With his left arm already wrapped in plaster, Major Somnath Sharma, guiding his D Company of less than 50 men was protecting the village of Badgam which was nearly four miles from the airfield of Srinagar. His team was outnumbered by seven to one when Pakistani troops, disguised as Kashmiri locals, opened fire on them with medium machine guns; apparently overpowering the .303 rifles of Indians. Pakistanis had invaded with a clear agenda of capturing the Srinagar airfield and blocking any kind of supply and reinforcement to the Indian Army from anywhere. Pulling out a heroic feat against the barbaric enemies, he inspired his soldiers to fight with the spirit of “last man, last round” to prevent Kashmir from falling into enemy hands. He and 21 others made the supreme sacrifice withstanding the tradition of the Indian Armed Forces. Major Somi is the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra.
Karam Singh and three of his comrades were running out of ammunition, outnumbered by ten to one and bleeding profusely due to bullet injuries and artillery shelling. They were successful in beating down four repeated attacks of the enemy and were once again confronting them on the heights of mental and physical fatigue. When the Pakistanis came in for the fifth time, he pepped up his buddies yelling “There are many who’ll continue the fight after we die” and bounced back with complete disregard for personal safety before bayoneting two enemy intruders to uphold the Richhmar Gali. He was one of the five soldiers who were selected by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru to hoist the National Flag for the first time after independence.
Clearing minefields between Naushera to Rajouri, which was already under heavy enemy firing, immortalized Major Rane in the history of exemplary bravery. He crouched under a monstrous Stuart tank and began crawling with it despite his legs were battered by mortar shelling. Synchronizing himself with the movements of dangerous wheels and the godawful noise it produced, whenever he spotted a landmine, he used to pull a rope in his right hand indicating the tank to stop. After deactivating it, another rope in his left hand was pulled signalling to move ahead. His extreme act of daredevilry enabled the Indian Army to make a rapid advancement to save the residents of Rajouri who were being killed, raped and looted by the Pakistanis.
Along with his nine comrades, Naik Jadu Nath Singh was guarding a piquet on the Tain Dhar ridge when they were attacked by 1500-2000 Pakistani raiders. The ten braves of 9 Platoon, C Company, 1 Rajput Battalion, literally massacred two consecutive flocks of enemies, but were reduced to only Jadu Nath Singh when the invaders came in for the third time. Being the single Indian alive though badly wounded, he once again charged back with whatever strength he could’ve mustered in the battlefield with bullets whizzing everywhere. Frightened with Singh’s horrifying courage, enemies ran away with most of them lying dead in the battlefield.
Through the darkness of the night CHM Piru Singh and his men moved on to capture a Pakistani feature located on the height of 11,481 feet. Walking on a treacherous pass at 10,264 feet, he lost all of his companions when enemies, overlooking his path, attacked with grenade, mortars and three Medium Machine Gun (MMG) points hidden in the mountains. He pumped himself up with battalion war cry ‘Raja Ramchandra Ki Jai’ and single-handedly destroyed two MMG bunkers by hurling grenades and then bayoneting enemies sitting inside. Already stained red from injuries, he was shot in his head while approaching the third MMG point, but somehow with his inactive limbs, managed to destroy it by lobbing his last grenade.
Fighting for the U.N. force during civil war in Congo, Captain Salaria was tasked with destroying a roadblock which was guarded by enemies having numerical advantage in man-power and ammunitions as well. Running into the battlefield, he shot down as much enemies he could have with his outdated .303 rifle while using kukri to slit throats in close quarters combat. His exceptional feat of courage and fearlessness came to a permanent halt when fleeing enemy sprayed bullets on him, piercing away his neck.
While defending the Sirijap-1 outpost in Ladakh region, Major Thapa and his 27 men were attacked by more than 500 Chinese soldiers equipped with sophisticated artillery. Subjected to a gruesome enemy attack, he lost his bunker, radio network, and most of his young Gorkha soldiers. With no ammunition to defend the prestige of nation, he sprang up in hand-to-hand fighting and despite being surrounded, kept slaying Chinese with the only kukri he had with himself. The hardcore fighter was knocked unconscious by a rifle butt and shipped off to a Chinese POW camp. He came back India in May 1963 only to know that he has been awarded Param Vir Chakra, posthumously.
Outnumbered by twenty to one in perilous weather conditions, Subedar Joginder Singh’s platoon of 30 soldiers repealed two waves of enemies (200 in each) and despite being reduced to half, once again set themselves up. Lacking everything but spirit, Subedar Singh and his handful of men fixed bayonets on their rifles and wreaked havoc on Chinese with their war cry everywhere in air: ‘Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’. With obvious superiority in strength, the enemy finally managed to capture the nearly-dead hero of the Indian Army who took his last breath as a Chinese POW.
