The Param Veer Chakra is awarded for most conspicuous bravery or
some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self sacrifice, in the
presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea, or in the air. The
decoration may be awarded posthumously. The award was instituted
on 26th January, 1950. The precursor of the PVC was the Victoria
Cross, which had been awarded till 1947 in the Indian Army for
You will come to know when we end this series that 21 Indians of all religions and so
many states have won this coveted award so far. We should be doing this series in
chronological order but 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal’s sacrifice at the young age of 21is so
moving that one feels like breaking tradition. In recognition of his gallant sacrifice
the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun has named a building as Khetarpal through which
the young cadets pass out and become officers. Those of you who have seen the film
‘Lakshya’ will remember Hritik Roshan passing out of this very building.
2nd Lietenant Arun Khetarpal
17 Horse (Poona Horse)
Indo –Pak War -1971
Tanks at Battle of Basantar after the Sappers cleared the mines.
2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, son of Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal AVSM (Corps of
Engineers), was born on 14 October 1950, in Pune, Maharashtra. Arun came from a
family with a long tradition of service in the Army. In Lawrence school, Sanawar he
distinguished himself both in academics and sports. In 1967 he joined the National
Defense Academy (NDA) and then went on to Indian MilitaryAcademy . He was
commissioned in the 17 Horse (17 H) on 13 June 1971. Arun was an avid swimmer
and golfer. Excellence was a habit in him. Full of life and with a delightful sense of
humour, he was adored by his Sowars. (Cavalry Regiments turned into Tank
regiments but some ranks are still known by the old traditions.) . 17 H has the
unique distinction of having been awarded 2 Victoria Crosses and 2 Param Veer
Chakras. Its battle honours tell of service in three Afghan Wars, in Persia, Abyssinia, China
and in both the World Wars. It is a matter of great honour and pride for any soldier to serve in
this glorious regiment.
During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the 47th Infantry Brigade, with the 17 H was
ordered to establish a bridge-head across the Basantar river in Shakargarh sector.
The 47 Infantry Brigade completed the task by 2100 hours on December 15th. It was
now for the engineers to remove the enemy minefields and make a safe lane for the
induction of the 17 H Tanks. While the engineers were half way through their task,
the Indian troops at the bridgehead reported alarming activity of the enemy tanks.
The troops requested immediate tank support. At this critical juncture, the 17 Horse
decided to push through the minefield come what may. By first light on December
16th, the regiment established a link-up between the armour and the infantry at the
bridgehead. At 0800 hours, the enemy made a counter-attack with an armour
regiment, under the cover of a smoke screen. The Indians troops were heavily
outnumbered; the Commander of 'B' Squadron of 17 H requested reinforcement.
Arun answered the call and moved out to face the enemy attack with his two Tanks.
Troops came under fire from enemy strong points and recoilless gun nests (Guns to
destroy Tanks), in the bridgehead zone. 2nd Lt. Khetarpal fiercely attacked these
strong points and over-ran enemy defences and captured many enemy soldiers and
recoilless guns. The commander of the second tank was killed on the spot leaving
Arun alone. Arun continued to attack the enemy single-handed. He then raced to the
'B' Squadron position. By the time he reached there, the enemy tanks were on the
retreat. He pursued and destroyed one of these tanks. The 'B' Squadron Commander
could persuade him to fall back in line after great difficulty.
The enemy soon reformed for a second attack. This time they chose the sector held
by 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal and two other Officers, for the main attack. The enemy
employed a complete armoured squadron against these three tanks in order to
achieve a breakthrough.
A fierce tank battle followed. As many as ten enemy tanks were destroyed and of
these 2nd Lieutenant Khetarpal alone destroyed four. 2nd Lt. Khetarpal's tank, also
received a shot and burst into flames. The Commander ordered 2nd Lt. Khetarpal to
abandon the burning tank. But realising the useful role of his tank in preventing a
breakthrough he communicated the following message to his Commander, "No Sir,
I will not abandon my tank. My gun is still working and I will get these
bastards." Then he set about destroying the remaining enemy tanks. The last
enemy tank, which he shot, was barely 100 metres from his position. At this stage
his tank received a second hit. The brave Officer met his death denying the enemy
the intended breakthrough. For his conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy,
2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal was honoured with the highest wartime gallantry medal, the
Param Vir Chakra, posthumously.
Tribute by Brigadier Naser of the Pakistan army
"With Warmest regards and utmost sincerity, To: Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal, father of Shaheed
Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, PVC, who stood like an insurmountable rock, between
the victory and failure, of the counter attack by the 'SPEARHEADS' 13 LANCERS on 16
December 1971 in the battle of "Bara Pind' as we call it and battle of "Basantar' as 17 Poona
Horse remembers. --Khawja Mohammad Naser, 13 Lancers, 2 March 2001, Lahore,
If the Pakistan Army Brigadier who saw this action can pay such a glowing tribute what
stops us from standing up and saluting 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal PVC 17H who
demonstrated outstanding qualities of leadership and tenacity of purpose
to prevent the enemy from advancing. His was an act of courage and
self-sacrifice far beyond the call of duty. We stand up to salute this
soldier of India. We pledge to be true to our country unto the last like
Bravest of the Brave (Heroes of the Indian Army) by Kittu Reddy,
Ocean Books P Ltd.