Col J P Singh
On 26 July, nation remembers 527 brave soldiers and civilians who made supreme sacrifice in the Kargil War for the sovereignty of the Republic. To commemorate their martyrdom, it is celebrated as ‘Vijay Divas’. It is a golden day in Indian History because on this day Indian Army won a glorious victory over its enemy. It is a ‘red letter day’ in the military history because the story of Kargil War is written with the blood of young officers and men. This day also commemorates the sufferings, compassion and fortitude of their loved ones. For the widows, the wait of husband; for the children, wait of father and for the fathers, wait of son is yet to get over. Least we can do on this solemn day is to light a candle at the Balidan Stumbh. I am sure Dogras will live up to this pledge.
Extent of Kargil is 220 kms traversing most rugged high altitude peaks of great Himalayas with minus 50 temperature. Hand to hand fight in perilous rugged high altitude terrain against well entrenched enemy with exemplary courage & valour of young officers and Jawans turned the table and put Pakistan to great shame. Kargil victory is a stark reality of humiliating an errant nation.
War is said to be the result of failed diplomacy. Let’s see how the diplomacy fails when personal interest over-rides. It was Pakistan which started war because Gen Musharraf couldn’t live without Kashmir. Initial objective was to upgrade freedom movement in the valley. Later it was converted to capture Kashmir on which Pak Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz expressed reservations. He asked Nawaz Sharif whether it would not be contrary to Lahore Declaration. He replied, “Can we ever get Kashmir through paper work. We have an opportunity to take Kashmir. Why miss it”. He said so because military top brass told him, “Sir, your name will go down in the history of Pakistan in golden letters as a man who liberated Kashmir. After the Quaid, it is a unique opportunity to be remembered as the ‘Fatahi Kashmir’. Sir, you will go down in the history as PM in whose tenure Kashmir was resolved”. Sharif, visualising himself as ‘liberator of Kashmir’ approved the invasion and blundered for which not only he suffered, the nation also endured long spell of military dictatorship. Politicians make mistakes not only in Pakistan but India also. Our politicians made bigger mistakes by going to the UN against military advice in 1947-48, returned 93,000 prisoners without getting back our prisoners, gave away Hajipir and Chhamb. Hence a lesson learnt is that national interests of a country can best be protected by the armed forces. To do so wars are fought and sacrifices made, as in Kargil. There are glorious examples of officers and men dying in the battlefield. Skeletons of our forefathers are still lying scattered in Kargil when they fought a similar war in 1947-48. Supreme sacrifice of Capt Saurav Kalia with five brave soldiers, Capt Vikram Batra, Capt Manoj Kumar Pandey, Maj Sarvanan, Capt Vijayant Thappar, Capt Anuj Nayyar, Capt Hanif-ud-Din N/Sub Chuni Lal and many others are glaring example of dying for the motherland. So many died in oblivion. It was end of everything for those who lost a husband, a father or a son. What more a nation can expect from its soldiers? Hence the martyrs deserve a candle to be lit in their memory. Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan (DSS) should lead Dogras to Balidan Stambh to pay tribute to the martyrs to standby absolute nationalism enshrined in its vision document.
One of the above is a hero of Tololing, which changed the course of Kargil War, so much so that once Tololing was captured, the army was able to get quick wins over surrounding heights and throw the Pakistanis out. It wasn’t easy. Nearly half of the casualties of the war were at Tololing. Here’s the story of the toughest battle fought. Towering over Drass, Tololing was the highest feature overlooking the National Highway. If not cleared, the NH would remain cutoff. Initially, the task of capturing Tololing was given to 18 Grenadiers. The battle began on 20th May. Enemy being at a height was able to observe all the movement making climb up excruciatingly slow. Regardless, the brave men carried on. Maj Adhikari laid down his life in a daring attack which saw him reach within 15 mtrs of the ridge behind Tololing. Realising the situation, the 2IC, Lt Col Vishwanathan himself led the next attack, knowing well it be suicidal and it was. Attack after attack got stalled and the casualties mounted despite the Air Force use. Later, 2 Raj Rif was brought in for fresh assault. 90 volunteers under the command of Maj Vivek Gupta were earmarked to capture Tololing. The assault started at 6 PM on 21 June with the fire support of Bofor guns. 90 daredevils were divided into three teams, one to assault straight up the ridge, the other to go across the lower ridge to cut off enemy retreat and the third team to attack from behind. Pakistanis fired and rolled boulders on the assaulting troops. Our soldiers lobbed grenades in the loopholes which forced the Pakistanis out in the open where hand to hand fight ensued. Maj Vivek made the supreme sacrifice but not before capturing two difficult posts on the icy slopes of Tololing. Hav Yashvir Singh Tomar, a dashing commando, charged the last of the bunkers and was found dead with his Rifle in one hand and a grenade in the other. Capt Vijayant Thappar, (whose father Col Thappar is often seen in TV debates) was instrumental in capturing Tololing. (A few days later he died while capturing Knoll & Three Pimple complex). At 4.10 AM, Col Ravindranath, Co 2 Raj Rif, gave a short radio message to Maj Gen Mohinder Puri, GOC 8 Mtn Div. All he said was, “Sir, I’m on Tololing Top”. Tololing was finally captured by 2 Raj Rif. Capt Vijayant’s last letter is an eye opener. Its transcript is below. It will surely make you rise up and go to Balidan Stumbh to light a candle.
Kargil war has been turned into fairy tales by Bollywood. Films like ‘LOC KARGIL’ are mesmerising. Even Barkda Dutt romanticized it by saying, “I was very young when I went to the battle field and was surprised to find many officers and men younger than me”. Many of them including Capt Vikram Batra of ‘Dil Mange More’ fame died in the war. To my mind wars should not be glorified as Kargil was. My reason lies in the hype created over ‘surgical strike’. It was glorification as well as demonization. While it was chest-thumping for ruling politicians, it was anathema for the opposition. No platform was spared by any to discuss surgical strike and mudslinging. Same is true of Kargil War. Premier Vajpayee was castigated for intelligence failure, indecisiveness, failing to cross LoC and the massacre of young men. By now lot is known about Kargil War through media, movies and hearsay because Kargil lies in J&K which is always in the news for some reason.
War if thrust upon, must be fought on enemy’s territory. Unfortunately, this cardinal principal was not applied in Kargil War. To take war to enemy territory involved crossing the LoC. Had this option been exercised, the victory would have been faster. It would have shown India as a strong nation which takes bold decisions and consequent risk such as it did by a ‘surgical strike’. Despite restraints, army evicted the intruders and regained the lost territory, albeit, at very heavy cost. It is to the valour & the sacrifices of young officers and men and fortitude of Veer Naris that this article is dedicated.