REMEMBERING THE MARTYRS: A THROWBACK TO KARGIL By Abhishek Naharia from RGNUL, Patiala
Introduction: On the 26th July, 1999 India had successfully taken command over the high outposts which had been lost to Pakistani intruders. Known as Operation Vijay, this day is celebrated on account of the declaration of India’s victory over Pakistan.[i] After having fought for about 2 months, it came to an end on this day after having taken so many of the lives from both the nations.
Causes Of The War: The causes of the War were prima facie clear; the unwanted intrusion of the Pak soldiers into India’s Line of Control (LOC) dividing India’s territory of Ladakh from Northern states. The move had come into picture in the backdrop of the historical Shimla Pact signed between the Prime Ministers of both nations in 1971. This cowardly act was in succession to the Lahore accord signed by both of them a few months before the intrusions were detected.[ii] As leading journalists looked into the matter, the aim of the Pakistani soldiers was to cause a line of distinction between Ladakh and the rest of Kashmir so that India takes off its soldiers from Siachen and as a result they could terrify the area. The result was howsoever opposite as they might have assumed.
Major Events: The line of Control between Zoji La and Khardung La was very minutely monitored by Indian soldiers as about 3000 troops were placed there. Prima facie, the strength was not good enough to guard the area against foreign enmities, but looking at past occurrences and keeping in the mind the rugged nature of the terrain, the strength was howsoever acceptable. Some shepherds of the Ladakh region sensed some infiltration at first, but this infiltration was taken lightly by them as well as the soldiers thinking that they might be small terrorists coming across for their ugly deeds as usual.[iii] The Pakistan Army meanwhile penetrated 4-6 battalions at the backdrop into Indian Territory, especially gaining control over National Highway-1, the only Highway which connected Ladakh with the rest of India. It was their good fate as they succeeded in accurately targeting bombs and artilleries on the Highway and hence blocked the passage. It was only at this point of time that there was some gravity in the situation.[iv]
At this point of time the most important development was that two troops led by Lt. Saurabh Kalia and Lt. Amit Bhardwaj was sent out as patrols to determine the amount of damage the opposition could have caused instantaneously. Howsoever, in a disappointing chain of bombarding, Lt. Saurabh Kalia’s men were brutally killed. The Kargil War is basically the story of 5 such battalions that regained India’s pride and honour.[v] Amongst the five battalions, the 18thBatallion of Grenadier regiment was sent to the infiltrators and ordered to throw them out of the nation. Backing them up, came across the 18th Sikh regiment which was probably known to be one of the battalions responsible for early destruction of the enemy soldiers. The enemy was backed not only by an ample amount of artilleries stock, but also the Special Security Guard brought after in the battle. At this point of time, the Matra Bhoomi lost 2 brave sons, Col. Vishwanathan and Maj. Rajesh Adhikari. But the sacrifices did not go in vain, as the herculean efforts of other regiments were then supported by the awaited Indian Air Force. Air jets started bombarding the enemies and without any specific intelligence working for our nation, they aimed the enemy troops to destruction. Moving next towards the battle ground was the 13 J&K battalion including brave hearts like Capt. Vikram Batra, Lt. Col YK Joshi, Maj. Vikas Vohra, and Riflemen Sanjay Kumar. Another battalion, the 11th Gurkha Rifles came across to assist them comprising Col. Lalit Rai, Lt. Manoj Pandey, and Havaldar Bhim Bahadur amongst others. The Gurkhas were specially being taken to the battle as they were experts of the Siachen region. The Tololing ridge was captured as a result of loss of 2 Raj Rifles leaders like Maj. Vivek Gupta, Maj. P. Achrya, Lt. Vijayan Thapar.[vi] In subsequent attempts, the 13 J&K captured vital positions to the loss of Capt. Vikram Batra and Lt. Anuj Nayyar.