In order to crush the rampant advancement of the Chinese Army in Ladakh, the 114 infantry Brigade deployed the C Company of 124 men on Rezang La pass, commanded by Major Shaitan Singh. Facing bone-chilling temperature at a height of 16,420 feet, and that without any artillery support, Major Singh and his men repealed successive attacks of enemies equipped with sophisticated ordnance. Fighting till their last bullet, he and his warriors ferociously annihilated 1310 encroachers against incredible odds and watched others retreating in their own dying moments. Including Major Singh, 112 Indian soldiers martyred in what would become one of the most gruesome battles ever fought by the Indian Army.
While defending the Khem Karan sector in Punjab, Abdul Hamid, amid artillery shelling of heavily-fortified enemy, turned himself into a tank-destruction element. With 106mm recoilless rifle (RCLR) mounted on his jeep, he camouflaged himself in the field mostly filled with tall crops of cotton and sugarcane. Ditching the armoured formation of the enemy, he, one after another, shot down three M48 Patton tanks but was blown to bits while targeting the fourth one. Still in considerable strength but running out of courage, Pakistani soldiers ran away with Pervez Musharraf (then Lieutenant) being a part of it.
The Battle of Chawinda, fought under the command of Lt. Col. Tarapore, is till the date one of the largest tank battles fought in world’s history since the Battle of Kursk in the World War 2. Despite being subjected to aircraft strafing, Lt. Col. Tarapore kept advancing deep inside the enemy territory on his Centurion tank. It was his impeccable leadership coupled with extraordinary badassery that fuelled Indian soldiers to demolish approximately sixty enemy tanks while losing only nine of their own. His blaze of glory came to an end when he and an intelligence officer, standing at tank’s hatch, were enveloped by flames in an anti-tank assault.
Albert Ekka was snake-crawling in a swampy ground in spite of bullet injuries on his neck and arm. He had taken these hits while destroying several enemy bunkers on the Eastern front of Gangasagar. His next target was silencing a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) firing coming from the second story of a railway signal building and which was guarded by two enemy soldiers. Upon reaching the MMG post, he lobbed a grenade inside and killed one before climbing his way up to confront the next, still on the gun point. Not giving even an iota of damn to his crippling injuries, he bayoneted the second one and secured the furtherance of the Indian Army. While backdowning on the ladder, his almost-inactive body collapsed to the ground. He was dead.
Even though the airstrip of Srinagar airfield was damaged by the dreadful bombing and strafing by four F-86 Sabre jets of Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon managed to lift up his Folland Gnat with one more comrade flying another jet. The latter however lost his track and didn’t participate in the air assault, but then 26-year-old Flying Officer Sekhon certainly blasted the hell out of the Sabres in miserable skies. One enemy aircraft was shot, another winged back to Pakistan; and his Gnat kept strafing one jet from behind while escaping machine gun fire from the fourth one, chasing his tail in the death spiral. Running out of ammunition, one Sabre escaped back whereas another was on the edge of giving up when his Gnat was shot down to his surprise by one of the two jets of an escorting team of PAF watching the combat from a distance away. Till the date, he is the only soldier of the Indian Air Force to be awarded with PVC.
Bursting through a dangerous minefield, Arun Khetarpal of A Squadron moved along to reinforce the B Squadron of the Poona Horse in Shakargarh sector of Pakistan. In the battlefield, where hordes of enemies were devilishly attacking with advanced artillery, he began blowing every goddamn thing that came within range of his Centurion tank (called Famagusta). Indians destroyed ten Pakistani tanks in the straight-up duel of which four were notched by Arun Khetarpal himself. He was injured in skirmish and was ordered by his officer to pull back, but he denied radioing his last “No sir, I’ll not abandon my tank. My gun is still working and I’ll get these bastards.” He shot down one more enemy tank but couldn’t avoid a shell from falling on his Famagusta which ultimately ripped his body apart. He was 21 and had joined the Indian Army only six months ago.
Commanding a forward Company of nearly 120 soldiers, Hoshiar Singh settled himself on the eastern flank of Jarpal before crossing a wide field filled with anti-tank mines. With the help of another Company, occupying the western part, his infantry quashed six grueling counterattacks of Pakistani soldiers who were on the move to reoccupy their own land. His leg was badly wounded in artillery shelling when enemies once again locked themselves up in a deadly combat. Keeping aside all concerns for his own life and having denied any chance of evacuation, he kept moving to trenches strengthening the dying spirits of his soldiers and motivating them to shoot every enemy in sight. His dauntless leadership and fighting skills inflicted massive casualties on the 35 Frontier Force Rifles of Pakistan Army and shattered their nerves by gunning down their notably courageous Commander, Colonel Mohammad Akram Raja.
