of my sweetheart who is no more with me. Though I am in office, I feel like a soldier stationed at border. I recount the beautiful moments I spent with her. I aspire to be a soldier someday in my next lifetime and wish to have the same sweetheart waiting for my return from war.
I hope after reading these two inspiring stories of love and commitment, you all will stay committed to your relationships and remember the great heroes who fell on battlefield for our nation. Love lives forever in memories.
‘If death strikes before I prove my blood, I promise, I will kill death’ – excerpt from the diary of late Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey (25 June 1975- 3 July 1999)
Kargil war is marked as one of the bloodiest battle fought on Indian soil, claiming lives of many brave Indian soldiers like Anuj Nayyar, Vikram Batra and Manoj Pandey. Despite being hit by bullets, these brave soldiers gave a furious reply to invaders by striking them out with bullets and recapturing all the points that belonged to our nation. Kargil war was a tense situation for India. All the official holiday of army officers were cancelled. All the young army officers – Vikram Batra, Anuj Nayyar and Manoj Pandey were assigned different points to recapture from the enemy. Captain Manoj Pandey was assigned to recapture Jubar top during the mission – Operation Vijay.
Even the chilling cold, fatiguing battle hours couldn’t deter the spirit of Captain Manoj Pandey. He always found time to record his thoughts in diary, expressing his love for nation. From his childhood, Manoj was always enthusiastic to know the stories of patriots from his mother. During his interview at Service Selection Board, he was questioned – Why do you want to join the army? Manoj replied by saying “I want to win the Paramvir Chakra. Manoj Pandey not only qualified the interview but also joined the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles Unit. His words in interview proved true. He was awarded the Paramvir Chakra post his martyrdom at Kargil war.
Operation Vijay and final martyrdom – Captain Manoj and his team captured many points and Batalik sector was one of them. They outnumbered the enemies with their strategic valor and dare devilry. He proved his dare devilry in capturing the point of Jubar Top during Operation Vijay. 3rd July 1999 was going to be a historic day in life of Captain Manoj Pandey. Braving the chilling weather, Captain Pandey and his team marched on to recapture Khalubar point from invaders. He took the task of confronting the enemies from right while his rest of team took position of attacking the enemies from left side. He pounced on the enemies like a tiger, ripping them apart with his weapon. The enemies were no match to this brave heart. He killed four soldiers on Khalubar points. But this skirmish left Manoj fatally wounded on shoulder and legs. Despite facing the wounds, Manoj was firm on driving away the intruders. He destroyed all the bunkers of enemies with his bullets and grenade.
The bullet wounds and heavy grenade explosions in this action finally struck a deathly blow on Manoj. This brave hero finally collapsed on the battlefield. Even in his last moments, he was motivating his soldiers to slay all the enemies. The Khalubar point was recaptured, but Captain Manoj Pandey was no more.
The weather conditions on battle front are so worse that many soldiers face breathing problems due to low oxygen while climbing high mountain peaks. Even the weapons get frozen due to cold. If you hold a frozen weapon, the skin may get ripped off. Imagine what situations these soldiers go through. As a civilian, we are too lazy even to go office on Monday mornings. Nowadays majority of youngsters are keen to get settled in foreign countries with a fat salary in some multinational company. Is this patriotism? After growing up in India, people leave their parents and their nation for a luxurious life in some foreign nation.
For today’s generation, heroism and smartness is going on bike trips to Ladakh, wooing hot chicks and cheering cricket players on stadiums and enjoying cuisines in restaurants. This is not heroism. During Kargil war, Captain Manoj Pandey even stayed empty stomach during war times. He cared more for ammunitions than food rations. Sadly today’s generation hardly pays any heed to the great sacrifice made by soldiers like Captain Manoj Pandey.
Prior to the war at Kargil front, a brave Indian soldier was taken captive by the invaders. His name was Captain Saurabh Kalia. Captain Saurabh was the first army officer who got the hint of invaders marching towards Kargil. During a skirmish with the enemies on 15th May 1999, Captain Saurabh and his team fell short of ammunition. They were taken as prisoners of war by the invaders. Captain Saurabh and his fellow team were tortured for 22 days and finally killed. Captain Saurabh’s body was handed over to his parents on 9th June 1999. Sadly, very few people are aware of sacrifice of Captain Saurabh who died as an unsung hero for nation.
Kargil war was victorious but had lost lot of brave soldiers like Saurabh Kalia, Vijayant Thapar, Padmapani Acharya, Manoj Pandey, Anuj Nayyar and Vikram Batra.
In movies and books – The role of Captain Manoj Pandey was played by Ajay Devgan in 2003 movie – LOC: Kargil. Even Amar Chitra Katha published a comic book based on life of Indian soldiers. Manoj Kumar Pandey’s story featured in this Amar Chitra Comic book.
Captain Manoj Pandey was awarded the Paramvir Chakra posthumously. His valor was an inspiration to every Indian. Through this article I want to pay homage to all the Indian soldiers of Kargil war who laid their life for sake of nation.
I conclude this article with these words written by Captain Manoj Pandey in his diary.
“Some goals are so worthy, it’s glorious even to fail”.
‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ – lines spoken by Captain Vikram Batra
These lines aren’t written by any advertising copywriter. These lines were coined by Major Vikram Batra which he used as a coded message after conquering every point from invaders. Captain Batra showed his dare devilry in Kargil War, facing the bullets and attaining martyrdom at age of 24. When civilians like me were pursuing degree to become a corporate slave, Captain Batra had already become a legend.
Very few people are blessed to become war heroes and Vikram Batra was one of them. Batra’s code name was ‘Shershah.’ Military officers are given this code name to communicate with their senior authorities. Instead of opting for a merchant navy job, Vikram enrolled for army at Indian Military academy in Dehradun.
