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Colonel Vasanth Venugopal, AC (25 March 1967 – 31 July 2007) was the Commanding Officer of the 9th Battalion The Maratha Light Infantry, a unit of the Indian Army. On 31 July 2007, he was killed in action while preventing heavily armed infiltrators from crossing the Indian border at Uri, Jammu and Kashmir.As a result he was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest military decoration for peacetime gallantry.
Born to Praphulla and NK Venugopal in Bangalore, India, he was the youngest of two brothers. His father’s work required the family to travel throughout the state of Karnataka and Vasanth went to schools in Udupi, Shimoga and Bangalore. He graduated from MES College, Bangalore in 1988. While in college, he was a member of the National Cadet Corps, through which he participated in the Indo-Canada World Youth Exchange Programme of 1986-87.
Vasanth joined the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun in 1988. On 10 June 1989, he was commissioned into 9 MARATHA LI. In a military career spanning eighteen years, he served in Pathankot, Sikkim, Gandhinagar, Ranchi, Bangalore and various sectors of Jammu and Kashmir.
“I go where my men go”, he told his mother when she asked him if a colonel should participate in all operations conducted by his men. On 28 October 2006 he took over as Commanding Officer of 9 Maratha Light Infantry. The battalion was at that time posted in Uri Sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
Less than a year later, he and Radio Operator Lance Naik Ganpat Shashikant were killed in a gun battle with militants who were trying to infiltrate the Indian border.
On July 31, his troops surrounded terrorists in a forest and blocked all their escape routes in the Uri sector in Kashmir. Despite being wounded, the colonel and his men engaged the terrorists in a fierce encounter. The daring officer led from the front and helped gun down the terrorists. Tragically, he was hit by a bullet and died in hospital. “He ensured that all eight infiltrators were wiped out even as he laid down his life for the nation. He was a true soldier who was dedicated to the country and his force”, General J. J. Singh, Chief of Army Staff at the time, said after Colonel Vasanth’s death.