Bana Singh’s target was to capture a post located on a height of 21,153 feet, and which was surrounded by icy walls scaling upto 457 meter, having an inclination of 80° to 85° on three sides. The peak was earlier known as the “Left Shoulder” of the Bilafond La but right after capturing it foully, Pakistanis renamed it “Quaid Post” in honour of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In Siachen’s unimaginably frightful climate where intense blizzards, temperature of nearly -50 °C, and shortage of oxygen were the biggest threat to survival, Bana Singh managed to reach the peak and destroyed enemy bunker lobbing a grenade inside. His rifle was jammed because of freezing cold, so he bayoneted others while some of the remaining jumped off the cliff in fear. This operation was conducted to avenge the death of Second Lt. Rajiv Pande, a young and dear-to-all officer, who was killed along with nine others while trying to achieve the same feat a month ago. The peak is now known as “Bana Top”.
A member of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka, Major Parameswaran was returning with his unit from a search operation when LTTE militants attacked them surreptitiously. Some of the LTTE recruits opened heavy machine gun fire from nearby temples whereas some began sniping Indian soldiers from tall coconut trees. At this point, Major Parry brilliantly organized his comrades to take cover in the dense forests and terrorize enemies in counter-ambush. He was critically injured in an HMG firing, but even in this condition he snatched a militant’s gun and shot him down. He however fell down when a burst-firing of machine gun punctured his body, but his martyrdom secured the path of victory for Indian troops in Jaffna.
On the intervening night of 2-3 July, 1999, Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey and his small platoon of courageous Gorkhas marched out on a mission to destroy heavily-fortified Pakistani bunkers on the Khalubar ridge in Batalik sector of Kargil. They were weary and under-equipped, but climbing up the 5000-meter high mountain on a 70° inclination wasn’t much of a problem under the terrific leadership of Captain Pandey. Upon reaching the top, he found himself trapped in the crazy hellhole of Pakistani artillery firing, but true to his fearless spirit, he dashed towards the enemy and destroyed two bunkers before killing invaders. Continuing his superhuman efforts, he cleared another bunker in spite of bullet injuries on shoulder and leg, but fell to the guiles of destiny after receiving a straight shot on forehead while approaching the fourth bunker. Eventually, Gorkhas killed remaining enemies and captured the post honoring their martyred Captain, whose personal diary says: “Some goals are so worthy, it’s glorious even to fail.”
Then 19-year-old, Subedar Yadav was one among the seven commandos of ‘Ghatak’ platoon who scaled up the wild Tiger Hill standing at a frightening height of 5300-meter, beating all odds in between. Clearing their ways, he and six others captured an enemy post before killing 10 Pakistanis and injuring 2 others with their limited stock of ammunition. However, sitting on an advantage position, when Pakistanis attacked with Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and Uber Machine Guns (UMGs), all of his comrades fell down, leaving behind only Subedar Yadav to fight till his last breath. His Brothers in Arms were lying dead beside him before gunning down 35 Pakistani soldiers in straight combat. Despite he was down with 15 bullet injuries with legs and face already damaged in grenade attacks, he blew away the head of an enemy by lobbing grenade, shot down 4, and shooed away others by opening machine gun fire. Crawling his way down with nearly-dead body, he reached alive to his camp and informed his commander about the enemy. His exceptional courage and crucial information is one of the answers to how Indian Army won the Battle of Kargil.
Crouching under an impenetrable firing position of the enemy, Sanjay Kumar drew off a bandage roll from his first aid kit, and another from his buddy Najinder Singh’s before wrapping them on both of his hands. Right after Najinder chucked a grenade inside the bunker, Sanjay pulled out two machine guns of enemy with his hands and tossed them away, that were fixed on the rocks and firing constantly at the Indian squad. He then stood up with his AK-47 and killed three Pakistanis hiding behind the bunker despite the binds of cotton were burning around his hands. His next move was gunning down enemies who were backing out rapidly. Though he received five bullets in the process, but high on adrenaline he led his team to annihilate another 15 enemy soldiers and ensured Indian Army’s victory at Area Flat Top, Point 4875. Of three living recipients of the Param Vir Chakra, Sanjay Kumar is one with Bana Singh and Yogendra Yadav being others.
Leading a group of five commandoes of the Delta Company, Captain Vikram Batra rushed up a 17,000 feet high mountain to recapture a strategically significant peak. They successfully ascended the cliff but soon found themselves in a death-trap when insurgents opened fire vehemently. Despite the beastly situation around, Captain Batra marched across the barrage of bullets and pinned down 8 enemies before hoisting the Tricolor on Point 5140 and popularizing his victory signal “Ye Dil Maange More”. Known for his cheerful and sportive nature, Sher Shah (his nickname) once again made a dash to capture Peak 4875, but a Pakistani sniper pierced his chest from a very short distance while he was rescuing injured Lt. Naveen. Maddened by the fate of their darling officer, his men fought back with such intensity that most of the panic-stricken enemy soldiers jumped off the mountain to their deaths. The 24-year-old young and dashing brave had made a promise before going to war: “Either I will come back after hoisting the Tricolor, or I will come back wrapped in it, but I will be back for sure.”
(With inputs from Rachna Bisht Rawat’s The Brave: Param Vir Chakra Stories.)