“No Sir, I will not abandon my tank. My Main gun is still working and I will get these bastards.” The brave words were of a brave officer of Indian Army who fought furiously for his last breath and got saheed. In this article we shall be inspired to know the legacy of 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal (PVC).
Arun Khetarpal was born on 14th October 1950 in Pune . His generation had a way long history for serving in Indian Armed forces thus the love for the motherland was present in his veins since his childhood . 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal was the eldest of two sons of Brigadier M.LKhetarpal and Mrs.Maheswari Khetarpal .His great grandfather had been in the sikh army and fought against British while his grand father had paid his service in the World War 1.He finished his schooling from The Lawrence School, Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh – a school which has gave several hardcoe officers to the Indian Armed Forces like the former Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat and Air Marshal KC Cariappa. 2ndLT.Arun was a very sincere school boy and he fully admired up to his school motto ,”Never Give in” till his last breathe .
After completing his Higher studies , he joined the National Defence Academy in June 1967. He was a pertain of Foxtrot Squadron (Well known for their Volleybals game) and was appointed as the Squadron Cadet Captain of the 38th course. He also joined the Indian Military Academy and was commissioned into the 17 POONA HORSE(Armoured Regiment) On 13 June 1971. 2ndLt.Khetrpal’s was in service with the regiment ‘s ‘A’ squadron , and his job was to operate a battle-tank.
Indo-Pak War : 16 Dec 1971
In 1971, Both India and Pakistan were engaged in a furious battle .The war with Pakistan broke out on 3Dec 1971 and 2nd Lt Arun Khetrapal was in training at Young Officer’s course at Ahmednagar at that time . He was recalled from the course immediately and soon joined the hands with the Army in the Battle .
Battle of Basantar
On 3 December 1971, Pakistan Air Force launched pre-emptive strikes on eleven airfields across north-western India, officially triggering the war.
Arun Khetarpal, with the rest of the 17 Horse, was engaging the Pakistani Army in the Shakargarh Sector on the western border. The warfare was concentrated around the river Basantar .17 Poona Horse was assigned to the 47th Infantry Brigade and the major tasks assigned to them was to establish a bridgehead across the river Basantar . The fields were fully covered with the mines but the morale of the Indian forces were not down . It was a joint operation by 17 Horse,4 Horse(Two Armoured Regiments),16 Madras and 3 Grenadiers .
On 16 December , a incandescent tank battle took place . 2nd Lt Khetrapal rushed to counter the Pakistani Armour . 2nd Lt Arun Khetrapal attacked the incoming Pakistani troops and tanks taking down an enemy tank In the process . 2nd Lt Arun Khetrapal with 2 remaining tanks fought off and destroyed 10 enemy tanks . Meanwhile, 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal’s tank was also hit by the enemy patton tanks and caught fire but the mighty officer didn’t abandoned his tank .When ordered by his senior to abandoned his tank , he refused to do so . The last enemy tank which he shot was barely 100 metres away from his position . At that time ,his tank got another hit and the shell enterd the tank through the cupola and injured him severely. Because of the vallant bravey shown by 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal , the enemy can’t cross the passage . 2nd Lt Khetarpal’s body and his tank “Famagusta” were captured and were later returned to the Indian army.
On 16 December 1971, 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal took his last breath and on the same day Pakistan surrendered the war and signed the instrument of accession .
2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal was given Nations highest military award “Param vir Chakra “ because of his valient bravery and never to give up attitude .On the age of 21 yrs . 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal displayed such act of courage and sacrifice that went far beyond the call of Duty which would inspire a number of men .
- The parade ground at NDA has been named as “Khetarpal Ground” in his honour, while the auditorium and one of the main gates bear his name at the IMA.
- 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal’s Centurion tank called “Famagusta”was restored after the war and is presently preserved in the Armoured Corps Centre and School in Ahmednagar.
- The Housing project of Arun Vihar in Noida was named after 2nd Lt Arun Khetarapal PVC in his honour.
- A life size statue of 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal has been erected at his alma mater, the Lawrence School, Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh. A stadium in the school has also been named after him.