|Born||9 September 1974|
Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, India
|Died||7 July 1999 (aged 24)|
Kargil, Jammu & Kashmir, India
|Allegiance||Republic of India|
|Years of service||1997–1999|
|Unit||13 JAK RIF|
Battle of Point 5140
Battle of Point 4875
|Awards||Param Vir Chakra|
|Alma mater||Indian Military Academy|
Captain Vikram Batra, PVC (9 September 1974 – 7 July 1999) was an officer of the Indian Army, awarded with the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest and most prestigious award for valour, for his actions during the 1999 Kargil War.
Early life and education
Batra was born on 9 September 1974 in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, India. He was the third child of Girdhari Lal Batra, a government school principal, and Kamal Kanta Batra, a school teacher. He was the elder of twin sons and had two sisters. He attended the D.A.V. Public School in Palampur, where he studied up to middle standard. He received his senior secondary education at Central School, Palampur. In 1990, he and his twin brother represented their school in table tennis at All India KVS Nationals. He also was a green belt holder in Karate and went on to attend a national level camp in Manali.
Later, he attended DAV College, Chandigarh in B.Sc Medical Sciences. At college, he joined the Air Wing of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) while he was in the first year. During the Inter-State NCC Camp, he was adjudged the best NCC Air Wing cadet of Punjab Directorate in North Zone. He was selected and underwent a 40-day paratrooping training with his NCC Air Wing unit at Pinjore Airfield and Flying Club. During the next two years in DAV, he remained a cadet of the Army Wing of NCC.
He afterward qualified for the 'C' certificate in the NCC and attained the rank of Senior Under Officer in his NCC unit. Subsequently, in 1994, he was selected for the Republic Day parade as a NCC cadet, and when he came back home, he told his parents that he wanted to join the Army. In 1995, while still in college, he was selected for the merchant navy at a shipping company headquartered in Hong Kong, but ultimately he changed his mind. That same year he completed his bachelor's degree, graduating from the DAV College in Chandigarh.
Following completion of his bachelor's degree in 1995, he enrolled at Panjab University in Chandigarh, where he took admission in MA English course, so that he could prepare for the "Combined Defence Services" (CDS) Examination. He attended evening classes at the University and worked part-time in the morning as a branch manager of a travelling agency in Chandigarh.
In 1996, he passed the CDS examination and got selected at the Services Selection Board (SSB) at Allahabad. He was among the top 35 candidates in the Order of Merit. After completing a year (session 1995—96) toward the degree of MA in English, he left the University to join the Indian Military Academy.
In the words of his father, Vikram had found his purpose in life. He had found the way to a righteous path that would lead him to his goal — to a service that was extraordinarily high and supreme.
Batra joined the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun in June 1996 in the Manekshaw Battalion. After completing his 19-month training course, he graduated from the IMA on 6 December 1997 and was commissioned as a lieutenant into the 13th battalion, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (13 JAK RIF). After commissioning, he was sent to the regimental centre in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh for further training. The training lasted one month from December 1997 to the end of January 1998.
On completion of this training, he was posted to Sopore, Baramulla district, Jammu and Kashmir, an area with significant militant activity. In mid-March 1998, he was sent to the Infantry School at Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, for the Young Officer's Course. This training lasted five months until September 1998. Following the completion of the course and being awarded alpha grading, he rejoined his battalion in Sopore in October 1998.
During his posting in Sopore, Batra had several encounters with militants. In one of those encounters when Batra was leading an ambush with his platoon into an area of dense forest, he had a miraculous escape when a bullet fired by a militant grazed his shoulder and struck one of Batra's men behind him, killing the soldier. Batra proceeded to order his men to nab the militants, and by morning all of the militants had been killed. Batra, however, was saddened, because he knew that the bullet was meant for him. "Didi, it was meant for me and I lost my man," he had told his elder sister over the phone.
In January 1999, Batra was sent to attend the Commando Course at Belgaum, Karnataka where he excelled. The course lasted for two months and at the end of it, he was awarded the highest grading—the Instructor's Grade.
Every time when he came home to Palampur on leave, he would visit the Neugal Cafe. Batra last came home on leave from the army in 1999, during the Holi festival for a few days. During that time, when he went to the café for a coffee, he met his best friend and later on fiancee Dimple Cheema who told him to be careful in the war, to which Batra replied:
After his leave, he returned to join his battalion in Sopore. 13 JAK RIF, after completing its counter-insurgency tenure in Kashmir under 192 Mountain Brigade of 8 Mountain Division, received orders to proceed to Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The battalion's advance party under Maj. Yogesh Kumar Joshi had reached its destination, when on 5 June, because of the outbreak of the Kargil War, its deployment orders were changed and the battalion received orders to move to Dras, Jammu and Kashmir.
