Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey took part in a series of bold missions to capture enemy positions during the 1999 Kargil War. This included inflicting heavy losses on Pakistan-backed intruders and forcing them back from Jubar Top in the Batalik Sector in June.
His bravest hour, for which he was later awarded the Param Vir Chakra, came during a mission to capture Khalubar on the night intervening 2 and 3 July 1999. He is one of four persons to be awarded the Param Vir Chakra for the Kargil War. The others are Captain Vikram Batra, Rifleman Sanjay Kumar and Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav.
Lieutenant Pandey was commanding a platoon that had climbed up for several hours towards Khalubar when it came under heavy fire from the enemy which was at a commanding height.
“The officer was tasked to clear the interfering enemy positions to prevent his battalion from getting daylighted, being in a vulnerable position. The officer quickly moved his platoon to an advantageous position under intense enemy fire and sent one section to clear the enemy positions from the right, while he himself proceeded to clear four other enemy positions on the left,” says the citation for the Param Vir Chakra awarded to him.
‘Don’t Leave Them’
He overran the first enemy position, killing two soldiers. He assaulted the second enemy position and destroyed it by killing two enemy soldiers. He was injured on the shoulder and legs while clearing the third position. “Undaunted and without caring for his grievous injuries, he continued to lead the assault on the fourth position urging his men and destroyed the same with a grenade, even as he got a fatal Medium Machine Gun burst on his forehead,” reads the citation.
The citation notes that this “singular daredevil act” of Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey provided the critical firm base for the companies, which finally led to the capture of Khalubar. Pandey, however, succumbed to his injuries. His last words are supposed to have been “Na Chodnu” (Don’t Leave Them).
In his book, Param Vir Chakra: Our Heroes in Battle, Major General Ian Cardozo explains why the Pakistani establishment had planned this attack. “Pakistan’s aim was to cut off Kashmir from Ladakh by severing the Srinagar-Leh National Highway, to isolate Kargil and to terminate India’s lifeline to Siachen,” he writes.
He adds that Pakistan’s logic was that “the area was unheld, surprise would be total, and India was unlikely to react in a big way for fear of Pakistan’s newly acquired nuclear deterrent”.