Major Padmapani Acharya – A Hero of the Kargil War

June 21, 1999 was his 30TH birthday, and he spoke to his family members over phone. Little did they know that it would be his last telephone call. Seven days later, on June 28, 1999, the family of Major Padmapani Acharya received a phone call from the Army, saying that he had fought bravely in Kargil and was no more. Smt.Charulatha Acharya, his wife, was six months pregnant when her husband passed away. It is impossible to feel the pain what she would have undergone then.

On 28 June 1999, in the battalion attack on the Tololing feature by the 2nd Rajputana Rifles, Major Padmapani Acharya as a Company Commander, was assigned the formidable task of capturing an enemy position which was heavily fortified and strongly held with mine fields and sweeping machine gun and artillery fire. This was a very strategic position as it overlooked the Srinagar Leh highway. It was at an altitude of 5,000 metres, and the enemy was positioned on the hill top, showering bullets. Success of the battalion and brigade operation hinged on the early capture of this position. However the company attack almost faltered at the very beginning, when the enemy’s artillery fire came down squarely on the leading platoon, inflicting large numbers of casualties.

With utter disregard to his personal safety, Major Padmapani Acharya took the reserve platoon and led it through raining artillery shells. The risks were huge and so were the causalities but achieving his mission was his sole purpose. Even as his men were falling to enemy fire, he continued to encourage his men and charged at the enemy with the reserve platoon up the steep rock face. Unmindful of the hail of bullets from the enemy’s bunker, Major Padmapani Acharya crawled up to the bunker and lobbed grenades. Severely injured and unable to move, he ordered his men to leave him and charge at the enemy while he continued to fire. The battle of Tololing Top was fierce and night long but in the end, Major Acharya’s team succeeded in recapturing Tololing Top. The dynamism, raw courage, personal example and supreme sacrifice of Major Acharya enthused the troops and the Knoll was quickly overrun, providing the Battalion its foot hold on ‘Black Rock’.

Many say that this win was pivotal and turned the course of the kargil war. As for the great Indian hero, he closed his eyes only after the Indian flag was flying high once again on Tololing Top.  He was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra award.

Padmapani was born in Odisha and had shifted to Hyderabad. He then joined army under the training and inspiration of his father, Jagannath Acharya. His father belonged to the retired wing commander of the Indian Air Force during the years 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. Padmapani was a resident of Hyderabad and then was married to Charulata. And his sole inspiration remained  his father, the way he serves the motherland and his dream of serving and securing the people of the motherland in a similar way.

Padmapani’s mother Vimala Acharya recalls her son as a jovial person and a voracious reader. “As a mother, I am definitely sad and hurt but as a patriot, I am proud of my son. He lives forever, whereas I will not. He made me promise that I would not cry when he left for the front,” she says. Despite the supreme sacrifice made by their elder son, the family’s tradition in serving the Armed forces continues. Padmasambhav Acharya, younger brother of Major Padmapani Acharya, is a colonel with the Rajputana Rifles. He  was a captain in the Indian Army in 1999 and was a part of Operation Vijay in Kargil. A road, called Major Padmapani Acharya Marg was named in his honor which leads to Major Acharya’s house in Hyderabad. The events of Battle of Tololing was adapted as one of the prominent battle scenes in the Hindi war film LOC Kargil in which actor Nagarjuna portrayed the role of Maj Acharya.