Pick of the Day : Kargil Divas

In today’s Pick of the Day, for D’s Art Takes, I Divvya Nirula present my take on – “Kargil Divas”.

Keeping Heroes Alive

“If death strikes before I prove my blood, I promise (swear), I will kill death!…Some goals are so worthy, it’s glorious even to fail!”. These were the words that Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey of the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles wrote in his diary, days ahead of the capture of Tiger Hill. HE was 24  years old – just like most of the others who he was fighting alongside…

Then there was Lt. Balwan Singh, known as the ‘Tiger’ of Tiger Hill. A brave heart who perished on the land he was named after. Then there was Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey, a young officer of the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, also 24 years old. He boldly led attacks during Operation ‘Vijay’, forcing back the intruders in Batalik. Captain Anuj Nayyar,from the 17 Jat regiment, a young captain at 24 years of age. Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari, a grenadier at 28 years of age.

And the indomitable Captain Vikram Batra from JAK Rifles, known as the Tiger of Drass.

Tiger Hill

Who are these people, what happened on Tiger Hill? Why are their names in the news? They have been felicitated for courage and incredible actions under duress. It is difficult to fathom are the circumstances under which they showed courage. They were not at their fittest best – but shot, injured, bleeding – aware that this was the last thing that they were doing. They proceeded to take down their enemies with rifles or bare hands, never losing focus of the mission. Always be mindful of their actions and the consequences.

One reads of ‘how a captain put down three of the enemy’, or ‘how the camps were leveled’, or ‘sub-zero temperatures’. But on the ground, in climates that are so completely hostile – bleeding and tired. It is quite unimaginable.

The battle in question is the Kargil War. Extraordinary gentlemen made up the ‘Ghatak’ team formed by the Indian Army. Handpicked and deployed for action to protect and reclaim the areas of Drass, Kargil, Batalilik from Pakistani infiltrators. They belonged to different teams who were working towards one mission.

What is Kargil Divas?

Kargil Vijay Diwas is commemorated every 26 July in India, observing India’s terrific, albeit bloody victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War. Indian forces plucked out the Pakistani army from their occupied positions on the mountain tops of Northern Kargil District in Ladakh in 1999.

These were areas that were unmotorable in the winter. Troops normally come down to lower camps. This is when Pakistani forces, in the year 1999 made inroads and a beeline for these areas. It was a bold and militant move.

For the longest time, the Pakistani army refused to take responsibility for the war. ‘It was caused by Kashmiri militant forces’… However, documents left behind by casualties, the testimony of POWs and later statements by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Army Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf proved otherwise. It showed the involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces, led by General Ashraf Rashid.

War broke out in these areas. The heroic efforts of the Indian Armed forces arrested disaster. On 26th July, the Indian Army successfully hoisted the tri color sending a message to Pakistan and the whole world. In the words of the posthumous Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, – “that India wants Peace, he whole world has seen – but how far she will go to protect that Peace – was now for all to see.” 

Every year on 26 July, Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated in honour of the Kargil War’s Heroes. Celebrated all over India and in the national capital, the Prime Minister pays homage at Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate. It is to commemorate the contributions of the Indian Armed Forces, and never forget the sacrifices.

What Really Happened

There was an important lead up to Kargill 1999. Months before the war broke out. Captain Saurabh Kalia chanced upon the infiltration plan of Pakistani soldiers across the Drass region. He along with five others were on patrol duty and when confronted with the enemy, they fought but were captured. Pakistan, flouting the Geneva convention rules subjected the men to unsurmountable torture before killing them.

India had a two-part program, clean operation to clear out Pakistanis from Pt 5140 and Pt 4875.  (They overlook the Srinagar Highway and left India vulnerable and at a disadvantage if left unsecured. ) And, definitely to avenge Saurabh Kalia’s martyrdom.

It was a battle that claimed the lives of some of Indian Army’s brightest, youngest and best. They were required to act and take decisions in adverse circumstances. And they did. And it cos them their life.

Personal History

Coming from a family of freedom fighters and who had braved 1947, nationalism is not second nature. It is Natural to me. Owing to my early exposure to the history of the countries – I connected to the Indian army deepy. They were my brothers, my family.

I was in 7th grade in 1999, and I remember how schools across India were engaged in garnering support for the army. It wasn’t an outreach program, or a CSR project. It was real. The letters we wrote were real. We raised money for much needed winter gear and equipment. They were fighting in bitter cold climate – when nobody even lives in those areas in those months. Students helped packaging bandages and supplies – anything to let the men know that they were not forgotten. That they mattered. That the nation was supporting them.

Patriotism is a fine emotion and its doesn’t really come up when talking about the other emotions mostly. But it is a powerful one. So, it was the first time for me – when I heard Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, rendered by Lata Mangeshkar in our school. It had the power to stir and inspire deeply. And it moved all of us.

The legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar rendered the epic song for the first time on 27 January 1963. When her soulful voice touched the chords, tt was the moment that drove Pandit Nehru to tears. The poet Pradeep penned the song shortly after the 1962 Indo-China war, as a tribute to the soldiers who had died defending the country.

 It makes me think – that such is my country. One full of courage and beauty, sacrifice and celebration. It is humbling to know the stories of all the people behind the pictures.

In Conclusion

One can celebrate the day with reverence, but to actually connect to the souls – that is crucial. To always remember those who fought hard to protect, fearlessly – we owe them our peace.

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