Param Veer Chakra: Capt. Manoj Kr. Pandey
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY Capt. Manoj Pandey was born on 22nd Feb 1974 in ‘Rurha’ village of Sitapur district of U.P. He was the eldest of three brothers and one sister born to his parents, Shrimati Mohini Pandey and Shri Gopi Chand Pandey. He had unique qualities in him since childhood; he had developed pre-molar teeth two months before the normal age. He always had a smiling face and special aura. Seeing all these qualities in his son, Mr Gopi Chand Pandey planned to shift his family to Lucknow to give better education and environment. But he had to face a lot of financial crisis to meet all the family needs on daily basis. So he worked harder to support them and took a rented accommodation in Daliganj area of Lucknow. His father had to do many odd jobs to provide a minimum level of basic needs yet, he was happy; for he was sure that future of his children was going to be bright in this city which was of course not possible in village.
Manoj was enrolled in ‘Green Field School’ for his Primary Schooling. Here his teachers and school principal recognised the great talent that Manoj had and they apprised his parents for the same. His mother still remembers those black curly hairs of Manoj playing with toy gun and having a fearless, charming face. Everybody in his neighbourhood would like to play with this energetic, lovely boy. Surprisingly one day his mother had found a knife in the school bag of Manoj, and enquired him for this act. Then Manoj told her that some boys used to tease him on his way back to home from school and he wanted to give them a befitting reply with knife despite of them being quite bigger in size. This act of Manoj did make everybody know of his fearlessness and daredevil behavior.
After his primary schooling, Manoj was shifted to Rani Laxmi Bai School of Rahimnagar branch; where he completed his 6th and 7th class. At the same time he qualified for “All India Awaaseeya Exam” which was conducted by UP government to support meritorious students from state to pursue quality education in different public schools of India with hundred percent scholarships. This achievement came as a big boon in Manoj’s future as it looked after his monitory expenses. Manoj chose UP Sainik School Lucknow as his new destination for further studies and his destiny to be an army officer was shaped in this school.
Manoj excelled in all fields of training being given in this great institution to develop ‘officer like qualities’. He always stood first in class, was declared best boxer of school and was adjudged the best all-rounder cadet of his batch. A rare combination of great talent he was. He excelled in the competitions among the best talents of UP who are selected to join Sainik School through a very tough competition conducted at class 7th standard. After 12th class he qualified the NDA examination in his first attempt with AIR of 50. In his SSB conducted at Varanasi in February 1993, he mentioned his ultimate aim of life as, “TO GET PARAM VEER CHAKRA”.
He joined NDA Khadakwasla in 90th course in July 1993 and was allotted ‘Mike Squadron’. Here also he performed very well in all activities and was given the title of ‘most upcoming Mustang’ of his squadron. His training of becoming an army officer reached it’s epitome here only. He learnt all the fine details of skill needed to be a thorough army man. His desire to be an Army officer was such overpowering that he chose army even after clearing the Air Force SSB. After completing three years of rigorous training at NDA, he joined IMA Dehradun. In his final days in IMA, when he was asked for the choice of services in army, he filled all the three options as ‘infantry’ despite of the fact that he could have got other soft services’ as Param Veer Chakra :: Capt. Manoj Kr. Pandey :: 7 per his merit. So he always took a pro-active approach in making his destiny with such a great foresight. After his P.O.P. in June 1997 of IMA Dehradun, he joined 1/11 Gorkha Rifles as Second Lieutenant. He was so happy that he joined infantry and got his desired Gorkha Regiment.
Manoj joined his regimental troop on 20th July 1997 somewhere in JK region. He was so happy to meet one of the senior officer of Gorkha Brig VS Yadav, a Veer Chakra winner, but another news of Lt. Puneet Dutt who got martyred on the same day, so his first hand experience of army life in insurgency operations on the ground reality was really a tough one. In few days he became accustomed to this life and even led some of the operations there successfully, as he had to take forward the legacy of Lt. Puneet Dutt who won Ashok Chakra for his ultimate sacrifice in call of duty to nation. In few months Manoj was selected for commando course in Belgaum, where he did well but missed the Instructor grade (I Grade) due to some easy going approach he adopted during the assessment tests. Then he joined Young Officers course in Mhow which gave him a different exposure to professional life of army and exposed him to the social life within the forces.