Batra informed his parents about his movement and assured them that they need not worry about him. He would call his parents at least once in ten days. The last phone call he made was on 29 June 1999, in which he said "Mommy, ek dum fit hoon, fikar mat karna", ("I'm absolutely fine. Don't you worry.") This was the last time that Batra spoke to his mother.
The 13 JAK RIF reached Dras on 6 June, was placed under the command of 56 Mountain Brigade, and was given orders to act as reserves to the 2nd battalion, Rajputana Rifles (2 RAJ RIF) during their attack on Tololing mountain. The 18th battalion, The Grenadiers (18 Grenadiers) first attacked Tololing on 22 May, but were unable to capture the peak. 18 Grenadiers made four attempts to capture Tololing, but could only succeed in securing the lower slopes, while suffering heavy casualties. Eventually, 2 RAJ RIF was assigned the mission of capturing Tololing and they did so on 13 June 1999.
After the capture of Tololing, 13 JAK RIF marched from Dras to Tololing, reaching their destination in 12 hours. Upon reaching, A Coy, 13 JAK RIF took over Tololing and a portion of the Hump Complex from 18 Grenadiers.
Capture of Point 5140
Point 5140, about 1600 metres north of Tololing on the same ridgeline, is at an altitude of 16,962 feet above sea level and overlooks the Tololing nullah. It is the highest point on the Tololing ridgeline and the most formidable feature in the Dras sub-sector. Between Tololing and Point 5140 lies the Humps Complex, consisting of about ten high grounds numbered I to X on the same ridgeline about 500–700 metres north of Point 4590, and Rocky Knob. After the victory at Tololing, 18 Grenadiers proceeded to capture Humps I-VIII of the Humps Complex. 13 JAK RIF then took Humps IX, X and Rocky Knob. Rocky Knob is located at the base of Point 5140 and is 800 metres away from Humps IX and X.
The task of capturing Point 5140 was assigned to 13 JAK RIF under the command of now Lt. Col. Yogesh Kumar Joshi on 17 June. After the capture of Rocky Knob, Joshi fell back to Tololing, and started planning for the assault on Point 5140. On 18 June, the battalion carried out a detailed reconnaissance of Point 5140. It revealed that the enemy had put in place seven sangars on the feature; two on the top, four towards the east and one towards the north. It also revealed that the eastern approach to the feature was comparatively easier than that from the front, which had a near vertical climb, dominated by the top, though it was also more heavily defended. It was decided that the assaulting troops must capture the top before dawn, or else the enemy would inflict maximum casualties on them.
Joshi decided to attack Point 5140 with B Coy, under the command of Lt. Sanjeev Singh Jamwal, and D Coy, under the command of Lt. Vikram Batra, from two sides; east and south. At the Hump Complex, Jamwal and Batra were given their orders by Joshi. During the briefing, Jamwal chose the words "Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah!" to be the success signal for his company whilst Batra chose the words "Yeh Dil Mange More!" (This heart wants more! — from a popular advertising slogan of Pepsi) as his success signal for his company. D-Day was set for 19 June, and H-Hour at 2030.[a]
Under the cover of artillery fire, the two assault companies began climbing Point 5140 after midnight on 20 June. The artillery at Hump Complex had already begun its preparatory bombardment of Point 5140. As planned, the artillery guns would stop firing when the troops were 200 metres short of the objective.
Once the artillery guns, including the MBRLs and 105mm guns, had ceased firing, the Pakistani soldiers immediately came out of their bunkers and put down heavy fire with their machine guns on the advancing Indian soldiers. At that moment, both Jamwal and Batra, realising the gravity of the situation, contacted commanders at the base via radio, asking to continue artillery bombardment of the enemy positions till the companies were 100 metres from their target.
By 0315 hours, both B and D Coys had reached the vicinity of Point 5140 despite the treacherous terrain. B Coy reached the top of the feature first and assaulted from the left flank. By 0330 hours, B Coy had captured its objective, and at 0335 hours Jamwal radioed his command post, saying the words "Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah!".
