Sunday, July 26, 2015

What has changed after 16 years of kargil war?

Kargil... a single word with a gamut of emotions associated with it. Indeed, it instills a feeling of pride among the Army Regiments while the families of martyrs have a mixed feeling as they remember the war that shook the entire nation.

The countrymen perhaps remember the war and the heroes for a while but they soon dissolve the memories as other things around keep them distracted. The government... well... they choose to use it for their personal vote bank.

I, being a writer choose to exert the power of the mighty pen to ink the sacrifice of these war heroes so that they become immortal (as they already are). It's only words, after all, that I have to remember them. So, with my heart cringing in pain and eyes filled with tears, I set to write one more time, wishing to contribute in some way...

It was the year of 1999 when the uncanny happenings took place. I was only a 8-years-old child, unable to understand the crucial situation. But after 16 years, when I look at the war fronts, I can only imagine how challenging it was for our young warriors to risk their lives. They spent sleepless nights to ensure we sleep peacefully. They fought with great tenacity so that they can save the pride of the tri-colour flag and keep it fluttering across the blue sky.

They were not afraid to die, not afraid to leave their families behind, not afraid to have some unfulfilled love stories, not afraid to part with a 'normal' life - all because they were not ordinary, they were extraordinary humans. They were Gods born in the disguise of humans! Who else can die selflessly? Not me, not you, but they did... They scaled the icy peaks, not bothering about their personal safety, they faced the bullets head-on. And what did they get in return for their supreme sacrifice?

For them, opening their wallet to see the picture of their family was equivalent to meeting them, touching the picture while preventing the teardrop from falling meant hugging them, and when that didn't feel enough they kissed the picture and hoped to see them someday! However, some of these soldiers had to leave the world with this hope hidden deep in their heart and caressing the picture of their loved ones with their blood-stained hands, bidding them a 'goodbye', hoping for their well-being. Even in their last breath, they didn't wish for themselves but said a prayer for the nation, the victory!

Today, as we celebrate 16 years of Kargil victory, the 16th Kargil War Diwas, we have forgotten what they did, what they left behind, why they did it. Most of us don't even know who these soldiers were and how did the families managed to bear such a huge loss. It's a shame when the government turns a blind eye to them and the denizens are too busy to come forward when the need arises.

It's sad to see that the situation of Army too hasn't improved over the years. They are still short of ammunition. Also, it's a hard-hitting sight to see them protesting, fighting for their right even after retirement. Yes, I'm talking about OROP.

Anyhow, it is never too late. Let us remember and include them in our prayers and if possible keep them alive in our hearts.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

King Khan’s ‘Fan’ teaser is finally out and it’s splendid!

Even after 23 golden years of his career in film industry, his charm still remains undying. Just a mere mention of his name is enough reason for a smile on his fans’ faces. Every year on his birthday, Mannat is surrounded by his fans who gather just to catch a glimpse of him, and Shah Rukh Khan never disappoints them. It is a well-known fact that the dimple-faced man is a work-a-holic and goes beyond his comfort zone to bring out something that will spell his magic on screen. No wonder his fans keep on multiplying with each film.

As millions of Shah Rukh Khan Fans await for his screen presence, finally the teaser of his upcoming film ‘Fan’ is out. His fans fondly call him the “Baadshah of Bollywood” while for media he is the King Khan, the heart-throb of Bollywood.

The teaser is of one-minute-and-three-seconds duration and gives a glimpse into the life of the superstar and his biggest fan, Gaurav, in the film. Also, both the characters of the superstar and the fan are played by Shah Rukh Khan.

The short clip which Shah Rukh Khan himself released grabbing many eyeballs and his stardom is once again the talk of the town. ‘Fan’ seems to be all about Shah Rukh Khan and his fans. Perhaps, that is why he has dedicated the film to his fans.

While Shah Rukh is seen doing his signature arms open pose, melting the hearts of the fans all around the world, Gaurav, a resident of Inder Vihar DDA Colony impersonates the superstar during a performance in front of the crowd in his home town in Delhi.

This looks interesting. Directed by Maneesh Sharma under Yash Raj banner, the movie is slated to release on April 15, 2016. His fans are now waiting desperately for his film ‘Fan’.

This article first appeared on NewsGram.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Major Mohit Saxena: A true hero who put his life at stake

Kargil War Heroes - Part 17

Soldiers are not merely human beings. They are supreme human beings as unlike others, they go beyond their comfort zone to ensure our safety. They risk their life so that we can stay safe, unharmed. Ever wondered what they expect in return? No, they don’t expect much, just a place in your heart and their name in your prayers is enough. 

Major Mohit Saxena, a brave son of India like every other soldier wanted to be remembered as the one who sacrificed his today for his countrymen’s tomorrow. Was it too much to ask for?

Commissioned into 2nd Rajputana Rifles, he had proved his mettle at Tololing on 12 June 1999. There he displayed extraordinary grit in capturing the Point 4590. Again, during the Kargil war, he was made the Delta Company Commander. On 28 June 1999, Major Mohit Saxena along with his platoon was assigned the task to capture Lone Hill located in the Drass sector. This was very crucial mission for the success of “Operation Vijay”. His leadership qualities were at display when he efficiently led the team through the difficult route, hiding from the enemy’s eyes. It was a dangerous mission but soldiers like Major Mohit Saxena have infringing determination which does not let them give up easily.

The snow clad peaks could not become a hurdle in front of his exemplary courage. He kept his team motivated and climbed up the steep mountain despite the odds. His zeal inspired others to follow him, and after that there was no looking back. As soon as they reached the top, the bombardment started from both sides. He fought with great tenacity and faced the enemy fire. In order to save the others in his platoon, with utter disregard to his personal safety, he boldly moved ahead. He started attacking the enemy with whatever little ammunition he had, faced the grenades, but didn’t accept defeat. His platoon soon followed his action and under his leadership, they successfully captured the Lone Hill, thus safeguarding it from the intruders.

He was rightly awarded the Vir Chakra, military’s second highest gallantry award for his bravery. Such soldiers are not born every day. The nation must not forget the efforts that they put in. They survive sleepless nights at the fronts so that the countrymen can sleep carefree in their beds.

However, the public never realises that these soldiers are putting their life at stake, compromising on their own happiness, and not even getting the respect that they deserve. Time to put on the thinking cap?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sepoy Imliakumao: Sacrified his life so that the countrymen can sleep peacefully

Kargil War Heroes – Part 16

Sixteen years after the tragic Kargil war, things haven’t changed much for the families of the martyrs. They parted from their sons and are now destined to live without them as they sacrificed their lives when the duty called them.

Sepoy Imliakumao was a brave son of the nation who unflinchingly risked his life so that the countrymen can sleep peacefully, unafraid of the intruders who had captured several peaks at Drass sector and had all the malicious plans.

He was awarded India’s second highest gallantry award, Maha Vir Chakra for displaying exemplary courage in face of the enemy.

On 8 July 1999, Sepoy Imliakumao volunteered to attack an enemy mortar position located at a height of 15,000 feet in Mashkoh Valley. He joined the assault group that was assigned the task to silence the enemy sentry. The sentry was on duty on the outer perimeter of enemy mortar position.  

Sepoy Imliakumao and the platoon approached the enemy sentry stealthily during broad daylight which was a huge risk that they had to take. Finally, Sepoy Imliakumao on reaching the sentry, killed him instantly. That was enough to strengthen him, and he kept moving forward until he reached another sentry. He killed him too and subsequently stormed the mortar position along with the assault group. His valour was an inspiration for the troops.

Sepoy Imliakumao showed exemplary courage and determination by personally killing two enemy soldiers. Throughout the attack, his tenacity, grit, composure, confidence and raw courage in the face of the enemy was visible. These qualities then became instrumental in eliminating the enemy from the almost indomitable mortar position. The elimination of enemy personnel by Sepoy Imliakumao was a huge success as it resulted in capturing three 120mm and two 81mm mortars along with a huge stockpile of ammunition.

The valiant action by Sepoy Imliakumao, which was a true demonstration of valour in the presence of a well-entrenched enemy, was the sole factor which paved the way for a successful attack on the enemy mortar position.

The nation might not remember what he did for them but a family lost their loving son, 16 years ago. In return, the least we can do is include him in our prayers, respect his brave efforts, and remember him with closed eyes once in a while.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lt. DS Sharawat: A man of exemplary determination

Kargil War Heroes – Part 15

They say in the Army that it is better to ‘live for something rather than dying for nothing’. That’s what our brave soldiers did; they lived for our nation until their last breath. Lieutenant DS Sharawat was no different. He sacrificed his life in service of the nation, fighting under the tough circumstances. He was subsequently awarded the third highest gallantry award, Vir Chakra, for his valour and grit he displayed in crucial times.

Commissioned into 2 Naga regiment, he was a true-spirited hero. He and his battalion were assigned with the task to recapture a mortar position located to the west of ‘Twin Bump’ on 8 July 1999. Twin Bump was a part of Point 4875, Mashkoh valley, Drass sector.

The Alpha Company commanded by Lieutenant Deepankar Kapoor Singh Sharawat meticulously planned the attack and moved towards the decided position stealthily. Defying all obstacles, the platoon kept moving ahead, scaling the snowy peaks. DS Sharawat exhibited undaunted courage and with utter disregard of his personal safety, he charged at the enemy soldiers with full force upon reaching the top. He got engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with an enemy soldier and killed him.

There was heavy artillery bombardment but nothing can come in a way of a soldier. His tenacity inspired others to fight too and after a tough battle, they were able to recover three 120 mm mortars, two 81 mm mortars and three G-3 rifles besides hordes of valuable documents and equipment. This attack broke the backbone of the enemy intrusion in the Mashkoh valley and led to their ultimate withdrawal. Thus, it was a crucial mission which was accomplished by the 2 Naga battalion. DS Sharawat was thus a perfect example of valour, leadership qualities, determination, and devotion to the nation. He inspired, motivated and encouraged his troops in capturing the mortar position.

Lt. DS Sharawat displayed raw courage, true-spirit, and a selfless attitude. He was a brave son of India. The nation is thankful for his efforts and is proud of what he did.

Even after 16 years of the war, the tragedy continues for the families of these soldiers.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Friday, July 17, 2015

Capt. Haneef Uddin: A singer-soldier whose contribution in Kargil war is exemplary

Kargil War Heroes – Part 14

Soldiers are humans too. They aren’t void of emotions. However, people tend to ignore this fact. Amidst the Kargil martyrs, there was a singer-soldier Captain Haneef Uddin. Born on 23 August 1974, Captain Haneef Uddin, belonged to the 11th Battalion of the Rajputana Rifles of the Indian Army. He joined the Indian Military Academy in 1996 and was commissioned into the army on 7 June 1997.

“Ek pal mein hai sach saari zindagi ka; Iss pal mein jee lo yaaron, yahan kal hai kisne dekha (The truth of our lives is encapsulated in one moment; Live this moment, who knows what tomorrow holds).

These lyrics written by his younger brother Sameer summarize Capt. Haneef Uddin’s life. Captain often sang this song for his troops. His impromptu “Jazz Band” spread his zest for life and music in the mountains, and was a welcome relief for troops who were cut off from civilization and television. Also, to ward off the tension of the battle ground, music helped.
“Whether up in the hills or down here with us, his music system remained his constant companion,” says elder brother Nafees, who is a physics teacher. The family is proud of their brave son.
Capt. Haneef Uddin risked his life for the sake of the country. At an altitude of 18000 ft, his courage remained infringed and he scaled the snowy heights to face the enemy. The tenacity with which he fought is exemplary. Despite heavy artillery bombardment, he was undeterred. As the fight continued, he and his troops ran out of ammunition but their grit overpowered. His body has not yet been recovered from the perilous ridges of Turtuk, Ladakh, which is still in the enemy hands.

Haneef’s father died when he was only seven years old and his mother Hema Aziz is a classical singer who worked for Sangeet Natak Academy and Kathak Kendra for years. She gets overwhelmed at the mention of her son, “As a soldier Haneef served his country with pride and dedication. There cannot be a greater statement on his valor than his death which came while fighting the enemy.”

Capt. Haneef Uddin was awarded with nation’s third highest gallantry award, Vir Chakra for the bravery he displayed during Kargil war. There’s a corner in every soldier’s home that is dedicated to memories, Capt. Haneef Uddin’s home is no different.
The family turned down the offer for gas agency or a petrol pump by the government as no one was free to manage it. Mrs. Aziz says she could not accept these because she strongly feels that if somebody does not require financial help, he/she should not accept such offers. She, however, clarifies that this is her personal view. If anybody else wants to accept such things, it is okay. “I think such benefits should be given to the family members of those soldiers who really need financial help. I know the number of such soldiers’ families is really huge,” she said. (1)
Soldiers like Capt. Haneef Uddin are not to be forgotten but the nation moves ahead at a fast pace. The families are left behind though. They promised their families to come back soon. They went as men but came back as heroes. The nation should respect what they did for us.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Naik Digendra Kumar: Denied war benefits by Army and the State Govt.

Kargil War Heroes – Part 13

Born on 3 July 1969, Naik Digendra Kumar belonged to the 2nd Battalion of the Rajputana Rifles regiment of the Indian Army. He is also a recipient of Maha Vir Chakra, Sena Medal and many other medals for his exemplary valor. He was one of the best commandoes of the Indian Army. He had acquired the skill to hit a target on the basis of only sound.

After completing his training, he was posted at Jammu & Kashmir. He was sent to Sri Lanka for ‘Operation Pawan’ in Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1987 where his bravery was widely appreciated.
The sad part is that despite his grit and determination, he was denied war benefits. At first, the Army denied him the disability benefits which he is entitled to after being classified as 80 per cent disabled by an Indian Army medical board. It took the Army almost 2 years to finally give him the benefits that he deserved. However, as a Kargil veteran, he is entitled to extra-gratia benefits which are still denied to him. That’s not all. Even the state government isn’t too concerned about this valiant commando who risked his life at the borders. The govt. was to allot an agricultural land to him for being a gallantry award winner but they have marked out the prize at a location almost 500 km from his Sikar home. Also, the Army refused to give him his disability pension saying that he “retired voluntarily”.

When the Kargil war was on, Naik Digendra Kumar was commander of the Light Machine Gun Group during his company’s assault on Tololing hill in Drass Sector. Their objective was to capture the fortified enemy post which was located at an altitude of over 15000 feet.

On 10 June 1999, there was deadly silence in the hills except the sound of the blasts. There was snow and snow all around. They knew that probably they won’t get back alive. It was a dangerous mission after all. But they remained undeterred and readily risked their lives for the nation.

After 14 hours of hard labour, they reached the top of Tololing. Pakistani army had 11 bunkers on the Tololing hill top. Digendra Kumar was to target first and the last bunkers. Rest of the battalion targeted the remaining 9 bunker.

On 13 June 1999, the bombardment at Tololing led to heavy casualties. Naik Digendra Kumar too was hit by a bullet in his left arm. He remained undaunted and kept firing with one hand and brought down effective and accurate Light Machine Gun fire on the enemy. He then gave an effective covering fire, while his own troops attacked the enemy position. Despite being seriously wounded, he kept his platoon motivated. At last, the task was accomplished due to his efforts.

The role of Naik Digendra Kumar in the Kargil conflict was very crucial. With great difficulty, Digendra Kumar put the Indian tri-colour flag on 13 June 1999 at four o’clock in the morning.

The Indian Army reached Tololing peak in the early hours of morning and found heaps of dead soldiers. The Indian tri-colour flag was hoisted and Digendra Kumar lied besides it in an unconscious state. He had the cut head of Major Anwar Khan of the Pakistan Army in his hand. Digendra Kumar was then carried to Military Hospital. He thus was awarded MVC at the age of 30 for his courage in Kargil war.

Such brave soldiers should be respected and loved. The nation is proud of their efforts. But is the govt. listening?

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Capt. Jerry Prem Raj: A soldier first, a husband later

Kargil War Heroes – Part 12

Kargil war was a bad chapter in India’s book. It resulted in a massive chaos, bloodshed, and loss of precious lives. Our brave soldiers risked their lives and put the nation before self – something that they are taught during their training days.

Among the martyrs, Capt. Jerry Prem Raj was awarded Vir Chakra, the third highest military honour for his valour. He was a brave son of India.

Born in Venganoor, Trivandrum, Kerala, Capt. Jerry Prem Raj was commissioned into the 158 Medium Regiment (SP) on 5 September 1997. He was a sincere and upright officer with an eye for detail and a pleasant disposition. His father, Mr. Retna Raj worked in the Department of Technical Education, Kerala and his mother, Mrs. Chella Thayee worked in the Health Department of the government of Kerala. His brother, Rejinald Pavithran, is a retired officer of the Indian Air force.

Capt. Jerry Premraj had been married barely a month and was on his honeymoon, when the duty called him and he had to cut short his vacation and re-join the unit in Mushkoh Valley in July 1999 for Operation Vijay. His task was to attack Twin Bumps located in Point 4875 area, Gun Hill, Drass sector. During the assault, in the wee hours of 7th July 1999, Captain Jerry Prem Raj was the Forward Observation Post Officer with 2 Naga ( A unit of Indian Army).

He searched, sought and identified enemy positions and directed accurate artillery fire onto them with devastating effect. In this endeavour, he was shot and wounded in the enemy sniper fire. Despite injuries, he remained undeterred and continued to attack the enemy positions. Amidst the heavy fire, he displayed unparalleled grit and courage, and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.

By then, Captain Jerry Prem Raj was severely injured. His efforts in the battle proved his mettle. He was a true war hero. He died later on the same day. His body was cremated in his native Thiruvananthapuram. His wife gradually moved on from the truncated marriage. His memory became an occasional, but uncontrollable sob in his modest home in Venganoor.

Obviously people might forget, but the pain of the families of these martyrs remains the same. Let us not forget these valiant soldiers in our prayers.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lt. (now Col.) Balwan Singh: A man of grit and courage

Kargil War Heroes – Part 11

Sixteen years on and memories of Kargil war are still fresh in our minds. However, gradually we are growing indifferent towards the soldiers who risked their lives for serving nation. Lieutenant (now, Colonel) Balwan Singh is one of the brave soldiers who fought valiantly in the battle field, and was honoured with India’s second highest gallantry award, Maha Vir Chakra for his extraordinary bravery.

Born in Sasrauli village in Jhajjar district of Haryana, Lt. Balwan Singh is an alumnus of Sainik School Kunjpura. He was commissioned on 6 March 1999 into 18 Grenediers regiment.

During the Kargil war, he was assigned the task to capture the ‘Tiger Hill Top’ on 3 July 1999 along with his Ghatak (Infantry) platoon. He had to climb from the North Eastern direction of the Tiger Hill, a height of 16,500 feet, as part of a multi-pronged attack strategy. The peak was snowbound, untrodden and interspersed with crevasses and sheer falls. Balwan Singh had joined the regiment only three months ago but was full of determination.

It took them almost 12 hours to reach the designated spot, battling the hurdles that came in their route. The enemy was taken by surprise when Lt. Balwan Singh and his platoon reached the top. In a state of panic, a desperate fire bombardment followed to repulse the Ghataks (18 Grenediers regiment). In this initial attack, Lt Balwan Singh was severely injured. But even that could not stop him, and his resolution to kill the enemy doubled. He moved ahead and got engaged in close combat with the enemy soldiers. Subsequently, he killed four of them single-handedly. The remaining enemy soldiers chose to flee.

He was a true inspiration for his troops. His grit and tenacity led to capturing Tiger Hill, which was the most crucial victory for Indian army.

After the victory at Kargil, the soldiers were returning home carrying some mixed feelings in their hearts. Those emotions comprised of happiness of winning the war and sadness (and pain too) of losing their comrades in the fierce battle. When all other soldiers were looking forward to return home, Lt. Balwan Singh showed no such interest.

It was then that his commanding officer called him to inform about a call from his father. His father was tensed about his well-being and also wanted to inquire about his homecoming. Lt. Balwan Singh then had to explain his reason for reluctance in returning home. He told his commanding officer that few days ago, a journalist had taken a picture of when he was posing with a cigar. Subsequently, that picture was published in a newspaper as well. From his sources, he came to know that his father had seen that photograph. So, he was hesitant to face his father. It is indeed overwhelming to know how a brave warrior can still be so grounded.

The commanding officer had a good laugh over the incident and called his father to explain the situation. His proud father then came to meet him with a box of cigar and took him home.

Two years after the Kargil victory, Balwan Singh married Yamuna, the daughter of an advocate in Jhajjar. The nation is proud of what he did for us.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Monday, July 13, 2015

Meet Rifleman Sanjay Kumar: The second recipient of Param Vir Chakra from his unit

Kargil War Heroes – Part 10

Sixteen years of the tragic war at Kargil could not take the painful memories away. They continue to haunt us deep inside. The bloodshed that accompanied the war still makes the families of the martyrs cringe. Then how can the denizens of India ever forget the soldiers who fought with great tenacity for the love of nation?

While many soldiers sacrificed their lives at the war front, a few managed to survive. Amidst the valiant, Rifleman Sanjay Kumar is the proud recipient of country’s highest gallantry award, Param Vir Chakra. Last year, he was promoted as junior commissioned officer on the post of Naib Subedar.

During the Kargil war, he was with the 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. The 13 JAK Rifles is the only unit in the history of independent India to be awarded with two PVCs in a single operation. The other one was awarded to Capt. Vikram Batra who laid down his life in the defence of country.

On 4 July 1999, Rifleman Sanjay Kumar and his team were given the task of clearing Point 4875 also known as “Flat Top” situated in Mushkoh Valley. He was the leading scout man. It was a dangerous mission though and the intruders who were occupying the post had all advantages. Somehow Sanjay Kumar and his platoon managed to scale the cliff and were pinned down by machine gun fire from an enemy bunker that was about 150 meters away.

The initial assault thus failed. In the wee hours of 5 July 1999, the Indian army planned a final attack. It was a defining moment in the career of Rifleman Sanjay Kapur when he was asked to lead the attack. He took the golden opportunity to serve his nation and charged at the enemy bunkers, killing several intruders. After destroying the first bunker, he ran out of ammunition and was hit by two bullets in his thigh. But he didn’t give up easily. He went ahead and snatched a machine gun from a Pakistani solider. Subsequently, he captured the second bunker too. His bravery resulted in the successful accomplishment of the mission.

The unit recovered large quantity of arms and ammunition too.

Very few people know that, before selection into Army in 1996, Sanjay Kapur who is a native of Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, used to drive a taxi on the jam-packed roads of Delhi to earn a livelihood. He was selected by the Indian Army on 4 June 1996 after being rejected twice before. Now, his second brother is a sepoy too.

Sanjay was only 23 when he was awarded the PVC, an honour bestowed only on 21 soldiers since 1950.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Capt. Clifford K Nongrum: First and the only MVC recipient from Meghalaya

Kargil War Heroes – Part 9

Kargil was the war that can never be forgotten. It took away so many of our brave soldiers with it, but it can never take away the love and respect that we have for them. Born in a Christian family on 7 March 1975 in Shillong, Meghalaya, Captain Keishing Clifford Nongrum was an officer of the 12th Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry. His father, Keishing Peter, worked at State Bank of India while his mother, Saily Nongrum, is a housewife.

