Yuva - India

Immortal hero of the kargil war: PVC Shaheed Captain Vikram Batra

A stream of excellence, brilliant student, devoted son, loving partner, excellent leader and teammate, an outstanding warrior with extremely down-to-earth and cheerful nature, excelled not only in academics, but in co-curricular, and sports as a child. He’s a household name, the man bubbling with energy earned the name SHERSHAH, who made enemies cry and quiver in their boots in less than 3 years of his service, the Braveheart who roared, “Yeh Dil Mange More” at 04:35 hrs. in the chilling morning on an altitude of 16,962 feet in hills of Tololing in Dras, after capturing point 5140 on 20 June 1999 without any casualties. Yes, He is Shaheed Param Vir Chakra Capt. Vikram Batra from 13 JAK-RIF.

Born on 9 September 1974 to Girdhari Lal Batra and Kamal Kanta Batra in Palampur district of Himachal Pradesh, Vikram Batra was the elder of twin sons and has two elder brothers. Their mother lovingly nicknamed Vikram as Luv and his brother Vishal as Kush. Vikram Batra got his primary education from his mother, who was a school teacher. His parents and teachers remember him as an outstanding and brilliant student. He went to D.A.V Public School in Palampur where he completed his middle school and then attended Kendriya Vidyalaya in Palampur which was located in Army Cantonment, for senior secondary education. He and his brother were fond of a serial ‘Param Vir Chakra’ which went on air on Doordarshan in 1988. These were the instances which propelled Vikram Batra and his brother to join the Armed Forces. Vikram Batra was a remarkable table tennis champion and along with his brother Vishal Batra, he represented their school in table tennis at a national level tournament. Along with this, Vikram Batra was also a wonderful roller skater, an amazing squash player and green belt holder in Karate for which he attended a national level camp in Manali.

He completed his graduation from DAV College, Chandigarh in BSC, Medical Science. While he was in his first year of college, he joined the Air wing of the National Cadet Corps (NCC). Due to his exemplary performance at Inter-State NCC Camp, he was rewarded as the best NCC Air Wing cadet of Punjab Directorate in North Zone. He then underwent a 40-day paratrooping training at Pinjore Airfield and Flying Club with his unit.

 For the next two years in his college, he remained a cadet of the Army Wing of NCC. He was then awarded the ‘C’ grade certificate in the NCC and also got the rank of Senior under Officer. In 1994, Vikram Batra was one of two NCC cadets from the Punjab Directorate of NCC, who were selected for the Republic Day parade. He was also selected as the best cadet in North India.

In 1995, when he was in college, he got selected for Merchant Navy in a shipping company headquartered in Hong Kong. Like anyone else who would readily opt for a job with a handsome salary, he firmly denied and expressed his desire to his family to join the Indian Army. He 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.”

After completion of his bachelor’s degree in 1995, he got admission to the Punjab University of Chandigarh in MA English Course where he met the love of his life Dimple Cheema and neither of them completed the course. In Dimple’s words, it was probably destiny bringing them together to share their lives, becoming an integral part of each other. Vikram simultaneously started preparing for the Combined Defense Service (CDS) examination. He used to attend evening classes at university and worked part time in the morning as a branch manager of a traveling agency in Chandigarh. While joining the part-time job, Vikram Batra wrote a letter to his father telling him he never wanted to be a burden on him.

He worked hard and as a result; he cleared the CDS examination and got selected at the 19 Service Selection Board (SSB) Allahabad Centre. He was in the top 35 candidates in order of merit. He left the University to join the prestigious Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun in June 1996 and after completing the training of one and half years; he passed out from IMA on 6 December 1997 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in 13 JAK RIF battalion of Indian Army. When he got commissioned, his brother Vishal Batra, asked him how it felt to be in the infantry? Vikram simply replied saying, “Kush, when you join forces, there is a bullet which is made by your name, now whether you get that bullet in your life or not, it’s your destiny.”