Batra decided to approach the hill from the rear, aiming to surprise the enemy, and to cut off their withdrawal route. Batra fired three rockets towards the bunkers on the east side of the feature, before attacking them. He and his men ascended the sheer rock-cliff, but as the group neared the top, the enemy pinned them on the face of the bare cliff with machine gun fire. Batra, along with five of his men, climbed up regardless and after reaching the top, hurled two grenades at the machine gun post. Batra then killed three enemy soldiers single-handedly in close combat. He was seriously injured in the process, but insisted on regrouping his men to continue with the mission. He continued to lead his troops, and then charged at the next enemy position, capturing Point 5140. In all its actions, D Coy killed at least eight Pakistani intruders and recovered a heavy anti-aircraft machine gun. The remaining enemy soldiers fled.
At 0435 hours, Batra radioed his command post, saying the words "Yeh Dil Mange More!". Considerable quantities of arms and ammunition were recovered from the feature. The captured ammunitions indicated that the enemy's strength was about a platoon. Neither B or D Coys suffered any casualties in the battle. When the news reached brigade headquarters that Point 5140 had been captured, the brigade commander asked Joshi about the casualties, his reply was: "There was not a single casualty. Not a single soldier died in the operation." The capture of Point 5140 set in motion a string of successes, such as the captures of Point 5100, Point 4700, Junction Peak and the Three Pimple Complex.
After the capture of Point 5140, Batra was promoted to the rank of captain. Gen. Ved Prakash Malik, the then Chief of Army Staff, called to congratulate him. All across the nation, his triumph was being played out on television screens.
Capture of Point 4875
Upon reaching the Mushkoh Valley, 13 JAK RIF was placed under the command of 79 Mountain Brigade. The next assignment for the battalion was to capture Point 4875, a strategically important peak located in the Mushkoh Valley. Since the feature dominated the National Highway 1 completely from Dras to Matayan, it became imperative for the Indian Army to capture it. A stretch of 30–40 kilometres of the national highway was under direct observation of the enemy and from the peak, Pakistani artillery observers could easily see Indian gun positions, army camps and troop movement, and bring down effective artillery fire at will.
On 1 July 1999, Maj. S. Vijay Bhaskar, A Coy commander, and Lt. Col. Joshi conducted their preliminary reconnaissance after climbing to a vantage point, and formulated an attack plan. Subsequently, on 2 July, General Officer Commanding 8 Mountain Division, Maj. Gen. Mohinder Puri and Commander 79 Mountain Brigade, Brig. Rajesh Kumar Kakkar, along with Joshi, gathered at 79 Mountain Brigade headquarters, to discuss the plan.
13 JAK RIF deployed to a fire support base, located in a defiladed area, approximately 1500 metres from Point 4875. On 2 and 3 July, weapons carriers from 13 JAK RIF and 28 Rashtriya Rifles dumped ammunition and heavy weapons. During the day of 4 July, the company commanders of A and C Coys, Maj. S.V. Bhaskar and Maj. Gurpreet Singh, conducted their final reconnaissance and showed the objectives to their O groups.
At 1800 hours that same day, artillery bombardment of the enemy positions on Point 4875 commenced, and continued non-stop, throughout the whole night. 155 mm Bofors Howitzers, 105mm Field Guns, and multi-barrel rocket launchers were used in the bombardment of the peak. At 2030 hours, under cover of artillery fire, A and C Coys began climbing Point 4875. Batra meanwhile was lying in a sleeping bag in a tent on the rocky ground near the Mushkoh nullah, and was down with fever and fatigue. Joshi had ordered him to rest as A and C Coys started their attack.
Both the assault companies were leading the offensive from the right flank. The climbing was difficult, and the soldiers had to take out enemy pockets of resistance which they encountered en route. However at one point, a strategically located machine gun halted the advance, and by first light the troops were still 50 meters short of the target. Now it was getting dangerous because in daylight, Indian soldiers could easily be seen by the Pakistanis. The attack was also halted by very effective sniper fire from Pakistani soldiers hiding behind rocks.
At 0430 hours, the two companies began to fire at strong well-fortified enemy positions at the top of the feature. The enemy was still bringing down very effective small arms and sniper fire, which effectively blocked the advance of the Indian troops. At around 1015 hours on 5 July, Singh, C Coy commander, spoke to Joshi and explained his company's predicament and the area from where the enemy was bringing in effective fire on to them. Brig. Kakkar was personally supervising operations. At this juncture, Joshi personally fired two Fagot missiles in quick succession from the fire support base and neutralised the enemy position. Kakkar watched the firing of the missiles through his binoculars. "Bull's eye! You've got them," he said to Joshi over the radio. The bunker received a direct hit and enemy soldiers were seen fleeing from it. The troops from 13 JAK RIF then promptly began advancing again. Soon, two sections from C Coy assaulted the enemy position. By 1300 hours, they had captured Point 4875. Subsequently, A and C Coys linked up and consolidated their hold on Point 4875, but they continued to receive enemy artillery and machine gun fire from Pimple 2 and areas north of Point 4875.
