Major Padmapani Acharya: A portrait of valour


acharyaBy Ila Garg

Kargil War Heroes – Part 5

For soldiers, there seems to be nothing more essential than the nation. For them, celebration means victory in a war. Their whole life is centered on the nation. June 21, 1999 was Major Padmapani Acharya’s 30th birthday, an occasion to be cherished. He spoke to his family members over the phone on that day as he was posted at Kargil. If only he knew that it would be his last phone call.

A file photo of Major Acharya’s wife Charulatha, mother Vimla and daughter Aparajita

Just a week after his birthday, on June 28, 1999, Indian Army’s 2nd Rajputana Rifles was assigned the task to take possession of the enemy bunker at the Tololing Top as it was a dominant position overlooking the Srinagar – Leh Highway (NH 1D). The success of the battalion hinged on the early capture of this position. The Battle of Tololing was thus, one of the pivotal battles in the Kargil War.

His parents – Air Force Wing Commander (retd.) Jagannath Acharya and his wife Vimala Acharya

There was a large number of causalities as a result of this attack but this didn’t stop Major Acharya from performing his duty for the nation. Unmindful of his own safety, Major Padmapani Acharya took the reserve platoon and led it through raining bombardment. His men were heavily injured but he continued to encourage them and charged at the enemy with the remaining soldiers. He crawled up to the bunker and lobbed grenades. When he was severely injured and unable to move, he ordered his men to leave him and attack the enemy while he continued to fire. After a night long fierce hand-to-hand battle, the battalion succeeded in recapturing Tololing Top thus turning the course of Kargil War. It was only after the mission was accomplished that the Major closed his eyes.

The last letter that Major Acharya wrote to his father

His family got a call from Army, saying, “Your son fought bravely. He created history but is no more.” Major’s wife, Mrs. Charulatha Acharya was six months pregnant when her husband passed away. It is impossible to feel the pain that she would have undergone then. One can not even try to relate to it, it is beyond imagination. His father Jagannath Acharya, a retired Wing Commander remembers him with pain in his heart. His mother reveals that the Major had done a course in Hotel Management but his passion for Army won at last, “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.”

In his last letter dated 19 June 1999 to his father, Major Padmapani Acharya said “…combat is an honour of a lifetime and I would not think of anything less. What better way to serve the nation”.

He is a true inspiration and his daughter Aparajita (now in class 11th) hopes to follow his footsteps someday. “Now that the Army has opened its gates for women. I would love to see my granddaughter join the Army,” says Mr. Jagannath Acharya, proudly. Mrs. Charulata Acharya has faced it strongly and has nurtured their daughter all alone. The journey wasn’t easy but being a soldier’s wife gives that strength, I suppose. Thus, even after the supreme sacrifice of Major Padmapani Acharya, the family continues to be driven by their tradition of serving in Indian Armed Forces. The nation can do its bit by remembering him in their prayers and continue to keep him alive in their hearts.

More in this segment:

Kargil War Heroes – Part 1
Kargil War Heroes – Part 2
Kargil War Heroes – Part 3
Kargil War Heroes – Part 4
Kargil War Heroes – Part 6
Kargil War Heroes – Part 7
Kargil War Heroes – Part 8
Kargil War Heroes – Part 9
Kargil War Heroes – Part 10
Kargil War Heroes – Part 11
Kargil War Heroes – Part 12
Kargil War Heroes – Part 13
Kargil War Heroes – Part 14
Kargil War Heroes – Part 15