 

After he was commissioned, he moved to the regimental center in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh for further training which ended in January 1998. After the training, he was posted at Sopore in Baramulla of Jammu and Kashmir. The terrorist activities were at a peak at that point of time. Again, in mid-March, he was sent to infantry school at Mhow, Madhya Pradesh for a young officer’s course which ended in September 1998 where he was rewarded alpha grading, and after this, he rejoined his battalion in Sopore in October 1998. During this posting, Vikram Batra had numerous encounters with terrorists. During one of the encounters, Batra had an escape when a bullet fired by a terrorist brushed his shoulder and hit one of his men behind him, killing him. This saddened Vikram a lot, while talking about it on phone to his elder sister he told, “Didi, it was meant for me, and I lost my man.”

In January 1999, Batra opted for Commando Course at Belgaum, Karnataka and he excelled in it. After completion of this course which lasted for two months, he was awarded the highest grading – the Instructor’s Grade. He then returned to his hometown during his leave in 1999 during Holi. When his friends told him to be careful about the situation in Kargil, he replied, “I’ll either come back after raising the Indian flag in victory or return wrapped in it. But I’ll come back for sure” and he fulfilled his promise.

13 JAK RIF received orders to proceed to Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, but when the Kargil war broke out on 5 June, the orders were changed and the battalion received orders to proceed to Dras of Jammu and Kashmir. On 6 June, 13 JAK RIF reached Dras, and on 13 June his brother Vishal Batra, said that Vikram wrote a letter to him on 16 June 1999 in which Vikram Batra mentioned that he’s going for offensive action, but didn’t mention details due to security reasons.

 On June 17, Lt. Gen Y. K. Joshi, then Lt. Col, was given the task of capturing point 5140. Then Lt. Col Joshi decided to attack point 5140 with Delta Company under command of then Lt. Vikram Batra and Bravo Company under command of Lt. Sanjeev Jamval. “Yeh Dil Mange More” was the success signal decided by Vikram Batra and “Oh Yeah, yeah, yeah!” was the success signal decided by Sanjeev Jamval. Before the operation, then Lt. Vikram Batra and then Lt. Sanjeev Jamval promised Lt. Col Joshi that they’ll have breakfast with him on June 20. Under the cover of artillery fire, assault companies started climbing point 5140 after midnight on June 20.

The enemy from the top told Vikram Batra, “Sher shah, don’t come up, you’ll have a tough time.” To which Vikram Batra replied, “Don’t worry for us. Pray for yourself.” Despite of treacherous terrain and the worst weather conditions, B and D Coys reached point 5140 which is almost 17,000 feet above sea level at 03:15 hrs in the morning. After reaching on the top, Vikram Batra hurled two grenades at a machine-gun post and killed three enemy soldiers in single hand-to-hand combat. Though he was severely injured, he regrouped his men for the mission and led his troop to capture point 5140. Many enemy soldiers were killed while some of them just fled away. At 04:35 hrs in the morning, Batra radioed his command post saying, “Yeh Dil Mange More.” The mission was successful with no casualties from either company and a considerable amount of arms and ammunition were also recovered.

Vikram Batra’s chivalrous “Yeh Dil Mange More” clearly portrayed that for him, the success of the mission was just a step towards victory, and the war wasn’t over for him. His devotion for the motherland and his indomitable spirit are reflected in his words when he said, “I want to capture more peaks.” On 29 June Vikram Batra called his mother and told her, “Mummy, I’m fit and fine, don’t worry.” He used to call once every 10 days. That was the last time when his mother spoke to him.

After capturing point 5140, Vikram Batra was promoted to rank of Captain and congratulated by then Army General Ved Malik. The 13 JAK RIF then moved to Ghumri for rest, refit and recoup. And then to Mushkoh valley on June 30. The next mission was to capture point 4875, one of the most strategically important points in the Kargil war. A stretch of almost 30-40 km of the Srinagar – Leh highway was directly under the observation of enemies from point 4875.

After Capt. Nagappa’s serious injury, Capt. Batra, who was still suffering from fever and was recovering from wounds he received in the battle of Point 5140, volunteered to capture point 4875 saying, “I’ll go up, sir.” News spread and soldiers volunteered to join Capt. Batra. A JAK RIF officer said, “Despite strict rules, where soldiers cannot question the orders of their seniors, several soldiers pleaded for permission to accompany Batra even at the cost of earning severe displeasure of the commanding officer. The soldiers were so moved that they were willing to be jailed or court-martialed but only wanted permission to accompany Batra and reinforce the army on top of the peak.” The soldiers had their faith in a brave young captain who always led from the front. Before leaving Batra along with the 25 men of D Coy who were to accompany him, prayed at the Durga Mata temple. The troops were so tired and hungry that they picked up snow-covered in the soot of blasts and bloodstains, removed the top layer and drank from the bottom. Despite knowing that troops were tired and hungry, Capt. Nagappa instead of ammunition over food. This was the moment when Captain Vikram Batra joined them. When soldiers on the top got the wireless message from the base that Capt. Batra was coming, a gush of energy overpowered tired soldiers.

