Let us salute 10 bravehearts who fought for our country

Over the last seven decades, since India gained Independence, our Armed Forces have been standing tall and selflessly sacrificing their lives for the nation. These men of steel and grit have fought tirelessly, countering enemies and battling extreme weather conditions to ensure that the rest of the country stays safe.

This Independence Day, let us salute our brave heroes in the Indian armed forces:

Captain Vikram Batra: Captain Vikram Batra was only 24 when he sacrificed his life trying to save that of his fellow soldier, Lt Naveen Anaberu, during the 1999 Kargil War. Leading one of the toughest battles against the Pakistani army, Captain Batra recaptured peak 5140 on June 20, sending the coded message ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ to inform his senior about the achievement.

Despite being wounded, Captain Batra again led another difficult mission to recapture peak 4875 on July 7. With the Pakistani forces raining bullets and mortars from the peak, Captain Batra and his team started the treacherous climb up. Engaging in hand-to-hand combat, Captain Batra and his team cleared the enemy bunkers as they proceeded to recapture the peak. One of his fellow officers was severely injured in the firing that followed. Commanding his subedar to step aside as he had a family, Captain Batra rushed to rescue his colleague and came under heavy firing. He was fatally shot on his head.

Captain Batra had many titles - he was fondly called the Tiger of Drass, Kargil Hero and the Lion of Kargil. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra.

School children pay floral tributes to a photograph of Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a National Security Guard officer who was killed in Mumbai terror attacks last year, during the 60th Republic Day celebrations in Bangalore, India, Monday, Jan. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
School children pay floral tributes to a photograph of Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a National Security Guard officer who was killed in Mumbai terror attacks last year, during the 60th Republic Day celebrations in Bangalore, India, Monday, Jan. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan: The year 2008 saw one of the deadliest terror attacks on Mumbai. Iconic buildings across the city such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, the Taj Mahal hotel, the Trident - Oberoi Hotel and the Chabad House burnt under the attack. 31-year-old Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the team commander of the 51 Special Action Group (51 SAG), was deployed at the Taj Mahal Hotel to rescue hostages. During the rescue mission that followed, Major Unnikrishnan rescued 14 hostages who had been taken by the terrorists.

Major Unnikrishnan and his team then entered the sixth floor of the building, where a few women were being held hostage. In the operation that followed, his fellow Commando Sunil Yadav was hit. Major Unnikrishnan pinned down the terrorists and got Commando Yadav to safety.

Major Unnikrishnan continued to engage the terrorists while he arranged for Yadav to be evacuated. As he chased the terrorists, he was hit from the back by a bullet. He continued to fight on bravely but succumbed to his injuries.

Major Unnikrishnan was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest peacetime gallantry award. A 4.5 km long road – the Mother Dairy Double Road in Bangalore, was renamed Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan Road in his honour.

Havildar Abdul Hamid: The Battle of Asal Uttar was one of the largest tank battles fought during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. Havildar Abdul Hamid and the 4th Grenadiers he was serving in, was entrusted with holding back the enemy near the village of Asal Uttar Punjab’s Khem Karan sector.

On September 10, 1965, a battalion of Pakistani Patton tanks that were advancing, launched an attack on an area ahead of Cheema village in Khem Karan sector. After the enemy tanks penetrated the forward position, Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid, who was the commander of an RCL gun detachment, moved out to a flanking position with a gun mounted on his jeep.

Under intense shelling, he knocked out a couple of enemy tanks before another enemy tank spotted his jeep and fired heavily at it. Havildar Hamid held on to his position and fought, in the process laying down his life for his country. ‘The Tank destroyer,’ as he was named posthumously, was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his valiant act.

INDIA - DECEMBER 09:  Major General (Retd.) Ian Cardozo, author of  (Photo by Ravi S Sahani/The The India Today Group via Getty Images)
INDIA - DECEMBER 09: Major General (Retd.) Ian Cardozo, author of (Photo by Ravi S Sahani/The The India Today Group via Getty Images)

Major General Ian Cardozo: As a young major during the 1971 war with Pakistan, Major General Ian Cardozo stepped on a landmine and severely injured his leg. Since there was no morphine and the doctor could not cut his leg, Major Cardozo used a khukri, or Gurkha knife, and cut his leg off.

This, however, did not deter Major Cardozo from fighting for his country, working on his fitness and motivation levels. He then went on to command the 1st battalion of the 5th Regiment of Gorkha Rifles, becoming the first war-disabled officer of the Indian Army to command a battalion and brigade.

Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri: The Battle of Longewala was one of the first major battles fought during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, the man who inspired the movie Border, commanded a group of over 120 soldiers, defending the Longewala border post in Rajasthan against nearly 2,000 Pakistani soldiers who were backed by nearly 40 tanks.

Major Chandpuri and his group bravely fought off a Pakistani attempt to cross the Longewala post throughout the night of 4th December. His Maha Vir Chakra citation states that he showed exceptional courage and determination, “inspiring his men moving from bunker to bunker, encouraging them in beating back the enemy till reinforcements arrived.” Through this brave deed, Major Chandpuri inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and forced them to retreat, leaving behind twelve tanks.

Major Chandpuri passed away from cancer in November 2018.

Captain Anuj Nayyar: An officer of the 17 Jat, Captain Anuj Nayyar was part of the unit that was ordered to recapture Point 4875 from Pakistani infiltrators during the 1999 Kargil War. Captain Nayyar was responsible for leading one of the two groups of Charlie Company after its commander was injured during the assault. He launched a ferocious counter-attack, killing 9 Pakistani soldiers and destroying three medium machine gun bunkers.

While attacking the last bunker, Captain Nayyar was grievously injured by a rocket-propelled grenade. He continued to lead his men until the last bunker was cleared but succumbed to his injuries soon after. Captain Nayyar was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the country’s second-highest gallantry award, posthumously.

Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria: After gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, the Republic of Congo went through immense political upheaval and conflict. Indian Army officer and a member of the United Nations peacekeeping force, Captain Salaria was among the Indian troops deployed to the Republic of Congo, in December 1961.

Captain Salaria was tasked with clearing a roadblock of two armoured cars manned by 150 rebels who were heavily armed with automatic weapons. Captain Salaria, and his team of 16 soldiers supported by a 3-inch mortar, took the rebels head-on with the war cry, ‘Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali.’

His team killed 40 rebels, but Captain Salaria was shot twice on the neck, in the fight. He succumbed to his injuries at the young age of 26. Captain Salaria became the only recipient of the Param Vir Chakra given to a soldier on a UN Peacekeeping Mission.

Lieutenant Navdeep Singh: The Ghatak Platoon Commander of 15 Maratha Light Infantry regiment of the Indian Army led an operation to ambush 17 armed terrorists who had infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir on August 20, 2011. Lieutenant Singh eliminated three terrorists and was taking on a fourth terrorist when he was hit by a bullet on his head.

Despite being grievously injured, Lieutenant Singh killed the fourth terrorist and pulled an injured fellow soldier to safety. He continued fighting until he lost consciousness.

In the encounter that lasted eight minutes, 12 terrorists were killed. Lieutenant Singh was awarded the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime gallantry award, posthumously.

Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav: The youngest person to be awarded the Param Vir Chakra at the age of 19, Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav was part of the Ghatak Force Commando platoon that was tasked with capturing three strategic bunkers on Tiger Hill, a mountain in the Drass-Kargil area of Ladhak.

Subedar Major Yadav led the assault on bunkers that were located at the top of the cliff. As he was halfway up climbing the high cliff with the help of a rope, firing started from the bunker. The platoon commander and two other soldiers were killed, while Subedar Major Yadav was hit on his groin and shoulder. He continued climbing the remaining 60 feet, and lobbed a grenade, killing four Pakistani soldiers and allowing the rest of the Indian platoon to climb the cliff face.

Subedar Major Yadav destroyed the second bunker as well, despite being hit by several bullets. His brave act was vital in enabling the Indian soldiers to recapture Tiger Hill, one of the toughest missions in the Kargil War.

Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon: An officer of the Indian Air Force, Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon served in the No 18 Squadron during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, flying the Folland Gnat fighter aircraft. On 14 December 1971, after the Srinagar airfield was attacked by Pakistani Air Force f-86 Sabre jets, Flying Officer Sekhon took off and engaged a pair of the attacking Sabre aircraft.

In the attack that followed, he hit one aircraft and set the other on fire. By then, other Pakistani Sabre aircraft came to the rescue of their companions, and Flying Officer Sekhon was outnumbered by four to one. He continued engaging the enemy but was shot down by the gunfire from one of the Sabres. His aircraft crashed, killing him.

Flying Officer Sekhon was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, posthumously, becoming the only member of the Indian Air Force to be awarded the nations’ top gallantry award.