India’s youngest Param Vir Chakra winner recalls facing the enemy during the Kargil War

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Boundaries are not drawn on paper in ink; they are made up by the swords of the brave.
The enemy shot at my fellows, who were already dead, to ensure that they weren’t alive.

Today, I was seeing for myself how we had sacrificed every inch of our bodies in killing the enemy. Now the boundary of the country was indicated by the blood of our bravehearts who had laid down their lives, defending the motherland. I had resolved not to leave the battlefield till there was even one drop of blood in my body.

A soldier takes on the work of his comrades who have been killed in action. I took on the resolve of my comrades on myself and prayed to god to give me strength to complete the work which they could not.

If you pray to god sincerely and selflessly, he helps you with his own incredible powers. I lay absorbed in my thoughts, watching what the Pakistani soldiers were up to. A few Pakistani soldiers shot at the dead, and the bodies jumped with the impact of bullets. As I was watching all this, a Pakistani soldier started firing at me. He shot at my left hand and right leg. I could see a sort of smoke coming out of the places where the bullets hit me.

I lay quietly in spite of the intolerable pain. No soldier leaves his enemy alive. These soldiers were firing at us to see if anyone was alive. Finally, they were convinced that everyone on our side had died.

I lay helpless, suppressing my pain, but did not lose my mental strength. My spirituality helped me maintain calm in the face of such grave adversity. I kept up my courage and patience.

In a situation like this, it is very important to be in full control of your senses. I was looking for an opportunity when they became careless and I could do something.

Just then, their commander sent a message to their base camp in Mushkoh valley. He said, “We have killed a group of Hindustani soldiers who had come near the top. There is a medium machine gun post below. You wait for us there. We are coming down.”

I heard this. I thought if they are able to go down, my entire team would be wiped out. Unable to think of a way to stop them, I prayed to god, “Oh almighty, give me enough strength so that I am able to send this information to my mates to save their lives.”

Just then, their commander said, ‘Take possession of their weapons.’ One Pakistani soldier was shooting at the dead bodies, the other one was picking up the weapons lying near the bodies.
He again shot at my arms and legs and I bore the pain. The bones and flesh were sticking out of my arms and legs. I did not care about that.

I told myself that I would not die unless they shot me on the head or chest. I would not let out the slightest groan even if they cut off both my arms and legs.

I think this mental strength came in handy and I held fort with some spiritual energy. I had let this thought fill my mind – I will not die unless I am hit on the head or chest.

It is true that if you let any thought sink firmly into your mind and subconscious, your hormones act accordingly. Our body also responds accordingly to our hormones. I had convinced myself that I would not die unless shot on the chest or the head. Just then, the Pakistani soldier turned back and pointed his gun at my chest.

I was watching all this with eyes half closed. It is said that if you surrender yourself selflessly, god protects you by taking you within himself. I had surrendered fully to god. In that moment, I realised why we referred to our country as Mother India.

The land on which I lay was not just sand, stones and pebbles; it was a living being. This mother has never let the courage and bravery of her sons go waste. That day too, she saved me.

Perhaps, at that moment, she decided to listen to my plea. The soldier did shoot at me, but the bullet hit the coins in a wallet in my pocket and was deflected in another direction. When the bullet hit me, I thought I had died. But no one can kill you if god does not will it. Then another Pakistani soldier came close to me. He took my AK 47 and walked away. I think his foot touched my leg, and the shooting pain suddenly left a burst of consciousness. I realised that I was alive.

Then a voice within me said, ‘You are alive. Nobody can kill you now. I took out a grenade, removed its pin and threw it at the Pakistani soldier. It got stuck in his jacket’s hoodie and he looked back. But he saw only what he thought were dead bodies.

He did not realise that the grenade was still stuck in his hoodie.
He tried to take it off his jacket.

In the meantime, the grenade burst.

Half of his head disappeared and he fell on us. The explosion startled the Pakistanis who had started celebrating their victory, thinking they were quite safe now. It caused a grave chaos among them.
Some said that they should fire in this direction; others said it was no use as we were all dead. They should fire in the other direction. Some felt that another team of Indian soldiers must have come up.

As they were confused regarding what course of action to take, I pushed away the dead body of the Pakistani soldier on top of me and extended both my hands to grab his rifle. I realised then that my right shoulder was moving, but the rest of the arm was numb.

I picked up the rifle with one hand and fired from behind the rock. Four soldiers of the enemy were killed in this firing. Then I fired again from behind another rock. In this way, I changed location and fired from three to four different locations. They felt that the Indian forces had come up from below and attacked them from different points behind the rocks.

This renewed attack devastated them completely. They started running towards the top. I also dragged myself from behind the rocks and kept on firing at them. When I noticed how they were running away to save their lives, I destroyed difference between the enemy soldiers and us.

Excerpted with permission from The Hero of the Tiger Hill: Autobiography of a Param Vir, Capt (Hony) Yogendra Singh Yadav, Srishti Publishers.

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