After the Kargil Drass area was sterilized, farther to the north, the 11/16 Gorkha Rifles removed every big hurdle that swept across them. Lt. Manoj Pandey was amongst those stalwarts who stole the game for India at the concluding stage of the Battle, including Operation Kalubhar. Sensing International pressure and threat of losing the battle, the Pak PM Nawaz Shareef went on to help from US Pres Bill Clinton demanding mediation in between the neighbours. On the Indian counterside, PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee almost agreed to end the battle after a long-awaited victory for the nation.
The Aftermath: India learned that it must be prepared beforehand for such kinds of intrusions at critical conditions. This must be taken as a lesson to cover terrorist operations against the LOC. Rather India must act more aggressively than this and must take strict measures to ensure that no group of men intrudes in the country without any fruitful purpose. It also needs to advance the weapons and machinery so that it retreats back in no time surprising the enemy. In Kargil this was seen as a fault, not having proper intelligence agencies to yield the moves of the enemy. India must also make strong its claim in the International context and assure its goodwill position in the world so that there is no difficulty in asking for help at critical conditions. [vii]
Remembering The Martyrs: Captain Vikram Batra was renowned as Sher Shah according to some official sources by the Pakistan Army. Born in Palampur, HP, he had led one of the toughest battles in Indian history. He was the leader when India captured the Peak 5140, located at an altitude of about 17,000 feet and on another feat of Peak 4875 at 71,999 ft. The climb gradient was around 80 degrees, and it can be imagined how difficult it might have been as the enemies were already been placed at 16,000 feets. His last words were, Jai Mata Di. He was known for his Dil Maange More during the war among his fellow army men. He had said, “Either I will come after hosting the tricolor or I will come back wrapped in it.” He was honoured the Param Vir Chakra posthumously.
Major General Ian Cardozo, a young leader of Gorkha Rifles, stepped on a landmine during the war and severely injured his leg. When even the Doctor faltered in cutting his leg, he asked for a Gorkha knife and cut his own leg. Thereover he said to his fellow, “Now go and bury it”. He is also remembered for his Physical fitness as he had defeated many of the “two legged” fellow army men during his stint with Army.
Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav was the youngest recipient of Param Vir Chakra, at just 19 for his actions on July 4, 1999. He displayed immense courage while capturing 3 bunkers on the top placed at about 16,500 feet. The capturing of Tiger Hill is completely honoured to this man who despite being injured with 3 bullets in his shoulder neutralized 3 tanks and a number of enemy soldiers. He, at last, survived 16 bullets.
Major Somnath Sharma of the Kumaon regiment is known for his sacrifice to the nation at an age of just 24. His hand being fractured, insisted on being airlifted with his regiment. He is the one accredited to protect the Srinagar Airport wherein the enemy soldiers were seven ratios one to him. The first recipient of Param Vir Chakra, Major Somnath Sharma’s award citation says, “his leadership, gallantry and tenacious defense was such that his men were inspired to fight for six hours after he was dead in the battleground”.
The 4th recipient of Param Vir Chakra, Naik Jadu Nath Singh, fought in both the crucial wars for the nation, Indo-China in 1962 and Kargil in 1999. His sharp and cunning mind saved him and his men several times. Remembering the men of great honour on this day of 26th July, we feel so proud today on the sacrifice that they and many other had made for the nation.[viii]
[i]Military veterans to celebrate Kargil Vijay Diwas in Mysore, Star of Mysore, (July 22,2017)
[ii]Real story behind LOC-Kargil, Y I Patel.
[iii]Kargil Conflict 1999, Conflict on line.
[iv]Shahid M. Amin, The Unanswered Question II- Time to shed illusions.
[v]Rape of the Mountains Kargil: The Untold Story, AH.W. Sameer Series, By Virendra Kumar.
[vi]A ridge too far, Battle for Tololing, L.N. Subramaniam.
[vii]Indian Kargil Review Committee, From surprise to reckoning, Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, Kargil 1999.
[viii]10 Army heroes and their extraordinary tales of bravery, thebetterindia, 2015.
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