At 2200 hours on 5 July, from a Pakistani position north of Point 4875, the enemy brought heavy and accurate fire on the two companies. In the early hours of the following morning at 0445 hours, C Coy reported that they were in a heavy firefight and were running out of ammunition. B Coy, held in reserve, promptly brought up ammunition and the firefight continued.
The Indian victory would not have been complete without the capture of Area Flat Top, an adjacent peak and part of enemy defences on Point 4875. 13 JAK RIF had captured Area Flat Top on the afternoon of 5 July after a fierce battle with Pakistani forces. However, the enemy launched an immediate counterattack to take back the peak. "Young Capt. N.A. Nagappa was holding Flat Top. He had a small force but he fought ferociously to beat back the offensive. The first counter-attack was beaten back. The Pakistanis too were facing the same problem of climbing, with the Indian Army on top shooting at them. It is not that they did not have the will to do it but the carpet-firing by our troops did not let them come to the top," a 79 Mountain Brigade officer said. There was a seesaw battle taking place at Area Flat Top. All of a sudden, a shell hit the peak, seriously injuring Capt. Nagappa. Splinters pierced through both his legs and he fell unconscious. Taking advantage of this situation, the Pakistanis started climbing faster. Suddenly, Batra, who was silently observing the situation from the fire support base, went to Joshi and volunteered, saying the words "I'll go up sir." Seeing as Batra was still unwell, Joshi did not have the heart to let him go but Batra insisted on it.
That same day, the enemy launched a second counterattack on Area Flat Top and although the Indian troops succeeded in beating it back too, they urgently needed reinforcements. Seeing Batra's determination to save Peak 4875 and the honour of his battalion, several of his company's soldiers volunteered to accompany him even before any official orders had been issued. "Despite strict rules, where soldiers cannot question the orders of their seniors, several soldiers literally 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-martialled but only wanted permission to accompany Batra and reinforce the army on top of the peak," a JAK RIF officer said.
Just before leaving, Batra along with the 25 men of D Coy who were to accompany him, prayed at the Durga Mata temple. It was pitch black night when they began the climb. Having heard a wireless message from the base that Batra was coming, a cheer went up among the tired Indian soldiers on top. The commander ordered them to hold their ground until Batra arrived and then he would take over. "The Pakistanis too intercepted the wireless message where the base told the peak that Batra was coming. They knew Batra, the first man on top of Peak 5140 in Dras, and broke into the Indian wireless system to threaten him. Undeterred, Batra kept climbing," said a soldier who accompanied him.
On the night of 6–7 July, the opposing forces were so close that besides exchanges of small arms fire, verbal exchanges continued throughout the night. It was at this stage that it became imperative for Indian troops to destroy this Pakistani post, located north of Point 4875, from where enemy fire was coming as otherwise the situation could get worse. At this juncture, the Indian troops detected an enemy presence on a long and narrow ledge, running north from Point 4875. On the ledge, the enemy were holding strong sangars echeloned one behind the other. Batra, who was still recovering from his own wounds he received in the battle of Point 5140, wanted to reach the top to rescue his fellow soldiers and carry out reconnaissance of the ledge where the enemy soldiers were. "The problem was that the Indian soldiers were caught unawares about the presence of the enemy soldiers on the ledge ahead of Twin Bump. They went ahead into the enemy lines and destroyed their bunkers on Peak 4875 but the firing from the ledge pinned them down," Joshi said. Even though it was pitch dark when they had left at night, when they neared the top where the soldiers had to climb vertically, visibility was almost zero because of fog. Even worse, it began snowing as they advanced. En route to the top, Batra spotted a Pakistani machine gun position firing at the trapped Indian soldiers. Crouching, he moved toward the machine gun position, hiding behind rocks whenever possible. As he reached close to the enemy's machine gun position he lobbed a grenade, destroying the machine gun position. "Follow me, boys," he whispered in the dark, and they advanced to the next position. At 16,087 feet, even though they were struggling for breath and panting, this did not stop them and they kept advancing non-stop. Before first light on 7 July, the troops succeeded in knocking out two more enemy machine guns, however, firing from the ledge continued. Batra's platoon soon reached the ledge, though by this time it was broad daylight.
