Param Vir Chakra awardee Arun Khetarpal’s name evokes much admiration and reverence in the chronicles of Indian Military History. Born on October 14, 1950, in Pune, Maharashtra, Arun Khetarpal became one of India’s most celebrated war heroes, earning the nation’s highest military honor, the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), for his extraordinary acts of bravery and selflessness during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

Early Life and Military Career

Arun Khetarpal was born into a family with a rich military tradition. His father, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal, served in the Indian Army, instilling in Arun a deep sense of duty, discipline, and patriotism from a young age. Inspired by his family’s legacy and the valorous tales of Indian soldiers, Arun Khetarpal aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the armed forces.

In pursuit of his dream, Arun Khetarpal joined the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA) in Khadakwasla, Pune, after completing his schooling. He excelled in his military training, demonstrating exceptional leadership skills, physical fitness, and a keen tactical acumen. Upon graduation, he was commissioned into the 17 Poona Horse regiment of the Indian Army, an armored unit renowned for its gallantry and tenacity on the battlefield.

The Battle of Basantar

Arun Khetarpal’s moment of reckoning came during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, a conflict that would ultimately lead to the liberation of Bangladesh. In December 1971, as tensions between India and Pakistan escalated, Arun Khetarpal’s regiment, the 17 Poona Horse, was deployed in the Shakargarh Sector along the western border.

It was during the Battle of Basantar, fought between December 4 and December 16, 1971, that Arun Khetarpal would etch his name into the annals of military history. On December 16, 1971, as the battle raged fiercely around the Basantar River, Arun Khetarpal’s troops came under intense enemy fire from Pakistani tanks and artillery positions.

Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Arun Khetarpal displayed remarkable courage and composure under fire. With unwavering determination and disregard for his own safety, he maneuvered his tank, a Centurion Mk. V, with exceptional skill and precision, engaging multiple enemy tanks and destroying them with deadly accuracy.

Acts of Bravery and Sacrifice

As the battle reached its crescendo, Arun Khetarpal’s tank came under heavy enemy fire, sustaining multiple hits from enemy shells. Undeterred by the ferocity of the onslaught, he continued to engage the enemy with unmatched bravery and resolve. Even when his tank suffered critical damage and caught fire, Arun Khetarpal refused to abandon his post, and instead chose to fight to his last breath.

With flames engulfing his tank and ammunition running low, Arun Khetarpal remained resolute, determined to hold his ground and inflict maximum damage on the enemy. In a final act of defiance, he disregarded his own safety and charged headlong into the enemy’s ranks, destroying several more enemy tanks before succumbing to his injuries.

For his extraordinary valor and selfless sacrifice, Arun Khetarpal was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration for gallantry in the face of the enemy. His citation reads: “Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal displayed the most conspicuous bravery, determination, and leadership of the highest order and made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.”

Legacy and Inspiration

The story of Arun Khetarpal’s heroism and sacrifice continues to inspire generations of Indians, particularly the youth aspiring to join the Indian Armed Forces. His unwavering courage, indomitable spirit, and sense of duty serve as a shining example of the highest ideals of military service and patriotism.

Arun Khetarpal’s legacy transcends the realm of military valor; it embodies the values of courage, selflessness, and sacrifice that define the soul of a nation. His life and deeds serve as a source of inspiration for all those who seek to serve their country with honor, dignity, and integrity.

As India commemorates the bravery and sacrifice of its heroes, let us remember Arun Khetarpal not just as a war hero, but as a symbol of the indomitable spirit and resilience of the Indian Armed Forces. May his courage and valor continue to inspire and guide us in our pursuit of a brighter and more secure future for our nation. Jai Hind!

Read about other Param Vir Chakra Awardees