Friday, 15 August 2014

Remembering war heroes

The story of Captain Vikram Batra's martyrdom is perhaps the most poignant and widely remembered one in recent times. What many people may not know is that Captain Batra, who received Param Vir Chakra posthumously, was set to marry his close friend Dimple when he was called to action. On Wednesday, Dimple (who didn't wish to share her last name) spoke up for the first time about her association with the late captain at a book launch in Delhi. Dressed in a beige and blue salwar suit, her brown hair falling in waves over her shoulders she calmly recollected vignettes from the martyr's life.

"I met Vikram in 1996 in Panjab University, Chandigarh... Vikram was a details oriented man. Recently, I came across an old diary of his in which he had carefully written down details of our every meeting.

He always told me that in life you should take care to get what you like otherwise you will have to like what you get. I still follow this advice... He should have been here to see how he has become an inspiration for so many young people," said Dimple who attended the event along with Vishal, Captain's Batra's twin brother.

They were there for the launch of The Brave, a book by Rachna Bisht Rawat that presents stories of the 21 recipients of the PVC, India's highest military honour. The two surviving PVC recipients — Major Subedar (Hon Capt) Bana Singh and Havaldar Sanjay Kumar — and friends and relatives of the other awardees also shared tales of battles won and lost.

Sub Bana Singh, 65, recalled the fight for Quaid post during the 1987 Siachen conflict between Indian and Pakistan. "At above 19,000 feet it is difficult to breathe, walk or even eat but at this height we were fighting the enemy," says Singh. He and his comrades took back the post from the enemy after a fierce battle with grenades and bayonets. In recognition of his heroic efforts the post was renamed Bana Top.

The hardships faced by Indian soldiers during the 1962 India-China war were revisited by Sub (Hon Capt) Ram Chander and Sub Kala Singh. The soldiers had fought in freezing cold without warm clothes or shoes. The former recounted the story of how Major Shaitan Singh of Charlie Company, 13 Kumaon and his men defended Rezang La in Chushul against all odds. Major Singh received PVC posthumously. "My sahab got hit by machine gun burst... he asked me to loosen his belt because his stomach was hurting but when I put my hand inside his shirt, his intestines were spilling out," recalls Sub Ram Chander, now 74.

Subedar Kala Singh, 81, spoke of the heroism of Sub Joginder Singh of 1 Sikh platoon who commandeered the battle of Tongpen La, near Twang and received PVC posthumously. "We were just 29 soldiers against 2,000 Chinese... we didn't have automatic weapons and the weather was harsh," recalls the soldier. "Still, we managed to inflict heavy casualty on them," he says with pride. Vir Chakra,Panjab University,Captain Vikram Batra,1962 India-China war



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