Who was captain Vikram Batra?
Pakistan had attacked India multiple times in its mere seventy years of existence. But the Kargil war of 1999 was a new low. The newly elected Indian Prime minister Shri Atal Vihari Bajpayee had recently visited Pakistan. He had made his way to Pakistan on a newly inaugurated Bus route between the two countries. Things were looking good for both countries and a hope of peace after decades of fighting shone brightly. But then Pakistan betrayed.
The war of Kargil felt like a knife in the back to every Indian. Amidst this war of hopelessness, one figure emerged changing the mood of the entire nation. His one televised interview uplifted the morale of the entire Indian army and suddenly Pakistan was on the back foot. This man was Captain Vikram Batra.
Vikram Batra and his twin brother Vishal were born and raised in the city of Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. He grew up to be a tall and handsome man with a sporty body. In his school days, he had been a part of the NCC (National Cadet Corps). This has inspired him to join the army. He was offered a job in the Merchant navy but he declined and started studying for CDS (Combined Defense Services). Cracking CDS landed him in the IMA, Dehradun. After One and a half years of training, Vikram Joined the J&K Rifles battalion of the Indian Army.
Vikram’s battalion was positioned in the town of Sopore, Jammu and Kashmir. Their role in the town was to keep track of ex-militants and hunt down active militants. In one such encounter with militants, Vikram was shot in the shoulder. Yet, he refused to leave and let the militants get away. The fight lasted a whole night but Vikram and others were able to kill the militants. This incident made him popular amongst his seniors and soon Vikram was promoted to the ranks of Captain.
According to a mutual agreement, both Indian and Pakistani soldiers were to leave their bases in high-altitude locations of Kashmir during peak winter. The winter of 1999 was not so different from the Indian side. A lot of troops were recalled from the Kashmir region. Vikram too was back in his home for the time. But Pakistan decided to break the treaty and captured unguarded Indian bases.
When the summer broke and the Indian army tried going back, they were met with heavy firing from these bunkers, confirming the worst.
Vikram wasted no time in reporting back to Kashmir. He along with another battalion of J&K rifles was given the task of recapturing these bases. The task at hand looked impossible. The enemy had the advantage of higher ground. So Batra and his men started climbing the mountain at night. With temperatures below freezing point and low oxygen levels, these men somehow managed to do the impossible. They slowly and steadily reached the enemy base at point 5140.
Batra and his men captured the base and their victory signal was “Ye dil maange more” meaning this heart demands more. It was after this victory that Vikram was interviewed. His smile, charm, and enthusiasm to fight captured the heart of common Indian and fellow soldiers alike.
Vikram and his men volunteered to participate in a similar mission next. At point 4875, the enemy had dug trenches and Indian soldiers were unable to take a shot. The news of Vikram Batra or his code name ‘Shershah’ joining filled those Indian soldiers with hope. Vikram with his group of 25 men reached point 4875.
They received the intel that Pakistanis would be getting a reinforcement soon and would be impossible to take down. Batra decided to act quickly. They started pushing towards the enemy trenches inch by inch. Amidst all the firing, one of their soldiers was hit. Batra ran into the open to rescue him and was hit by a bullet. This act of their captain inspired the Indian troops to charge and captured the post in the next half an hour. Vikram closed his eyes forever only after the mission was done.
No one wins in a war. In the war of Kargil, India was backstabbed, and India lost more men than the enemy. Captain Vikram Batra came out as the silver lining of this war. A total of 15 gallantry awards were given in this war. And the greatest of them all was given to Captain Vikram Batra. He is the latest recipient of India’s highest military decoration ‘Param Vir Chakra’, receiving it in the year 2001. His story of selflessness has transcended through generations of army professionals. And his mere name has become a symbol of pride and bravery.