“Once A Fauji, Always a Fauji- If you are a Fauji, you live by chance, love by choice, and fight by profession.”
What a line from the movie Shershaah! Every time we hear this dialogue, the feeling of patriotism and nationalism in our hearts gets even stronger. The bravery of our Kargil martyrs motivates us each day who laid down their lives fighting against all the odds in “Operation Vijay” of the Kargil war. This Kargil war was fought between India and Pakistan in 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and along the Line of Control (LoC). Our Indian Army evicted Pakistani intruders and successfully recaptured Tiger Hill and other posts as a part of ‘Operation Vijay’.
This victory was achieved after a three-month conflict but with nearly 490 officers, soldiers, and jawans sacrificing their lives. That’s why to commemorate India’s win in the war and pay tribute to the martyrs, July 26th is celebrated as the Kargil Vijay Diwas.
Remembering our heroes, let’s discuss the history of the Kargil war and the contributions made by our Kargil heroes in the war, along with Captain Vikram Batra’s spectacular storyline. Let’s begin!
History of the Kargil war
Talking about “The Kargil War”, did you know that India fired over 2,50,000 shells, bombs & rockets during the Kargil conflict; each artillery battery fired over one round per minute for 17 days constantly. Such high rates of fire over long periods had not been seen anywhere in the world since the World War II. This was a phenomenon even the veteran Generals had not witnessed in their careers before. The experience for the generals was as new as someone watching snow for the first time in their life, apart from the Bollywood hit back in the day, Kashmir ki Kali. While the experience was seen as a "victory" on the news by the brand new experts, not a lot of focus seemed to be shed on the casualties this "victory" brought with itself. Let's throw some limelight not only upon this victory but also upon the contributions, efforts and sacrifices made by our Indian army.
The cause of the war was the intrusion of Pakistani troops disguised as Kashmiri militants at positions located on the Indian side of the LoC.
The history of the Kargil war dates back to 1984, when India took control of the highest battlefield in the world: the Siachen Glacier, which was strategically significant for both Pakistan & China.
India occupied the glacier in April 1984 following Operation Meghdoot by preventing Pakistan from doing so.
The Pakistanis were prevented with the help of a thinly held area of Kargil, a division that was specially raised by the Indian Army to fill the gaps.
Pakistan’s plan then was to again create these gaps in Kargil and to raise and train enough forces from locals from their side of Kargil to intrude into this Indian side.
So, Pakistani troops in 1998 transgressed into the Indian territory across the LoC and occupied fortified defences on the NH-1A in Kargil's Drass and Batalik Sectors of the Ladakh region.
At the beginning of the war, Pakistan blamed the fight entirely on independent Kashmiri insurgents (an ongoing separatist militant insurgency against the Indian administration in Jammu and Kashmir).
However, the documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan's Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff depicted the involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces led by General Ashraf Rashid.
Later on, the Indian Army, with the help of the Indian Air Force, took hold of a majority of the positions of these Pakistani troops on the Indian side of the LoC.
After facing backlash from the international forums, Pakistani forces withdrew from the remaining Indian positions along the LoC.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declares Operation Vijay a success. The Indian government sets conditions for talks with Pakistan.
On 26th July, Kargil War officially came to an end. Indian Army announces the complete withdrawal of Pakistani irregular and regular forces.
Captain Vikram Batra- The Sher Shah
Nicknamed Sher Shah, he and his Delta Company decided to attack the enemy by surprise from the rear. All of them planned to approach the hill from the rear at 17,000 feet to take down the enemies. As soon as they came closer to the top, the Pakistani defenders pinned them on the face of the cliff with machine gunfire. But the Indian soldiers stood undeterred, and Captain Batra, along with five of his men, climbed up and fought. It goes without saying that our soldiers never give up until their last breath. So, let’s read about our Kargil War Heroes.
Kargil War Heroes & their contributions
1. Lieutenant Balwan Singh
Known as the Tiger of Tiger Hill, he was responsible for the recapture of Tiger Hill. He planted the Indian tricolour atop Tiger Hill, claiming the position back for India and was later awarded the Mahavir Chakra for his bravery.
2. Captain Vikram Batra
Also known as 'Tiger of Drass’ and ‘Sher Shah’', he died fighting Pakistani forces during the Kargil war in 1999 at the age of 24. He was bestowed with the highest wartime gallantry award Param Vir Chakra posthumously.
3. Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav
Yogendra Yadav was the youngest person to ever be awarded the Param Vir Chakra. His battalion captured Tololing Top in June 1999.
4. Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey
Manoj Pandey was a soldier of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles. Gopichand Pandey, the father of late Captain Manoj Pandey, said that the Kargil War was one of the toughest wars in the world where the enemy had an advantage of the altitude, but the Indian Army fought & reclaimed our peaks.
5. Major Saurabh Kalia
On a routine patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector, a treeless mountain area, Saurabh Kalia and five other soldiers were captured by Pakistani rangers & were tortured for 24 days. Their mutilated bodies were handed over to India by the Pakistani army.
6. Naik Digendra Kumar
His plan had surprised General VP Malik, the then army chief in the war, who held a Sainik Darbar in Drass in 1990 after three failed attempts to claim Tololing back in the Kargil war.
7. Rifleman Sanjay Kumar
Sanjay Kumar was part of a column that was tasked to capture - Flat Top of Point 4875 in the Mushkoh Valley. When the automatic fire from one of the enemy bunkers posed a threat to the Indian army, Kumar charged at them head-on.
8. Major Vivek Gupta
In the Kargil war, Vivek Gupta was in command of the leading Charlie Company when 2 Rajputana Rifles launched a Battalion attack on Tololing Top in the Drass Sector. Under his leadership, despite heavy artillery and automatic fire, he was able to close in on the enemy.
9. Captain N Kenguruse
Captain N Kenguruse was the Ghatak Platoon Commander during the attack on Area Black Rock in the Drass Sector. He took the responsibility of the daring commando mission of attacking a well-sited enemy machine gun position.
10. Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum
The column of Lt. Keishing Clifford Nongrum was taken down by the enemies with automatic fire for about 2 hours. Despite this, he threw grenades into it and killed six enemy soldiers.
To sum it up; the Kargil war had four major phases:
Pakistan’s intrusion into the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir and occupying strategic locations, enabling it to bring NH1 within range of its artillery fire.
India finds out about the intrusion & mobilizing forces to respond to it.
The final stage involved major battles by Indian and Pakistani forces resulting in India recapturing most of the territories.
Withdrawal of Pakistani forces back across the LOC after international pressure.
Hence, “their bravery spoke more than their words”. After the Kargil war, Indians could be seen swelled with joy and pride while delivering speeches on India’s victory in the Kargil war. But what lies behind the victory is saddening at the same time as they also witnessed the loss of more than 500 Indian soldiers & wounded 1500 soldiers. So, on the Kargil Vijay Diwas, the epic battles of Tololing, Tiger Hill etc. are remembered, and tribute is paid to the martyrs at the Kargil War Memorial in the Drass area of Ladakh.