On the 19th anniversary of the Kargil war, the nation salutes all the soldiers and officers who took part in the war directly or indirectly in the 90-day conflict. MyNation presents you 13 heroes of the war and how they helped the nation take back every inch of the land that was captured by the Pakistanis using their Army and terrorists. The valiant Indian Army not only took back its positions but also created a record of sorts by successfully winning a war on the highest battlegrounds of the world. 

1. Captain Vikram Batra, Param Vir Chakra (posthumous)

Codenamed ‘Sher Shah’ for his tiger-like swiftness in the war, Captain Vikram Batra was the poster boy of the 1999 Kargil conflict. He is remembered for his ‘Ye Dil Maange More’ sign after victory over Point 5140 that made him the hero of the entire nation even before he was given any award by the Army. The war hero, who was part of the 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, started his gallant journey in the war from Point 5140.

During the campaign, Batra, along with five of his men, climbed on a cliff regardless of heavy enemy firing and after reaching the top, hurled two grenades at the machine gun post. He single-handedly engaged three enemy soldiers in close combat and killed them. He was seriously injured during this combat, but insisted on regrouping his men to continue with the task at hand.

Inspired by the extraordinary courage displayed by Batra, the soldiers charged the enemy position and captured Point 5140 at 3.30 AM on 20 June 1999. His company is credited with killing at least eight Pakistani soldiers and recovering a heavy machine gun. 

The capture of Point 5140 set in motion a string of successes at locations like Point 5100, Point 4700, Junction Peak and Three Pimples. Batra led his men to even more glorious victories with the recapture of Point 4750 and Point 4875. He was tragically killed, when he tried to rescue an injured officer during an enemy counter-attack on Point 4875 in the early morning hours of 7 July 1999. His last words were, "Jai Mata Di".

2. Captain Saurabh Kalia

Captain Saurabh Kalia was martyred before the Kargil war broke out. He reported the large-scale intrusion of Pakistani Army and foreign mercenaries on the Indian side of the line of control (LoC) at Kargil. 

On 15 May 1999, Kalia and five other soldiers – Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh - of the 4 Jat Regiment had gone for a routine patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector where they got into a crossfire with Pakistani forces. Soon enough, the group ran out of ammunition and were held as prisoners of war by the Pakistan Army before the Indian Army could reach the spot. 

The Pakistani army subjected them to extreme torture for a period of 22 days from 15 May–7 June 1999. Their bodies were burnt with cigarettes, ear-drums pierced with hot rods, eyes punctured before removing them, teeth and bones broken and skulls fractured. Limbs and private organs of the soldiers were chopped off too before finally shooting them dead. The mutilated bodies were sent to the Indian Army on 9 June. The family of the brave Kalia is still fighting the legal battle to declare this as a war crime by the UN.

3. Lieutenant Manoj Pandey, Param Vir Chakra (posthumous)

Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey of the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles forced the Pakistani intruders away from the Batalik sector on 11 June 1999. He led his men to recapture the Jaubar Top, a feature of great operational importance. But his finest hour was during the capture of Khalubar in the early morning hours of 3 July 1999. Clearing it was critical as the battalion faced the prospect of being day-lighted in a vulnerable area.

Pandey stepped forward to take on the mission. The young officer led his platoon along a narrow, treacherous ridge that led to the enemy position. While still short of the objective, the Indian soldiers came under enemy fire, which effectively stalled the Indian attack. Although wounded in the shoulder and leg, Pandey pressed on with his solitary charge with grim determination, till he closed in on the first bunker.

Then in ferocious hand-to-hand combat, he killed two of the enemy fighters and cleared the first bunker. It was the turning point. Critically bleeding, he collapsed at the final bunker and succumbed to his injuries. His last words were, "Na chodnu" (Don't leave them). 

4. Grenadier Yogendra Kumar Yadav, Param Vir Chakra

A hero of the Tiger Hill operations, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav of 18 Grenadiers, is known as ‘Superhuman’ for having survived three bullet shots while climbing a cliff and killing the enemy. He was part of the 'Ghatak' commando platoon tasked to capture three strategic bunkers on the Tiger Hill on the night of 3-4 July 1999. The approach was a vertical cliff face, snowbound at 16,500 feet.

Having volunteered to lead the assault, Yadav was climbing the cliff face to fix the ropes for further assault on the feature. Halfway up, the Indian soldiers came under machine gun and rocket fire from an enemy bunker. Yadav's platoon commander and two others fell to the heavy fire. Realising the enormity of the situation, he continued to scale the cliff face alone through a volley of bullets.