His dare-devilry raised him to the position of Captain. In 1999, when Kargil was invaded by Pakistan, Captain Vikram Batra was assigned to recapture the peak 5140. Captain Batra with his team ‘Delta company’ ascended the highest peak 5140 confronting chilling cold, fatigue, exhaustion with only one goal in mind – free Kargil from the invaders. While climbing this peak, Batra and his team faced the bullets from the enemies. Despite all this, Captain Batra and his team reached the top and threw grenades. Captain Batra slayed three soldiers in deadly combat which left him seriously wounded. The mission of capturing point 5140 was successful. Along with his delta team, Batra went on to recapture several points – 5100, 4700 and 4875.
‘Every man dies, not everyone really lives’ – lines from movie Braveheart
Capturing Point 4875 and final martyrdom – This was one of the most challenging and toughest peaks to capture for Captain Batra and his team. Climbing a 16,000 feet high peak was highly impossible task for any ordinary person. Braving the obstacle of heavy fogs, Captain Batra and his team climbed the 16,000 feet high peak on 7th July 1999. The delta team attacked the enemies and took control of point 4875. The large heartedness of Captain Batra was witnessed by his team when he took bullets on himself while saving one of his members from delta team. During the attack, he pushed aside his Subedar friend and faced the enemies’ bullets because he cared for his friend who had wife and children. This brave tiger of Kargil breathed his last while capturing the point 4875. His uttered the last words ‘Jai Mata di’. Operation Vijay wouldn’t have been successful without the efforts of Captain Vikram Batra and his delta team.
Captain Anuj Nayyar was one more brave heart who laid his life in Kargil war along with Vikram Batra. Captain Anuj Nayyar was recently engaged. During the war time, Anuj handed over his engagement ring to one of his friends to keep it safe till he returns. He never wanted the ring to fall in hands of enemies if he was killed. Sadly Anuj never returned back to get his engagement ring. He was the only child of his parents. It was very traumatic experience for his parents to bear the loss of their son. Unfortunately government never pays heed to the family of the soldiers who laid their lives for country.
Even Vikram Batra had plans to get married to his fiancée once he returned from war. But good fortunes were not in side of Vikram. He returned wrapped in Tri-color flag. Before going to war, he had promised his parents that he would return either by hoisting the flag on Kargil or come wrapped in ‘Tiranga’. His fiancée never got married. She devoted her life to teaching. Vikram’s gifts and letters were prized possessions to her. Sadly, no one bothers to know what happened to a soldier’s family after his death. Batra’s parents were badly collapsed after hearing the news of his son’s death in Kargil war. They had twin sons – Vikram and Vishal. Vikram’s parents realized why God had given them twins. One would serve for country while other would take care of them. Vikram Batra was awarded ‘Paramvir Chakra’ for his sacrifice defending Kargil from invaders.
On the 10th death anniversary of Vikram, his twin brother Vishal Batra visited Leh Ladakh. He took a gaze at the high peaks of Kargil where Vikram Batra died fighting with the invaders. Vishal Batra in his interview with Barkha Dutt mentioned about the last letter of Vikram.
‘Life is at total risk. Anything can happen here. Take care of yourself and Mom & Dad. My picture has appeared in Times of India’. Keep a copy for me. I want to see it once I am back.” – Excerpt from the letter of Captain Vikram Batra to his brother Vishal.
The photo of Captain Vikram Batra featured on front page of Times of India on 2nd July 1999. He was standing with an anti-aircraft gun and weapons in the photo.
Vishal Batra even met Sub Major Raghunath Singh, the survivor of Kargil war. He broke in tears when he saw Vishal Batra. Since Vishal was twin brother of Vikram, everyone saw the reflection of their commander Vikram in him. Raghunath recalled the moments of war. Actually it was Raghunath who was rushing to save a junior officer during the firing, but Vikram stopped him and took the initiative to save the junior officer. Since Vikram knew that Raghunath was a family man, Vikram couldn’t risk the life of Raghunath. In the action of rescuing the junior soldier, Vikram was fatally shot with a sniper rifle by the enemy. Even Vishal Batra had dreams to join armed forces, but later settled on to become a banker.
A letter enclosed in an envelope is a precious gift for a soldier who reads this letter and even narrates the letters to his friends. He is far away from his family, friends but his heart is always close to them. Sadly, today’s youngsters won’t realize the value of letter because they are too busy messaging on Whatsapp. Only a soldier like Captain Vikram Batra can realize the emotions of words written in the letter.
In movies – The role of Captain Vikram Batra was played by actor Abhishek Bachchan in J.P.Dutta’s movie – LOC: Kargil which was based on Kargil war.
In Books – Vikram Batra’s father G.L.Batra has written a new book -Paramvir Vikram Batra:Shershah of Kargil which is published by Times Group Publications. In this book his father recounts the memories of Vikram right from his childhood to his martyrdom at Kargil.
Amar Chitra Katha released a comic book on Indian soldiers in which Captain Vikram Batra’s story was presented. Hope someday a full-fledged biopic is made on life of Captain Batra and his fellow soldiers – Anuj Nayyar, Manoj Kumar Pandey who died for nation’s pride.
Someday I will definitely visit palampur, the hometown of captain vikram batra and offer my respects to the statue of this kargil hero who took a bullet on his heart for our nation. Palampur is now a sacred place where great heroes like vikram batra and Major Somnath Sharma lived.
This is a small effort on my side to remember Captain Batra and all other soldiers who freed Kargil from the invaders. Please do share this article with all your friends.