“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it, it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”
On July 26, 1999, the Indian Armed Forces won a gritty and decisive engagement against Pakistan. In the ferocious battle, many brave young soldiers laid down their lives defending their nation in the inhospitable battlefield of Kargil.
It’s been nineteen years since then, but the unparalleled bravery and sacrifice of Kargil heroes are still etched in the collective memory of the country. Among these many bravehearts was a man who would go on to embody every young Indian soldier who fought ferociously.
This is the story of Captain Anuj Nayyar and his tremendous sacrifice.
Born on August 28, 1975, Anuj Nayyar grew up in Delhi. His father, S K Nayyar, worked as a visiting professor in Delhi School of Economics while his mother, Meena Nayyar, worked for the South Campus library of Delhi University.
A student of Dhaula Kuan’s Army Public School, Anuj was a bright pupil who consistently performed well in academics as well as sports. A keen volleyball player and long distance runner, he was deeply patriotic from a young age and always wanted to join the army. And he fulfilled this cherished dream by joining the National Defence Academy (Echo Squadron).
“His Maths teacher used to call him ‘a bundle of energy’ as he was always on the run. He was also the best volleyball player in his school. We used to tell him not to play because he always ruined his shirt. From then on, he just used to take off his shirt and play. With a mind like his, how could one stop him from doing what he wanted to, for the country?”, his father would later recall to the Deccan Herald.
In 1997, Anuj graduated from the Indian Military Academy to be commissioned into the 17th battalion, Jat Regiment (17 Jat). As a junior officer in this regiment, he was posted in the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir when the Indian Army detected a massive infiltration by Pakistani military forces in the area.
Reacting immediately, the army mobilised its forces to drive out enemy soldiers from the Indian territory. Soon after, Anuj’s unit received orders to to recapture Point 4875, a mountain peak on the western side of Tiger Hill that had been occupied by Pakistani infiltrators.
Due to its strategic location, securing Pt. 4875 was a top priority for the Indian Army. The icy slopes of this peak were 80 degree steep (made even more precarious by the thick fog) and Pakistani troops had positioned themselves at the height of 16000 feet. As such, capturing the peak without aerial support was considered near impossible.
Knowing that delay in securing this post could strengthen Pakistan’s grip on it, Anuj’s Charlie Company decided to secure the peak without waiting for any aerial support. On July 6, the unit began one of the most difficult mountain warfare campaigns undertaken during Kargil – the capture of Pt. 4875.
During the tortuous climb, the enemy got wind of their arrival and and intensified their attack, raining mortar and automatic fire from above. The commander of Charlie Company was injured during this assault, following which the team split into two groups, one led by Anuj and the other by fellow officer Captain Vikram Batra.
Ably supported by the formidable Vikram (codenamed Sher Shah), Anuj counter-attacked ferociously. Engaging in hand-to-hand combat, clearing enemy bunkers and egging their men forward, the two bravehearts forced the shocked enemy to retreat.
Storming enemy bunkers as he led his men to clear the Pimple Complex, Anuj braved heavy counter-fire to silence three machine guns that had almost halted the Indian troops’ advance. With utter disregard for his personal safety, the gritty soldier also single-handedly took down nine infiltrators.
Thanks to this brilliant tactical assault, the team was able to successfully clear three of the four bunkers. However, as they began their assault on the fourth bunker, a rocket-propelled grenade directly hit Anuj, leaving him grievously injured.
Such was his gallantry and tenacity that the 23-year-old continued to lead the remaining men till the last bunker was cleared. It was only then that Anuj finally succumbed to his injuries, completing the mission in a manner that etched his name him alongside some of India’s greatest military heroes.
“He was a magnificent officer. As soon as the initial euphoria of the victory settled down we realised the biggest loss of our lives. The man who won us the post was not there to celebrate with us,” the then commander of the Delta company unit, Col Deepak Rampal (awarded the Vir Chakra) later told Mid-Day.
By morning, India had recaptured Pimple Complex (now called Vikram Batra Top) but lost two of her bravest sons — Anuj’s comrade in battle, Captain Vikram Batra, had also died while clearing enemy bunkers. The securing of Peak 4875 would go on to pave the way for the recapture of Tiger Hill, the crucial victory that finally forced Pakistani forces to retreat to pre-war positions.
A soldier for whom nation always came first, Anuj Nayyar set an example of courage and dedication seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army. He lived up to the promise he had made to his father in one of his many letters to his family:
“I am not that irresponsible that I will die without fulfilling my duties for the country. My army and this country has put so much faith in me, it would be a mistake to think of death at this time. Till the last enemy is there I will keep breathing.”
In fact, Anuj even left his engagement ring with his commanding officer when he left for the Pt. 4875 mission, asking him to return it to his fiancée Timmy in case he never came back.(Engaged for over a year when the war began, the two were planning to get married in September.)
For conspicuous bravery and leadership of the highest order in the face of the enemy, Captain Anuj Nayyar was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra — the nation’s second highest honour.
Captain Vikram Batra was awarded Param Vir Chakra — India’s highest award for gallantry in battle. (Read his story here.)
On Kargil Vijay Diwas, we remember and salute these heroic warriors who laid down their lives to protect the nation and their fellow countrymen. It’s time we gave these unsung heroes and their families the recognition and respect they deserve.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)