Batra and his men started climbing to strengthen Indian troops fighting enemies at 16,000 feet. The conditions were tough, with 80 degrees of sharp gradient, the visibility was almost zero due to fog. To make conditions worse, it started snowing. The enemies also intercepted the wireless message, they knew Vikram Batra, the Shershah, who made them cry on the peak of 5140, they knew the legend and his amazing military prowess. They tried to threaten him, but Capt. Batra paid no heed to cowards.

Reaching on the top, Capt. Batra spotted Indian soldiers trapped in the firing position of enemies, crouching closer he lobbed a grenade and destroyed the enemies’ machine gun position. He rescued them and ordered them to follow him. Though they were struggling to breathe, they never stopped and kept advancing, as a result before the first light on 7 July, they succeeded in knocking out more machine guns but firing didn’t stop, Capt. Batra got orders to recce the area, Batra took a patrol to recce a route to reinforce Nagappa from a flank.

On locating the position of enemy sangar on the ledge from which the Pakistani machine guns were firing towards Indian soldiers, screaming the battle cry of his regiment “Durga Mata Ki Jai” he moved forward with great personal risk and charged the sangar firing from his AK-47. He sustained multiple serious injuries in the process, but didn’t stop, and with a supporting fire from the patrol, and reached the very narrow entrance of the sangar. He killed 5 surprised Pakistani soldiers in close combat.

A JAK RIF soldier, who accompanied him in the attack, said “There was a time he grappled with a Pakistani soldier, punching him in the nose. As soon as he fell, Batra plunged his bayonet into the fallen soldier’s stomach. But another enemy soldier caught him from behind. He, too, was done to death after being thrown off the back by Batra, the ferocious. All hell broke loose. It was utter chaos.” The attack resulted in the deaths of seven Pakistani soldiers and the Indians gained a foothold on the ledge. Taken by surprise by this ferocious attack, the Pakistanis started retreating. Still, there was an enemy machine gun nest in action on that ledge that had to be silenced. Four Pakistani soldiers including a JCO were charging fire on the Indian soldiers. Lion-Hearted Batra quickly charged forward alone, killing all four members of the crew.

Batra then realized that one of his men had been shot. Turning towards Sub. Raghunath Singh, he shouted: “Aap aur main usko evacuate karenge.” With bullets flying around him, he pushed Singh toward the safer side and placed himself between Singh and the enemy, saying: “You have a family and children to go back to, I’m not even married.” Batra courageously exposed himself to enemy fire to drag the injured soldier to safety, and in the process was shot in the chest by an enemy sniper from very close range and a split-second later, by a splinter from an RPG which hit him in the head. Batra collapsed next to the injured soldier, succumbing to his fatal wounds, ultimately making the supreme sacrifice in the finest traditions of the Indian Army, but not before capturing point 4875 which is now known as Batra Post. The last war cry of Shershah “Durga Mata Ki Jai!” filled the air. Even today his brave and glorious roar echoes in the mountains of Kargil. And he fulfilled his promise made to his friends, he raised the Tricolour and even came back wrapped in it.