In spite of having been hit by three bullets in his groin and shoulder, displaying superhuman strength and resolve, he climbed the remaining 60 feet, all by himself and reached the top. He crawled up to the bunker critically injured and lobbed a grenade killing four Pakistani soldiers and neutralising enemy fire. This act was instrumental in facilitating the rest of the platoon to climb up the cliff face.

Grievously injured, Yadav also neutralised the second bunker, killing three Pakistani soldiers. This extraordinarily act of gallantry motivated the rest of the platoon, which quickly traversed the treacherous terrain, and braving hostile fire, charged towards the enemy and captured Tiger Hill back.

5. Rifleman Sanjay Kumar, Param Vir Chakra

The second hero of the 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles to have won the Param Vir Chakra is Rifleman Sanjay Kumar. He was the leading scout of a team tasked to capture Area Flat Top on 4 July 1999, being held by Pakistani-backed militants. Having scaled the cliff, the team was pinned down by machine gun fire from an enemy bunker, 150 metres away.

Rifleman Kumar, realising the magnitude of the problem and detrimental effect that the bunker would have had in the capture of Area Flat Top, displayed extraordinary courage, and without concern for personal safety, crawled alone up the ledge, along a flank, and charged towards the enemy bunker, through a hail of fire from automatic weapons. Almost instantly he took two bullets in his chest and forearm.

Bleeding profusely from the bullet wounds, he continued the charge towards the bunker. He then picked up an enemy machine gun and crept towards the second enemy bunker. Three enemy soldiers, taken completely by surprise, were killed by him on the spot. Inspired by his daredevilry, the rest of the platoon, emotionally charged, mounted an assault on the feature and captured Area Flat Top.

6. Captain Anuj Nayyar, Maha Vir Chakra (posthumous)

Delhi boy Captain Anuj Nayyar was the hero of one of the most important battles in the Mushkoh valley. On 6 July 1999, his Charlie Company of Jat battalion was tasked to capture a feature, which was part of the Pimple Complex on the Western Slopes of Point 4875, in the Mushkoh Valley.

At the beginning of the attack, the company commander got injured and the command of the company devolved on Captain Anuj Nayyar. Nayyar continued to command his leading platoon in the attack, even under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. As the platoon advanced, the leading section reported the location of three to four enemy positions. Captain Nayyar moved forward towards the first enemy position and fired a rocket launcher and lobbed grenades into it.

Thereafter, the section, along with Nayyar, mounted an assault and cleared the position. The enemy, which was well-entrenched, fired a volley of bullets from automatic weapons. Nayyar, without caring for his personal safety, motivated his men and cleared two more enemy positions. While clearing the fourth position, an enemy rocket-propelled grenade hit the officer killing him on the spot. This action led by Nayyar resulted in killing nine enemy soldiers and the destruction of three medium machine gun positions of the enemy. The success of this operation after a brief setback was largely due to the outstanding personal bravery and exemplary leadership of this daring junior officer.

7. Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum, Maha Vir Chakra (posthumous)

On the night of 30 June-1 July 1999, in an operation to capture Point 4812 in the Batalik sector, Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum was tasked to launch an assault on the feature from the south-east. He led his column over the near-impossible vertical cliff. On reaching the top, his column encountered strong enemy resistance. The enemy was well-entrenched in interconnected positions carved out of boulders and remained immune to even artillery fire. The enemy pinned down Nongrum's column with heavy and accurate fire from automatic weapons for about two hours. 

On seeing the futility of the attack against the fortified enemy position, Nongrum, without caring for his personal safety, charged through enemy fire. Closing in on the first position, he threw grenades into it and killed six enemy soldiers. He then tried to snatch a machine gun of the enemy from the second position and received a volley of bullets.

This audacious action of Nongrum not only stunned the enemy but also gave valuable reaction time to his troops to close in and finally clear the position. Though severely wounded, he refused to be evacuated and fought valiantly till he succumbed to his injuries. This act resulted in the ultimate capture of Point 4812.

8. Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguruse, Maha Vir Chakra (posthumous)

Captain Kenguruse of the 2 Rajputana Rifles was the 'Ghatak' platoon commander during the attack on Black Rock in the Drass sector, on the night of 28 June 1999 during 'Operation Vijay'. He volunteered to undertake a daring commando mission of attacking a well sited enemy machine gun position, on a cliff face, which was heavily interfering with all the approaches to the main target of the battalion. As the commando team scaled the cliff face, it came under intense mortar and automatic fire, which caused heavy casualties.

Kenguruse sustained a splinter injury in his abdomen. Bleeding profusely, yet undeterred, he urged his men to carry on with the assault. On reaching the final cliff face, the commando team was halted by a sheer rock wall that separated them from the enemy machine gun post. Kenguruse took off his shoes to get a good grip and scaled the rock wall carrying with him a rocket launcher, which he fired at the enemy position.

