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Colonel Lalit Rai, VrC is a former officer of the Indian Army who was decorated in the Kargil War. As the commanding officer(CO) of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, he was tasked with capturing the strategic heights of Khalubar in the Batalik sub-sector during the Kargil War.
Lalit Rai was born in Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh, India (now in Uttarakhand), on 24 January 1956 in a Nepali family. He attended the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School in Bangalore. He graduated with a Bachelors of Science from Sri Sathya Sai College of Arts, Commerce and Science, which was affiliated to Bangalore University at the time. He has a postgraduate degree in Management from the College of Defence Management, Secunderabad, India and Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, USA.
Rai was commissioned into 7/11 Gorkha Rifles (7th battalion, 11 Gorkha Rifles). After a number of instructional and staff appointments, he was assigned to command 17 Rashtriya Rifles (17 RR) conducting counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir. He was stationed with 17 RR until after 1/11 Gorkha Rifles were sent to Batalik sector, Kargil. In May 1999, he was asked by the Colonel Of The Regiment, Lt. Gen. J B S Yadava AVSM VrC VSM, to take command of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, and Rai accepted.
The first unit deployed during Operation Vijay was 1/11 GR (1st battalion, 11 Gorkha Rifles), who were specialists in high-altitude warfare. Col. Rai was the battalion’s CO. One of his platoons was led by Captain Manoj Pandey (later PVC).
During the advance, Indian troops were pinned down by effective and heavy volume of enemy fire. Realising the danger of getting day lighted in this vulnerable position, Colonel Rai ordered 5 Platoon to clear the interfering enemy positions while he himself led a handful of troops, available in front, to reach the top. The enemy, sensing the danger, counter-attacked these troops from three sides with 30-40 personnel. During this counterattack, Colonel Rai was injured in the knee. Despite his injury, he exhorted and encouraged his troops to fight courageously by setting a very high standard of bravery. He refused to be evacuated till such time the objective was captured. This act boosted the morale of his troops who regrouped and captured the objective in one charge. This capture turned out to be the turning point in the battle of the Batalik sub-sector. This operation accounted for killing of 25 enemy soldiers and capture of large amount of arms and ammunition including a Stinger missile, air defence guns and important documents.
For his inspirational leadership and conspicuous bravery of a very high order, he was awarded the Vir Chakra on 15 August 1999, by the President of India.
In the 2003 war film LOC Kargil, Bollywood actor Sudesh Berry played the role of Col. Lalit Rai.
Col. Rai is presently the President, Human Resources Development and Administration, of a leading Realty & Hospitality Company.