Remembering Capt. Vikram Batra, Capt. Naveen Nagappa said he was an amazing friend. Capt. Nagappa remembers when on 4 July, Capt. Batra hugged him before the battle of point 4875 and told, “Galey lagna yaaro, jaane kaun si mulakaat aakhri hogi.” Capt. Nagappa further recalls that Capt. Batra told him, “Tumko bohot agey janna hai, himmat nahi harna, victory will definitely be ours.” Capt. Nagappa said we left for the capture of point 4875 on the night of 4 July, the battle continued. On 6 July after 48 long hrs. of battle, troops were extremely tired and hungry, they also ran out of ammunition. “At 16000 feet, in the war-zone, Batra and I were talking about our retirement plans. Batra wanted to have a strawberry farm after retirement and we planned to visit Capt. Kalia’s house,” said Capt. Naggapa remembering his cherished memories with Capt. Batra. When Capt. Naggapa was severely injured due to a grenade lobbed by the enemy, he remembers how Capt. Batra rushed towards him and dragged him out of the bunker with utter disregard to his personal safety and said, “Anna tu darna mat, main aa gaya hoon.” Capt. Nagappa was airlifted from Srinagar to Delhi. Capt. Naggapa choked and said, “I saluted the Tricolour on point 4875 with immense pride and joy.” But the happiness was short-lived, he further said, “Batra had saved my life, but he lost his own. He is my hero.”

Then Army Chief of Indian Army, General Ved Malik went to Capt. Vikram Batra’s house after his sacrifice and spoke highly of him. Capt. Batra’s parents remember him with pride and respect, they say there is not a single day; they didn’t remember him. His mother recalls how she accidentally told him to bring a white shawl when he brought brown shawls for his mother and his sisters from Kashmir when he came back on holiday. She recalls that the next time, he never came on holiday, he came back wrapped in Tricolour. And she found a white shawl in his belongings.

Capt. Batra’s brother Vishal Batra talks about him telling, a day hasn’t passed when we didn’t mention Vikram. He talked about how identical they were as twins and once he got slapped by the teacher due to Vikram’s mistake and the teacher wasn’t able to differentiate between the twins. When he visited Batra top, he said, he felt Vikram is somewhere up there guiding the peaks, for him, Vikram is still alive, he says Vikram has blessed me in this life by being my sibling.

Captain Vikram Batra and Dimple Cheema decided to get married with their parent’s consent after he returns from the war. Capt. Batra’s parents still remember how he told them not to look for any suitable bride for him, as he already loved a girl from his college. Capt. Batra’s brother recalls how on 5 July, Dimple told him that it was his task to get her and Vikram married. Capt. Batra’s father says that along with their parents, they also tried to explain to her and move on but she remained firm on her grounds to live her life with his memories. She came to Palampur, during Capt. Batra’s funeral with her parents and wept silently.

As a true soulmate, Dimple didn’t marry and remembers Vikram with utmost love, respect, pride and lives cherishing his memories. She remembers the excitement in his voice when he informed her about his selection at IMA. Dimple says Vikram used to tell her, “Make sure to get what you like, or you’ll be forced to like what you get,” and she still tries to follow that. In an interview with The Quint, remembering Capt. Vikram’s dedication and commitment towards their relationship she talks about a ritual to visit Mansa Devi temple and Nada Sahib Gurudwara. After completing the Parikrama, Vikram came to Dimple and said, “Congratulations, Mrs. Batra.” Dimple turned around only to find him holding her dupatta all the while doing the Parikrama. On one of his holidays, she talked about how she was pressurized for marriage and talked to Vikram about the same, he just took out a blade from his wallet, put a cut on his thumb and filled Dimple’s forehead with his blood. She says that she never felt detached from him in all these years. To her, Vikram Batra is away on a posting, she is extremely proud of what Vikram did, the only regret she has is that he’s not here, she says he should have been here sharing and listening to stories of his brave deeds and valour. They used to talk every Wednesday at 7 in the evening, no matter what may come. Maybe Dimple is still waiting for him to call her once again.

On 7 July 2021, Lt. Gen. Y. K. Joshi, the Northern Army Commander and CO flew over Batra top in Sukhoi 30 to pay ultimate tributes to his Kargil war Comrade.

Places like Batra top are a pilgrimage for Indians across the globe. Vikram Batra was awarded Param Vir Chakra on 15 August 1999 which was received by his father G. L. Batra. We celebrate martyrdom, because what Capt. Batra and martyrs like him were worthy of celebration. We’ll forever remain indebted to Ma Bharti’s Lion-hearted son PVC Capt. Batra. The Nation salutes and bows down to Capt. Vikram Batra, his immortal love and his family for their unmatched sacrifice and devotion to the Nation. Capt. Vikram Batra, the son of this soil, an ultimate inspiration is alive, and he’ll forever remain alive in our hearts. The noble soul is an inspiration and guiding light for the youth of this Nation.

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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