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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Salute to our asli heroes

They were young, talented, with a promising future ahead of them. What made Captain Vikram Batra, Lieutenant Manoj Pandey and Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan look beyond themselves and sacrifice their lives willingly and bravely? This Independence Day, we find out what set them apart from others

education Updated: Aug 15, 2012 14:03 IST
Gauri Kohli
Gauri Kohli
Hindustan Times

They were daredevils, fearless, passionate, patriotic and extraordinary. Always smiling and cheerful, even when taking on enemies in the battlefield, Captain Vikram Batra, Lieutenant Manoj Pandey and Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan displayed an unmatched spirit of sacrifice.

We have heard of their exemplary tales of courage and determination, but few are aware of how these men got to be who they were.

When an all-rounder student and a die-hard patriot Manoj Pandey joined the prestigious National Defence Academy in the late ’90s, he was asked by an interviewing officer as to why did he wanted to join the Indian Army. Pandey’s reply was: “I want to win the Param Vir Chakra.”

According to his brother Manmohan, Pandey was always looking for a “chance to prove himself.” After his first two postings in Srinagar and Siachen, he was commissioned to fight in Kargil. During the advance to Khalubar, as his unit approached its final objective, it came under heavy and intense enemy fire. Lieutenant Pandey quickly moved his unit to an advantageous position, fearlessly attacking the enemy. “During the operation, he told his unit members that he wanted to see each one of them alive in the final assault. He was a great leader, team member and soldier. He was seriously injured, but undaunted, he continued to lead the assault directing his men to destroy enemy bunkers. This helped the unit capture Khalubar. He, however, succumbed to his injuries,” recalls Manmohan.

An example of Pandey’s love for the nation is an excerpt from his diary. “Some goals are so worthy, it’s glorious even to fail,” wrote Param Vir Chakra (posthumous) Lieutenant Pandey in his personal diary. “Manoj’s thoughts were so inspiring and unique given the fact that most youngsters of his age don’t know what to do in life. But he was clear-headed when it came to making a pledge to do something for the nation,” says Manmohan.

Another hero, another sacrifice
He took his squad forward, clearing several enemy bunkers in the process and counter-combating the Pakistani retreat during the Kargil war. Param Vir Chakra (posthumous) Captain Vikram Batra saw an injured subedar and rushed to his rescue. “The subedar pleaded that he (Batra) should not go and let him proceed instead,” says his father GL Batra, “but Vikram told him to step aside as the subedar had a family to support.”

By the next morning, India had recaptured Peak 4875, but lost the brave soldier. He had leaped forward to save a comrade a when a bullet pierced through his chest.
A brilliant student and sportsman, Batra was always on top in all fields and won hundreds of certificates and prizes during his schooling and college. Other than his love for sports, especially table tennis, he loved to read and hear stories of freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad. “He was always patriotic and cared a lot for his fellow officers. During his posting in Sopore, terrorists shot at him but the bullet hit another officer who was killed instead. He was deeply upset,” says his father.

Beyond patriotism
When he showed leadership qualities even at a very young age, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s parents thought he would become a very good administrator or a high-end technocrat. “We noticed his early leadership qualities when he played sports. He was a real all-rounder, participating in almost all the sports events coming his way. He was a good footballer, a good cricketer, an excellent athlete with many school records in jumps and runs, loved to play hockey, used to say that nothing was impossible when challenged/provoked,” says his father, K Unnikrishnan.

What was on the mind of this commando of the National Security Guards when as the leader of a team he led his men to Hotel Taj Palace to thwart the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai? His devotion to duty as his men came under continuous enemy fire? His concern for the hostages held by the terrorists? Unnikrishnan succumbed to a bullet injury while pursuing one of the terrorists. Patriotism “was not his career, but his passion,” says his father.

Ask him about his son’s excellence, and his father says, “His life itself was an excellent record of events, hard work and achievements.”

What you can learn from the bravehearts

* Take up sports while in school and college. This gives your competitive spirit a keen edge, keeps you fit and teaches you soft skills like teamwork and leadership etc
* Read a lot. Reading not only improves your language skills, it widens your horizons and you get to be familiar with inspiring stories that build up your spirit
* Pledge to do something for the country. It can be something as big as joining the defence services or a simple step such as planting a sapling
* Be ready for sacrifices. Doing something for others always makes you feel good and gives you a sense of pride
* Take up a cause or be a volunteer. Even a small contribution to a noble cause helps. You can teach the underprivileged or look after the welfare of street children
* Discover a passion. It can be a hobby or your goal in life. Being passionate about something will drive you to do better in whatever you do
* Identify your talent and skills and imagine yourself working in a particular career. It will help you choose the right option

First Published: Aug 15, 2012 13:53 IST