After completing his two courses he was eager to join back his Unit which at the time was deployed in Siachen. While serving at the icy heights which are termed as the highest battlefield in the world he took some great initiatives. His initiatives were to improve the lives of soldiers in this toughest terrain of the world. He himself opted for one of the toughest post of Siachen, called Pehalwan Post to get a feel of ultimate tough conditions. He had a passion to do the toughest task on priority. Seeing his exemplary devotion to the service of nation, senior officers of Manoj recommended his name for ‘Shaurya Chakra’ in Jan 1999. After Siachen tenure Manoj came on leave 8 :: Hero of Batalik to his home, where his parents were eagerly waiting him. One can understand the anxiety of his parents who were not much aware of his well being, for in those days communication was very difficult. This was the last visit of Manoj to his home. He fully enjoyed the Holi festival with his friends and family members. By this time parents had started receiving proposals for his marriage.
In mid March of 1999 he joined back his regiment which was on the way back from Siachen and was heading for their peace posting to Pune. On the way back the Unit camp was laid at Nubrah region of Laddakh. Manoj, an amiable personality, got mingled with local people and the children of this region became his fan. Manoj used to frequently arrange games and functions for the local people and also used to distribute sweets and chocolates. He was like the ‘Pied Piper’ for these children. By this time a different destiny was being written somewhere close, in the region of Kargil.
Then army got the news of Pakistani soldiers occupying key heights along National Highway which became famous as the NH 1. It was in the first week of May 1999 and Kargil, Drass and Batalik sectors have since then got etched into the memories of every Indian. Government declared it as a war against Pakistan. Gorkha Rifles was given the task to clear the enemy from Batalik Sector. Initially, Indian army faced tough resistance from enemy and suffered heavy casualties. This brought out the ferocity in the soldiers against their enemy well entrenched in those heights. While operations were being conducted all over, these Gorkhas managed initial breakthrough in Batalik Sector. Manoj always led his troop from the front and he soon became a favourite choice for leading majority of operations of Gorkhas. He recaptured Kukarthang, Jubar-Top and many others during mid May to June end. Then the fateful mission came to clear the Param Veer Chakra :: Capt. Manoj Kr. Pandey :: 9 crucial heights of Khalubar Hills.
Enemy had constructed very strong defence against any assault and some earlier attempts by our army had failed to uproot the perpetrators. The ferocious Gorkhas were assigned this task in the leadership of Commanding Officer Colonel Lalit Rai and Captain Manoj Pandey led the final assault. This Operation was the manifestation of the qualities of a complete leader which involved quick decision, decision under high stress, fulfilling the responsibility of the safety of men with the total disregard to one’s own life. His troops started their operation on first of July, and they had to walk through the tough terrains when enemy was raining bullets from all direction. Who will believe that these men were exposing their own positions to make the enemy fire upon them so that enemy can be located. It was on the evening of 2nd July that these men reached the base of Khalubar Hill. Here their commanding officer briefed them about the enemy on the top and the needed plan of action to complete the operation.
Manoj chose to lead his troop from the direction, which even the master tacticians of military would have avoided. He divided his men in two parts to capture the bunkers. By this time enemy was well aware and fire started coming from the morning of 3rd July. Hawaldar Bheem Bahadur led from right and Manoj from the left side.
He successfully cleared the first bunker; seeing this act, his Jawans also got charged up and they easily captured the 2nd bunker. In this second assault Manoj got injured in his shoulder. His commanding officer told Manoj not to go ahead and risk his life, but Manoj told him that he is not going to come back without completing his mission. Manoj advanced towards the third bunker and cleared it also by fighting ‘one to one’ with enemy using his Khukri and gun. By the time he was going to lob a grenade on the 4th bunker, one fatal shot hit Manoj on his head, but Manoj had already targeted the grenade on this bunker before succumbing to injuries. “Na Chornu” were the last words 10 :: Hero of Batalik by this brave officer to his men. Seeing this, his men went berserk with anger to avenge the loss of their leader, friend and philosopher. By the morning of the 4th July ‘tricolour’ was hoisted majestically on those heights of the Khalubar hill.
This operation is a legend into the annals of the Indian Military. It was affirmed with the award of the highest gallantary in the Indian Armed Forces the “Param Veer Chakra” posthumously. This way our Indian Army lost one of the most talented and upcoming young officer, who had all the qualities of any potential General rank officer. His Gorkha regiment was also honored with the title of. “BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE”.
Sharing a letter that he had written to me.
Salute to the brave hero and Indian army. And, the story begins…….. JAI HIND
Father of Capt.Manoj Pandey received PVC From President of India on 26th Jan 2000.