Sher Shah of Kargil: The story of Param Vir Chakra Vikram Batra

SUKIRTI MISHRA 09/09/2019 16:17:37

Lucknow. The inhospitable battlefield of Kargil witnessed the bloodshed of many brave martyrs who laid down their lives defending the nation in war with Pakistan. As a result, July 26, 1999 dawned bringing victory to the Indian Armed Forces. More than 18 years have passed since and the unprecedented valour and sacrifice of the Kargil brave hearts are still etched in the collective memory of the nation. 

There was one among the Kargil heroes who became the face of every Indian soldier who fought ferociously and died fearlessly. Here's the story of the Param Vir Chakra Vikram Batra, the soldier whose actions in the battleground surpassed heroism. 
Born in Himachal Pradesh on Sept 9, 1974, Vikram Batra's childhood was spent in the mountain town of Palampur. He was the third child of Girdhari Lal Batra, a government school principal and Kamal Kant, a school teacher. He excelled in studies, was a keen sportsman and avid participant in co-curricular activities. A green belt holder in karate, national level table tennis player, Batra was deemed the best NCC cadet of north India. 

A Hong Kong based firm chose him for a job in merchant navy but ultimately changed his mind to serve the nation. Clearing the Combined Defense Services (CDS) examination with flying colours in 1996, joined the Indian Military Academy as lieutenant. He was first posted in Sapore Baramulla district, J&K.  
When the Kargil war broke out in 1999, Vikram Batra had just finished a Commando Course at Belgaum and got leave to celebrate Holi with his family back at home in Palampur. Upon his return, he headed to Neugal Cafe for coffee with a friend. “Don’t worry. I’ll either come back after raising the Indian flag in victory or return wrapped in it, but I will come for sure," was Vikram’s reply to the concerned words of his friend. 
On June 19, 1999, Vikram Batra received orders to recapture Point 5140 in his first major battle in the war. Vikram and his troop led a brilliant tactical assault on the enemy, inspite of the enemy having a height leverage. The 13 J&K Rifles won a decisive victory, strengthening India’s hold on the territory which later on would lead to the fall of Tiger Hill. 

Vikram’s father will never forget the phone call he received on the morning of June 20. It took him a while to understand his son’s unclear words, crackling through a satellite phone. “Daddy, I’ve captured the enemy’s post. I’m OK, I’m OK.”
His next operation was one of the most difficult mountain warfare campaigns executed during Kargil – the capture of the 17000 feet high Point 4875. The icy slopes of the peak were 80 degree steep (made even more precarious by the thick fog) and Pakistani troops had stationed themselves at the height of 16000 feet. The enemy had got the wind about the arrival of the fierce Sher Shah (Vikram's code name), leading to intensified attacks with raining mortar and automatic fire from above. 
By then, the young Captain's military expertise had become legendary stuff for both sides. Engaging in hand-to-hand combat, clearing enemy bunkers and egging their men forward, Vikram and fellow officer Anuj Nayyar counter attacked ferociously forcing the enemy to retreat. 
The mission was almost over when a junior officer's leg received leg injury in an explosion. Vikram rejected his subedar's plea of going out of the bunker saying “Tu baal-bacchedar hai, hat ja peeche.” Hurling grenades at the enemy’s machine gun post under heavy fire, he killed five soldiers in close combat. He was hit by a bullet in the chest as he was lunging to lift his mate. 

India had recaptured Peak 4875 (now called Vikram Batra Top) by morning but lost 2 of the bravest sons in form of Vikram Batra and Captain Anuj Nayyar. Captain Vikram Batra was posthumously awarded Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest award for gallantry in battle. Captain Anuj Nayyar was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra- the nation’s second highest honour. Vikram's statue adorns the town square of Palampur, across the statue of another legendary soldier — Major Somnath Sharma, India’s first Param Vir Chakra awardee, who also belonged to Palampur.

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