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Colonel (retd.) Lalit Rai, VrC : Gorkha WAR Hero of Kargil in 1999

Lalit Rai, VrC is a former officer of the Indian Army who was tasked with capturing the strategic heights of Khalubar in the Batalik sub-sector during Operation Vijay, Kargil War. Col. Rai is a product of the Bishop Cotton Boys' School.  During the advance, Indian troops were pinned down by effective and heavy volume of enemy fire. Realising the danger of getting day lighted in this vulnerable position, Colonel Rai ordered the Number 5 platoon to clear the interfering enemy positions while he himself led a handful of troops, available in front, to reach the top. The enemy, sensing the danger, counter-attacked these troops from three sides with 30-40 personnel. During this counterattack, Colonel Rai was injured in the knee. Despite his injury, he exhorted and encouraged his troops to fight courageously by setting a very high standard of bravery. He refused to be evacuated till such time the objective was captured. This act boosted the morale of his troops who regrouped and captured the objective in one charge.

This capture turned out to be the turning point in the battle of the Batalik sub-sector. This operation accounted for killing of 25 enemy soldiers and capture of large amount of arms and ammunition including a Stinger missile, air defence guns and important documents. For his inspirational leadership and conspicuous bravery of a very high order, he was awarded the Vir Chakra on 15 August 1999, by the President of India. Col. Rai is presently the President, Human Resources Development and Administration, of a leading Realty & Hospitality Company in Pune.

Born   :  24 January 1956, Dehradun
Allegiance :     India
Service/branch :    Infantry/11 GR
Rank :    Colonel
Commands held :    1/11 GORKHA RIFLES (Bravest of the Brave), 17 RASHTRIYA RIFLES (MARATHA LI)
Battles/wars :    Kargil War
Awards    : Vir Chakra, COAS Commendation Card
Relations  :   Wife and Two daughters

Citation of Colonel Rai VrC, COof 1/11 GR during Kargil 1999

I am a third generation in the Indian Army and that too in the same Regiment. After I was commissioned, I joined the 11 Gorkha Rifles, the Regiment that my grandfather and father belonged to - it's like a tradition. I got commissioned into the 7/11 Gorkha Rifles. This incidentally, was not the battalion that I led into battle. The battalion I was destined to lead, into a fierce series of battles during 'Operation Vijay' was the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, the one my father had been commissioned into about 42 years ago. I had been posted to various places, served in every type of terrain conceivable - from deserts, mountains, jungles, ravines, plains, high altitudes, super-high altitudes - you name it. And after various instructional and staff appointments, took over the command of the 17 Rashtriya Rifles (Maratha LI), a newly raised battalion in J&K, designed to combat insurgency and militancy. Command of a Rashtriya Rifles battalion is considered a very tough and a challenging assignment. I had promptly agreed to the offer for the command of the 17 RR.

Operation Vijay happened in Kargil, while I was busy combating militants elsewhere in the same state. This was somewhere in the first week of May 2001. By the time the actual fighting developed, it was almost the end of May and by now the people had realised that the Pakistani Army was fully involved and it wasn't just some militants. The 1/11 Gorkha Rifles had the privilege of being the first battalion to be rushed in for 'Operation Vijay'. At that point of time, my 'Colonel Of The Regiment' contacted me. He said, "The previous Commanding Officer of 1/11 GR has taken premature retirement and gone, the battalion is presently in the thick of battle," and asked, "Would you like to take over the fight and do something about it?" Lieutenant General J B S Yadava, AVSM, VrC, VSM, who is presently the Deputy Chief Of Army Staff, was also my commanding officer in the 7/11 Gorkha Rifles when I was a young officer. I was his Adjutant and I had really learnt a lot from this veteran and Vir Chakra award winner of the 1971 Indo-Pak War. He probably had faith in me and was banking on me to do something for the battalion in that difficult hour. I didn't hesitate and I said, "Definitely." But he also added, "I know it is unfair on my part to ask you to take up this tough assignment, especially when the Officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and the troops are new to you."

Remember, I was coming back to the Regiment after serving with the Rashtriya Rifles. Even the terrain was absolutely new to me, the information about the enemy at that point of time was not adequate; things were not all that clear. I wasn't exactly in a very enviable situation. I had however convinced myself that I would take a chance. I was anyway combating uncertainty day and night. Earlier, I had this huge guesthouse to myself in the Doda district and every night I used to sleep in a different room, as we used to be under rocket and machine-gun attacks regularly. In fact, when days passed by without some firing or some incident, I used to feel that something was missing! All that of course changed later, as they never even dared to venture anywhere near us. We had successfully managed to dominate our area of responsibility fully, after months of relentless & successful operations against militant groups.

Once I accepted the offer to command the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, they moved me by helicopter within 48 hours and dropped me bang in the middle of the battle-zone. Many operations were going on in full swing at various places in the front. The moment I landed at the base, there was heavy shelling by the enemy artillery and my reception party ran helter-skelter for cover. My reception was now complete with the enemy also chipping in with their artillery shelling.

Permanent Address:
Director HRD
Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd
Svy No 255/2, Rajiv Gandhi IT park,
Phase - 1, MIDC, Hinjewadi
Pune 411057
Email : lalitrai99@yahoo.co.uk

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