The Indian Army has been replete with spine-chilling tales of valor, indomitable spirit in the face of adversity, and unparalleled devotion towards one’s motherland. However, no military person in Independent India’s history has ever captured the nation’s veneration as Captain Vikram Batra did.
From being an ordinary boy hailing from a small village in the Palampur district of Himachal Pradesh, to becoming one of India’s most celebrated war heroes in a life that spanned merely twenty five years, ain’t a mean feat.
In this story, we reminisce the incredible life of Kargil war legend Capt. Vikram Batra.
Captain Vikram Batra was born on 9th September 1974 in the Bandla Gaon in Palampur district of Himachal Pradesh to Girdhari Lal Batra and Kamal Kanta.
He was the third born child and the elder one of the twin sons, born fourteen minutes before his brother, Vishal. Her mother, Kamal Kanta, a staunch devotee of Lord Ram nicknamed the twin brothers ‘Luv’ (Vikram) & ‘Kush’ (Vishal). He had two sisters, namely Seema and Nutan. Vikram Batra’s maternal grandfather was also a soldier in the Indian Army.
Vikram acquired primary education from his mother, who was a teacher, while his father was principal at a govt school in Palampur. Thereafter, he attended D.A.V. Public School in Palampur, where he studied till mid-standard. He attained senior secondary education at Central School, Palampur.
The progeny of valor:
Valor and spontaneity were intrinsic traits of Capt. Vikram Batra. From a very young age, he was fearless, bold and always ready to help. He grew up watching the “Param Vir Chakra” serial and was greatly influenced by the inspirational stories of the “Param Vir Chakra” awardees.
During the first year of his college days, he joined the Air Wing of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and was conferred with the best NCC Air Wing cadet of Punjab Directorate in North Zone.
Later on, he was selected for a 40-day Para trooping training with the NCC Air Wing unit at Pinjore Airfield and Flying Club, about 35 kilometers away from Chandigarh. It was in 1994 that he was selected as an NCC cadet for the Republic Day parade. It was on that day that he announced his wish to join the Army.
In 1995, while he was still in college, he was selected for the merchant navy at a shipping company headquartered in Hong Kong. However, he chose the service of his nation above worldly comforts and said- “Money is not everything in life; I have to do something bigger in life, something great, something extraordinary, which may bring fame to my country.”
In 1996, he cleared the CDS exam & the SSB interview as the first milestone towards realizing his purpose in life that was to render a service that was extraordinarily high & supreme.
An ephemeral, yet legendary military career: (1996-1999)
Capt. Vikram Batra joined the Jessore Company of Manekshaw Battalion and was commissioned into the 13 JAK Rifles, well known for its undaunted soldiers & countless battle exploits.
In his first assignment, he was posted to Sopore in the Baramulla district of J&K after being commissioned to the Indian army. By April 1999, Lieutenant
Vikram Batra’s unit had completed its field tenure and was preparing to move to its peace location.
However, as if fate had it otherwise, large scale intrusions by the Pakistani forces were detected in the Kargil sector by early May 1999.
Kargil War: June-July 1999
In June 1999, as part of Op. Vijay, Lt. Vikram Batra’s unit 13 JAK Rif got deployed in the Drass area of Kargil under the operational command of 56 Infantry Brigade. It was after the capture of the Tololing Top in Drass by 2 Raj Rif battalion that 13 JAK Rif was given the responsibility of capturing Point 5140.
The Point 5140 peak was one of the most treacherous & crucial peaks in the region, heavily defended by the enemy forces. Lt Vikram Batra led Delta Company & Lt Sanjeev Singh Jamwal led Bravo Company were assigned the arduous task of capturing Point 5140 in a daring night attack.
On reaching a height of 17,000 feet, Lt Vikram Batra and his men planned to approach the hill from the rear. However, as they neared the top, Pakistani defenders pinned them off the cliff with machine gun fire.
But, at this moment, Lt Batra & his five men did what their infantry’s famous for, unfettered they climbed up & lobbed two grenades at the machine gun posts. The Lieutenant single-handedly killed three soldiers in a close combat and despite being badly wounded during the exchange, he regrouped his men & continued the mission.
Shershah: The valiant legend of the Kargil war:
On 20 Jun 1999, at 4:35 am, Lt Batra sent his victory signal via a radio message, in which he said, “Chanakya …it’s Shershah reporting!! We’ve captured the post! Yeh Dil Maange More”.
Lt. Vikram Batra’s victory signal, later on became the catch-line for the Kargil War, infusing in not just the unit, but in each countrymen the unflinching spirit of supreme service for the nation. The landmark victory of Point 5140 paved the way for a string of other victories at Point 5100, Point 4700, Junction Peak and ‘Three Pimples’.
It was after this victory, that Lt Vikram Batra was promoted to the rank of Captain.
The supreme sacrifice that immortalized Capt. Vikram Batra:
“Either I will come back hoisting the tricolor or come back wrapped in it, but I will come for sure!” – Capt. Vikram Batra
On the night of 06 July 1999, Capt. Vikram Batra commenced the attack to re-capture Point 4875.
In a rare show of extraordinary courage and daredevilry, Capt. Batra launched a frontal attack against the enemy forces shortly after re-capturing Point 4875 after the enemy retorted from their hide-out.
During the exchange of fire, Capt. Batra got injured, but continued his charge to reach the mouth of the ledge. However, just as he reached there, he noticed one of his young soldiers lying in a pool of blood few feet away.
During his attempt to move the injured soldier to safety, he was hit by a sniper fire in the chest. He breathed his last, uttering the words, “Durge Mata Ki Jai” i.e., “Victory to Goddess Durga”. Moved by his unparalleled courage and supreme sacrifice, his men attacked through the ledge and captured Point 4875. Today the point is called the ‘Batra Top’ as a tribute to the supreme sacrifice of Capt. Vikram Batra at the young age of 25.
Capt. Vikram Batra was given the nation’s highest gallantry award, “Param Vir Chakra” posthumously for his supreme sacrifice that will forever remain etched in the annals of Indian military history.