Last Updated:

Kargil Vijay Diwas: Col (retd) Lalit Rai Speaks To Republic, Recalls Indian Army's Valour

On Kargil Vijay Diwas, Indian Army's Retired Colonol Lalit Rai recalled the Kargil war and PVC captain Manoj Kumar Pandey's supreme sacrifice.

Image: PTI/Twitter/@Darjorackle

As the country commemorate "Kargil Vijay Diwas" on Tuesday, July 26, the Indian Army retired Colonol and decorated Kargil War hero, Lalit Rai spoke to Republic TV on Monday, recalling how he led the Gorkha Rifles battalion in the war that depicted the valour and courage of the Indian army.

Speaking exclusively to Republic, retired Col Lalit Rai, a Veer Chakra awardee, said, "It was a great privilege to lead such a fanatic battalion of 11 Gurkha Rifles. My father also severed in the same battalion. I took the command of the battalion when the war was already on and for me, it was a huge challenge.” Stating that he took over the command of the battalion and did not know anyone in it, he said, “it was a huge challenge for me. But one thing I knew was that to command a Gurkha battalion in war is everyone’s dream and with that absolute confidence, I led the battalion."

Adding further he said, "I told my guys, I am your commanding officer, I will be leading you in the battle and you don’t have to worry about it. Within one month, we launched this attack on Khalubar top. The absolute cold night of 2nd July, I will never forget that. My company's commanders were excellent. Because of the good work done by these company's commanders,  young officers who were with them and all the troops, it was my privilege to lead them."

'Heera dur se dikh jata hai': Col (retd) Lalit Rai on PVC Captain Manoj Pandey

Recalling the great sacrifice of the Param Veer Chakra Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey who fought under Lalit Rai in the Kargil war, the retired Col on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas said, "Heera dur se hi dikhta hai, one can spot the capable from far away and Manoj Pandey was one such young officer. Physically he was not very tall, but he really walks tall amongst us in terms of courage, valour, sense of responsibility, maturity and so on. When I joined the battalion, he had already been into an operation."

"I remember that fateful night, the fire was so intense, that it was ripping left and right. I saw my boys falling down and I could not do anything about it except keep on moving up. Stopping would have been an absolute disaster. SoI was exhorting my boys. In between we were saying ‘Jai Mahakaali, Ayo Gorkhali’. All the youngsters (young Indian army personnel and officers) were delight, they did extremely well," he said.

Adding further he recalled the dilemma he faced, "At one time, when there was crossfire, in that murderous crossfire we were caught. I was in a huge dilemma being the Commanding officer.  Should I proceed ahead?  If I do that and all of us get killed, then tomorrow's history is going to be unforgiving and point fingers and say ‘Useless fellow, he was an idiot. He got himself killed and got his all command killed’. Or should I stop? Tomorrow in history people will again point out and say ‘What a stupid man! If he had pushed ahead, he would have done it'. Captain Pandey was close to me because of the bombardment. I caught hold of Pandey and said ‘There are four bunkers which are into our left that are creating mayhem over here. While with the rest of the people I proceed up, you proceed this side and finish this bunkers’. This young officer, without a second thought, said ‘yes sir!’ Later I learned that there were not four bunkers, there was a total of six bunkers."

He said, "Manoj Pandey went up… In his final tactics, he managed to throw Grenades through loopholes by crawling under the machine guns and he finished three of the bunkers. The fourth one was still firing. By this time, he got a few bullets and he was bleeding from his side. The boys told him ‘forget this now, you rest. We will do it for you’. He said ‘The Commanding officer has given me the privilege of commanding you guys. It will be my proud privilege to take part in the last point to finish this and give the visitor sign to my commanding officer."

Blaming the loss of blood because of the bullet injuries, Col Lalit rai said, “When Pandey stood up to throw the grenade, his reflex action was slowed. Pakistani soldiers fired a burst of four rounds that hit him straight. He fell down dead. Even in his dying breathes, he told his boys ‘not to leave them (enemies)’. Then the bunkers were captured. I really wished that the boy was alive. I have great respect for him and his valour."

Notably, India is celebrating the 23rd anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas today. The day marks the historic victory of the Indian Armed Forces in Operation Vijay 1999 when they evicted Pakistani invaders from high outposts in Ladakh's Kargil and won the war.

First Published: