26th July 1999…
Kargil Vijay Diwas…
A day to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of our soldiers…
My ode to the slain soldier :
When the neighbour back stabbed us in the name of peace,
Let us be prepared to break his house piece by piece,
Let him not forget that he has messed up really bad,
We still remember our jawan bodies being ice clad,
We cannot forget the teary Mother or the widow or the kid,
For the enemy, who killed her son or husband or father, sordid…
Still remember those days when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vaypayee went on a peace mission to our neighbour, in a bus. A bus from Amritsar to Lahore. Never did he realise that the neighbouring army was plotting against India. They just crossed over and occupied our peaks and on the Line of Control at many places especially in the Kargil – Leh sector.
We already were at a disadvantage as the hills were occupied by the forces of our enemy and we had to climb up and fight back. But the Indian Army was not to be laid back. The enemy never realised that they had made a big mistake of challenging one of the best and bravest armies of the world, the Indian Army. We fought back and within 30-40 odd days captured back the area which was occupied. Let us remember we had never lost it, it was occupied, by the most meanest of the methods.
The Kargil war is still etched very well in my memory. We used to be glued to the TV sets for every update we could get. As the fight progressed and our brave soldiers started recapturing our positions, we used to be elated and our proud chest would pump out of pride for our Army. Later, as the feeling of victory sunk in, it also made us proud to hear about the individual efforts of a soldier or a company under an able leader.
There are many instances or events which can be narrated. Of these many, I today choose to narrate the fight for Chorbat La.
Chorbat La is an important piece of land, a strategic mountain pass in Ladakh, if not won back would have let the enemy push in its army and arms into India, unopposed. It could have then blocked the very important Leh-Khalsi road used for the movement of troops and supplies and practically made it impossible to access the Leh-Srinagar road.
Major Wangchuk and his men from the Ladakh scouts took upon them, the mission of recapturing Chorbat La and accomplished this mission between 31st May and 1st June 1999. An impossible but a daring mission taken up by them as they very well knew the landscape. This was one of the first victories on the Indian side. My readers can very well understand its importance, by learning the fact that Major Wangchuk was recommended for the Mahavir Chakra even before the war was over and 6 soldiers from his unit won the gallantry awards.
These 6 soldiers had climbed a vertical mountain of ice 18000 feet high in a single line with the help of ropes and ice picks in – 6 degrees temperature. A single step put wrong would have killed all of them. If they would be detected, as they could have been as they were on the ridge, an enemy bullet could have easily killed them.
The unit climbed up the same route. They had to trek through 2 feet of snow. Later they attacked the 135 men strong company of the enemy and made them run for their lives. Taken by surprise, the enemy had to retreat to their base camp, into their side of their line of control. The 40 odd boys with their Major took over the pass and stayed back to defend it, till the regular army arrived to take over, which happened after 14 days when the 14th Sikh regiment took over.
I share the details of the Major’s experiences in his own words. He describes it in his conversation with one of the news reporters a few years back.
“When we actually went for the operation and were in contact with the enemy, I had just about 40 boys because 60% of the strength was taken away for other missions.
On May 30, a part of my unit climbed up and saw 12 to 13 (Pakistani) tents just beyond the LoC. They were housing almost a company (135 odd men). They also saw two to three chaps climbing up the ridge from the other side. My JCO shot them dead, confirming that they were Pakistanis, But there were other Pakistanis up on the ridge some distance away, too far to fire upon. This was around noon.
My JCO informed me over the radio, and I in turn sought permission from my headquarters to move ahead with a party. Then I immediately took my remaining 25 men and literally ran in the two feet deep snow up the mountainside. It was a distance of eight kilometres and I covered it in two-and-a-half hours.
I was in the middle of the ravine, about to climb up to the OP (Operation Post) when a burst of fire greeted us.
The effect was devastating! We scattered for cover, but in the bare mountain, this was difficult. We found one boulder behind which all of us huddled together, simply unable to move because bullets were flying all around us. Also, in the snow, movement is very difficult and slow.
One NCO who came along with me had his arm shattered; he died later due to excessive bleeding. With all of us hiding behind the boulder, there was nothing we could do.
To be honest, it was a scary situation and for the first 10 minutes, my heart was pounding, my head was throbbing and I just could not think. But then I calmed down and realised that we were in danger.
Also, more of my men were following and since I had no radio, I could not even inform them. So I immediately sent one person back to the remaining unit, with the information that they should start climbing up the ridge and go to the height on the right of the Pakistanis.
Then, my men and I ran to Adam base, located below our OP, and luckily there was no Pakistani firing. I don’t know why, but we all reached safe. This was around 1630 hours.
We waited for nightfall to launch another attack, but the moon light was so bright that we could have been easily spotted by the enemy.
But the blessings of the Dalai Lama, whom we had met a day before the mission, seemed to be with us and a blanket of mist came to our rescue.
Taking our chance and with the sacred thread given by the Dalai Lama around our necks, we started the steep climb up the mountain.
At dawn we reached the height and launched a surprise attack on the Pakistanis.
We killed 10 enemy troops. The Pakistanis ran helter-skelter down the slope and withdrew, dragging down some of their dead and leaving three behind. We took control of the entire ridge.
Thereafter, we took stock of all forces along the Chorbatla axis in the Batalik sector and cleared it of all enemy intrusions up to the Line of Control.
It was a difficult mission, but I couldn’t have done it without the boys. By virtue of being sons of the soil, the Ladakhi boys are mountaineers and conversant in negotiating the mountains.
Many troops get intimidated with lofty mountains and snow covered terrain, but the Ladakhi soldiers don’t fear the mountains.
I think the gallantry award came my way because it was the first success of the Indian Army, and secondly, Chorbat La pass was tactically very important.
It was a grand success for the Indian Army and the nation — that’s why I got the honour. Otherwise, there were lots of units who did much better than me,”
There are many such instances which can be and need to be described as well and shared in maximum. I plan to do so whenever I get an opportunity. I urge upon my readers to share any such events they know or have read about during the coming days.
The way our Jawans fight for us, fight for India is not only brave and courageous, it ignites a sense of patriotism amongst us too.
Today on this day, I bow down to the soldiers of the Indian Army and express my gratefulness to guard our borders. They keep vigil so that we can sleep well in our homes. My Namaskaars once again.