At 0530 hours Joshi spoke to Batra and asked him to recce the area. Batra, accompanied by Sub. Raghunath Singh and Maj. Bhat, his artillery observation officer, took out a patrol to recce a route to reinforce Nagappa from a flank. Batra located the position of the enemy sangar on the ledge from which enemy machine guns were holding up the advance of his company. At this juncture, Batra, realising that there was no way from the left or right, decided to make a direct daylight frontal assault. At great personal risk and under heavy fire from enemy machine guns and grenade launchers, Batra moved forward, screaming the battle cry of his regiment, Durga mata ki jai, and charged the sangar firing incessantly from his AK-47. He sustained grievous injuries in the process, yet he continued his charge, with supporting fire from the rest of the patrol, and reached the very narrow entrance of the sangar. Taking the enemy by complete surprise, he killed 5 Pakistani soldiers in a close combat. "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," a JAK RIF soldier, who accompanied him in the attack, said. 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. Batra and his men had gained the upper hand. However, there was still an enemy machine gun nest in action on that ledge that had to be silenced. Four Pakistani soldiers including a junior commissioned officer (JCO), who was guiding the fire on the Indian soldiers fighting outside, were manning the machine gun nest. An enraged Batra quickly charged forward alone, killing all four members of the crew.
Suddenly, Batra realised that one of his men had been shot. Turning toward Sub. Raghunath Singh, who was positioned behind a nearby boulder, maintaining an iron grip on his AK-47, Batra shouted above the din of flying bullets: "Aap aur main usko evacuate karenge," (We will evacuate him, you and I). 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. Main sar ki taraf rahunga aur aap paanv uthayenge" (I will take the head and you take his feet). 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.
In his book Param Vir: Our Heroes in Battle, Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo states,
Captain Vikram Batra, always leading from the front, and fully aware of the great danger of his mission, displayed unparalleled courage and determination in eliminating a Pakistani position at a ledge because he was aware of the importance of his task. His daring assault enabled the completion of the capture of Pt 4875 and this broke the will of the enemy. His courage and action were well beyond the call of duty and he continued to take risks, ultimately making the supreme sacrifice in the finest traditions of the Indian Army.
Param Vir Chakra
Vikram Batra was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military honour on 15 August 1999, the 52nd anniversary of India's independence. His father G.L. Batra received the honour for his deceased son from the President of India, the late K. R. Narayanan.
The Param Vir Chakra citation reads as follows:
CAPTAIN VIKRAM BATRA13 JAMMU AND KASHMIR RIFLES (IC 57556)
During ‘Operation Vijay’, on 20 June 1999, Captain Vikram Batra, Commander Delta Company was tasked to attack Point 5140. Captain Batra with his company skirted around the feature from the East and maintaining surprise reached within assaulting distance of the enemy. Captain Batra reorganised his column and motivated his men to physically assault the enemy positions. Leading from the front, he in a daredevil assault, pounced on the enemy and killed four of them in a hand-to hand fight. On 7 July 1999, in another operation in the area Pt 4875, his company was tasked to clear a narrow feature with sharp cuttings on either side and heavily fortified enemy defences that covered the only approach to it. For speedy operation, Captain Batra assaulted the enemy position along a narrow ridge and engaged the enemy in a fierce hand –to-hand fight and killed five enemy soldiers at point blank range. Despite sustaining grave injuries, he crawled towards the enemy and hurled grenades clearing the position with utter disregard to his personal safety, leading from the front, he rallied his men and pressed on the attack and achieved a near impossible military task in the face of heavy enemy fire. The officer, however, succumbed to his injuries. Inspired by his daredevil act, his troops fell upon the enemy with vengeance, annihilated them and captured Point 4875.
Captain Vikram Batra, thus, 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.
In popular culture
Vikram Batra is also well known in India for using the slogan, Yeh Dil Maange More! as his signal to communicate mission success. He is also known for an interview in which he stated that Pakistani soldiers were aware of him.
He was also honoured with several landmarks being named after him: the historic capture of Point 4875 led to the mountain being named Batra Top in his honour. A hall at the Service Selection Centre Allahabad is named 'Vikram Batra Block', a residential area in the Jabalpur Cantonment is called 'Captain Vikram Batra Enclave' and the combined cadet's mess at the IMA is named 'Vikram Batra Mess'.
A memorial for war veterans including Batra stands at his alma mater DAV College, Chandigarh honouring the services of the soldiers. In 2003 Movie of J.P Dutta based on the Kargil incident Abhishek Bachchan played the role of Captain Vikram Batra.
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|on YouTube showing a reenactment of his final battle during Kargil War, narrated by his then-commanding officer, Yogesh Kumar Joshi|