Unmindful of his personal safety, he charged at the enemy position and killed two men with his rifle and another two with his commando knife in a hand-to-hand combat before succumbing to his injury.

9. Major Vivek Gupta, Maha Vir Chakra (posthumous)

Major Vivek Gupta was in command of the leading Charlie Company of the 2 Rajputana Rifles when the gallant unit launched a battalion attack on Tololing Top, in Drass sector, on 13 June 1999. In spite of heavy artillery and automatic fire, the company under the inspiring leadership of Gupta was able to close in on the enemy. As soon as the company emerged in the open, they came under intense fire from various directions. Three personnel of the leading section of the company were hit and the attack was temporarily stalled.

Knowing fully well that staying any longer in the open under the murderous enemy fire would lead to more losses, Major Vivek Gupta reacted immediately and fired a rocket launcher at the enemy position. Before the shocked enemy could recover, Gupta charged on to the enemy position. While doing so, he was hit by two bullets, but kept on moving towards his target. On reaching the position, he engaged the enemy in fierce hand-to-hand combat and managed to kill three enemy soldiers despite his own injuries.

Taking inspiration from their officer's gallantry, the rest of the company charged towards the enemy position and captured it. However, in the ensuing combat, Gupta received another direct hit from enemy bullets and finally succumbed to his injuries.

10. Naik Digendra Kumar, Maha Vir Chakra

Naik Digendra Kumar of the 2 Rajputana Rifles was commander of the light machine gun group during his company's assault on Tololing feature in the Drass sector. The objective was to capture a well-fortified enemy position.
On 13 June 1999, when the assault group was nearing its objective, it came under effective fire from well-concealed universal machine gun, heavy machine gun and other small arms of the enemy, leading to heavy casualties in the assault group. Kumar was hit by a bullet in his left arm. Undaunted and unmindful of his injury, he kept firing with one hand and launched effective and accurate light machine gun fire on the enemy. His accurate fire kept the enemy's head down while his own men advanced towards the objective.

Finally, under his effective covering fire, own troops physically assaulted the enemy position and cleared it after a fierce hand-to-hand combat. Despite being seriously wounded, it was due to his courageous action that the assault group could finally capture the feature.

11. Major Padmapani Acharya, Mahavir Chakra (posthumous)

Another hero from the 2 Raputana Rifles was Major Acharya. On 28 June 1999, he was the company commander and assigned the formidable task of capturing an enemy position, which was heavily fortified, strongly held and covered with mines and sweeping machine gun and artillery fire. 

Success of the battalion and brigade operation hinged on the early capture of this position. However, the company attack almost faltered at the very beginning when the enemy's artillery fire came down squarely on the leading platoon, inflicting a large number of casualties. With utter disregard to his personal safely, Acharya took the reserve platoon of his company and led it through raining artillery shells. Even as his men were falling to the murderous enemy fire, he continued to encourage his men and charged at the enemy up the steep rock face with his reserve platoon.

Unmindful of the hail of bullets from the enemy's position, Acharya crawled up to the enemy position and lobbed grenades. In this daring assault, he was seriously injured. Despite heavy injuries and unable to move, he ordered his men to leave him and charge at the enemy while he continued to fire at the enemy. The enemy position was finally overrun and the target was captured. He, however, succumbed to his injuries after completion of the mission.

12. Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, Vir Chakra (posthumous)

On 27 May 1999, Ajay Ahuja the then Flight Commander of Golden Arrows Squadron was on a mission to trace Flight Lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa whose MiG 27 caught fire during a bombing mission that forced him to eject. 

Ahuja's aircraft was shot down by a Stinger missile. Ahuja radioed the emergency and ejected. Two days later, his body was handed over with gunshot injuries to his neck and head. He was killed by Pakistani troops after surviving the ejection. Ahuja was later awarded the Vir Chakra posthumously.

13. Maj Sonam Wangchuk, Maha Vir Chakra 

He was on leave in May 1999. On 26 May, he was asked to resume his duties. Two days later, on 28 May, he was given the task of establishing an observation post on a 18,000-feet-high ridge just inside the Indian side of the LoC. Wangchuk left on the mission with 30 soldiers of the Ladakh Scouts without any knowledge of the extent of Pakistan infiltration. He was caught off guard by the Pakistani troops.

However, Wangchuk and his team used boulders as weapons and kept heading upwards. Soon they took over the intruders. He, along with his team, remained at the brutal battlefield for over a week to prevent further infiltration, thus giving the Indian Army a much-needed foothold in the Batalik region. Wangchuk was rewarded with Maha Vir Chakra for his bravery and strategy.