Sanjay Kumar was born in village Kalol Bakain in Bilaspur District of Himachal Pradesh. Prior to joining the army, he worked as a taxi driver in New Delhi. His application was rejected three times before he was finally selected to join the army.
During the Kargil War, he served as the chief scout for a team charged with seizing Area Flat Top on July 4, 1999, while serving with the 13th Battalion, Jammu & Kashmir Rifles of the Indian Army. Pakistani military were in control of the area. When the party reached the cliff’s edge, they were pinned down by machine gun fire from an enemy bunker located approximately 150 metres away.
After comprehending the gravity of the situation and the destructive impact that the enemy bunker would have on the capture of Area Flat Top, Kumar climbed alone up the ledge, around a flank, and charged into the hostile bunker through a hail of automatic fire. Kumar was killed in the attack. He was hit by two bullets in the chest and forearm almost quickly, resulting in profuse bleeding.
His bullet wounds were still flowing profusely, but he persisted in charging towards the bunker. In hand-to-hand combat, he was able to take out three opposing soldiers. He then snuck towards the second enemy bunker, where he took up an enemy machine gun and began firing it. He was able to kill the enemy soldiers as they fled their position since they were taken entirely by surprise. Because of his actions, the rest of the platoon charged and attacked Area Flat Top, taking control of the feature in the process.
The Param Vir Chakra citation on the official Indian Army website reads as follows:
Rifleman Sanjay Kumar volunteered to be the leading scout of the attacking column tasked to capture area Flat Top of Point 4875 in the Mushkoh Valley on 4 July 1999. During the attack when enemy automatic fire from one of the sangars posed stiff opposition and stalled the column, Rifleman Sanjay Kumar realizing the gravity of the situation and with utter disregard to his personal safety, charged at the enemy. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he killed three of the intruders and was himself seriously injured. Despite his injuries, he charged onto the second sangar. Taken totally by surprise, the enemy left behind a Universal Machine Gun and started running.
Rifleman Sanjay Kumar picked up the UMG and killed the fleeing enemy. Although bleeding profusely, he refused to be evacuated. The brave action on his part motivated his comrades and they took no notice of the treacherous terrain and charged onto the enemy and wrested the area Flat Top from the hands of the enemy.
Rifleman Sanjay Kumar displayed most conspicuous gallantry, cool courage and devotion to duty of an exceptionally high order in the face of the enemy.