It was 7th July 1999, when the Indian Army’s highly decorated 13 JAK RIF was planning to capture the indomitable Peak 4875, the soldiers and officers were in a huddle, and suddenly their Commanding Officer’s wireless set started crackling.
Pakistani Army personnel from the other side said in a heavy Punjabi “Oye Sher Shah you have come……no one can become Sher Shah just by keeping this name. Don’t dare to come above, you will have a tough time”. The officers and Soldiers were shivering from anger, but their Commanding Officer was calm, composed, and silent too.
Considering this silence as cowardice, the Pakistani again yelled “O Sher Shah, do one thing, just hand over Madhuri Dixit to us, and we will retreat”, and he started laughing hard.
The Commanding Officer, Vikram Batra had decided something by then, he replied with utter calmness “Let’s see who will retain the top after 1 hour” and disconnected the wireless.
After that, the world saw one of the most ferocious mountain battles ever fought on the face of the earth, and we saw an unimaginable display of valor and courage by PVC Captain Vikram Batra. But his story started exactly 24 years ago, in 1974.
Captain Vikram Batra was born on September 9, 1974, in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. His father Sh. Girdhari Lal Batra was a Govt school principal, whereas his mother Smt. Kamal Kanta Batra was a school teacher. Vikram did his schooling at DAV Public School and later completed his education at Kendriya Vidhyalaya Palampur to pursue secondary education.
Vikram Batra – Never used to settle for anything but the best
Vikram Batra had a great interest in sports, and he represented the school in Table Tennis at All India KVS Nationals. He was a green belt in Karate and played at the national level camp.
In 1995, he completed his graduation from DAV College and then enrolled at Panjab University, Chandigarh to pursue a Master’s in English. In 1996, he appeared for CDS Examination and successfully cleared the Services Selection Board at Allahabad. He was one of the top 35 candidates to get selected, and then he joined the Indian Military Academy (IMA).
After completing an arduous 19-month training, he was commissioned as a lieutenant into the 13th battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (JAK RIF). For the next couple of months, he was posted in various sensitive areas in the Kashmir valley, where he conducted multiple anti-terrorist operations. Then he attended the Office training course in Mhow, where he was awarded Alpha grading. In January 1999, he underwent a Commando training Course at Belgaum, Karnataka where he was awarded the highest Instructor’s Grade.
Transformation of a Soldier into a Legend
The last time Vikram visited his home was during the Holi festival in 1999. He had got leave for a few days and his mother pampered him with mango pickle, pakodas, and potato chips.
One fine day, he went to the Neugal Café, his favorite cafe at the bank of Neugal river, for a coffee and met his friends, who spoke about the tense situation in Jammu and Kashmir. ‘The war has begun, who knows when you will be asked to go, you better be careful.’ Vikram replied ‘Don’t worry, ‘I’ll either come back after raising the Indian flag in victory or return wrapped in it.’
On June 13, the 2 RAJ RIF successfully recaptured the Tololing peak. The then commanding officer, Lt. Col. Yogesh Kumar Joshi, ordered B Company to attack Point 5140 under the command of Lt. Sanjeev Singh Jamwal, and D Company, under the command of Lt. Vikram Batra, from two both east and south sides. As their signals, Jamwal chose ‘Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah!’ while Batra chose ‘Yeh Dil Mange More!’. Vikram Batra was given a code name ‘SherShah’.
Upon receiving orders, despite injuries, Vikram Batra charged the enemy position and captured point 5140. After the victory, he was promoted to the rank of Captain and his name was recommended for Maha Vir Chakra, but destiny had different plans for this warrior.
Param Vir Vikram Batra
On June 30, his battalion moved to Mushkoh Valley and on July 5, A and C Companies captured Point 4875 and Area Flat Top. Vikram was ill but he still insisted that he want to go for this mission, he wanted to complete this mission in such a manner that it could be put alongside some of India’s greatest military heroes. Before leaving for the mission, he prayed at a temple with his 25 men of D company. However, at the same time, the Pakistani army had moved faster towards the flag top, while the Indian army was unaware of their movement.
Vikram with his company started a tortuous climb to recapture the peaks and strengthen the units of Indian troops fighting with Pakistani intruders at 16,000 feet. The conditions were extremely tough, to say the least, it was a gradient of 80 degrees, and adverse weather and thick fog made the advance even more precarious.
While climbing, Batra noticed that Pakistani machine-gun was positioned towards trapped Indian soldiers. He threw a grenade and destroyed that machine gun and nearby bunkers. He cleared all the enemy bunkers, egged their men forward, and then engaged in hand-to-hand combat and forced the Pakistani soldiers to retreat.
His mission was almost over but suddenly a junior officer injured his lower limbs in an explosion, Vikram ran out of the bunker to rescue him then his JCO asked him not to go and said he would go instead. Vikram replied that ‘Tu baal-bacchedar hain, hat ja peeche.‘ (You have children, step aside)”, and he steps forward to save the young lieutenant
As Batra moved to rescue his fellow officer, he was shot in the chest by an enemy sniper from close range. He fell down and was unconscious and then another splinter hit him on the stomach, which proved fatal, and Captain Vikram Batra died on the spot.
Captain Vikram Batra was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military honor on 15 August 1999. His father received the honor for his deceased son from the President of India, the late K. R. Narayanan.
The Param Vir Chakra citation reads as follows captain Vikram Batra was posthumously conferred with the Param Vir Chakra on August 15, 1999, by the then President KR Narayanan. “Captain Vikram Batra displayed the most conspicuous personal bravery and leadership of the highest order in the face of the enemy and made the supreme sacrifice in the highest traditions of the Indian Army,” his award citation read.