Capt. Nongrum is the first and the only person in Meghalaya to have been awarded India’s second highest gallantry award, ‘Maha Vir Chakra’ for his bravery in crucial times of the Kargil war.

His moment of valour came on 1 July 1999 when he and his platoon was assigned the task of capturing Point 4812. He moved ahead from the South-eastern side to attack on the enemy. It was nearly an impossible vertical height that he had to climb but with his strong grit and determination, he was able to reach on the top with his battalion. There they had to put up with a tough battle.

Capt. Nongrum emerged as a strong leader who charged at the enemy with full force. He subsequently destroyed a bunker all by himself. Disregarding his own safety, he threw grenades at the bunker and killed six enemy soldiers. He fought hand-to-hand with Pakistani soldiers and tried to snatch the universal machine gun from the bunker. Though severely wounded, Captain Nongrum refused to be evacuated and fought valiantly. Moving through the fire zone, he attacked another bunker before he was killed.

His extraordinary valor and supreme sacrifice can never be wiped off the pages of history.

Bust of Capt. Clifford K Nongrum
His father, Keishing Peter has no qualms about waiting five years to get a service station that has promised from the government’s side after his son’s death. Ten years after Kargil victory, an army officer stepped into the Captain’s home to convey the deepest regrets from the President.

Keishing Peter says, “Officers told us how he clambered uphill through the night of July 1, charged through enemy fire and lobbed a grenade killing six Pakistani soldiers in the nearest bunker and punched away some more – he was a boxer too – before snatching a machine gun in another.”

“He was always busy motivating students to join the army,” says his mother Saily.

At the Rhino Museum in Jammu and Kashmir city
Capt. Nongrum had a great interest in Soccer too apart from boxing. “Soccer honed Clifford’s leadership qualities, but we didn’t realize he was using the sport to be fit to join the Short Service Commission after graduating in political science,” recalls Keishing Peter.

After 16 years of the tragic war, we ought to keep the sacrifice of all our brave-hearts alive.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Capt. Vijyant Thapar: He sacrificed his today for our tomorrow

Kargil War Heroes – Part 8

Carrying forward the family legacy, Capt. Vijyant Thapar joined the armed forces. His family had served in the Army for a long time. In fact, he was named after the name of the main battle tank of the army. His great grandfather Dr. Capt. Karta Ram Thapar, his grandfather Mr. J.S. Thapar, and his father Col. V.N. Thapar all served the Army during their professional lives. Vijyant’s grandfather encouraged him to join the Army. Capt. Vijyant’s father retired after 37 years’ service in 1999 and in the same year Capt. Vijyant was commissioned.
Capt. Vijyant then joined the 2 Rajputana Rifles at Gwalior. The battalion then moved to Kashmir to check counter insurgency. While still involved in this counter insurgency, orders were received for the unit to evict the enemy who had occupied Tololing, Tiger Hill, and adjoining heights.

Capt. Vijyant with his troops moved to the Drass sector under Col. M.B. Ravindernath, commanding officer, and his company commander Major Padmapani Acharya. Initial attempts were no good. On the night of June 12, 1999, Capt. Vijyant Thapar led his platoon to capture a Pakistani post called Barbad Bunker. His diary notes show how in close combat he killed two soldiers but was disappointed at not being able to capture the two enemy soldiers alive.

After the victory of Tololing, he spoke to his mother on a V Sat telephone and proudly said, “Mumma, we have captured Tololing.” 2 Rajputana Rifles was then given the task of captaining Three Pimples, Knoll. Capt. Vijyant Thapar aka ‘Robin’ fought like a valiant and true soldier. These forbidding heights were held by enemy Northern Light Infantry (NLI). The troops of NLI (Pakistan) had all the advantages – well entrenched in strongly prepared positions, well stocked with precipitous slopes on both sides. While Indian troops were devoid of cover. With almost vertical climbs at an altitude of 15000 ft and a temperature of -15 °C, it was indeed an impossible mission.

There was intense artillery shelling and heavy bombardment. Some brave soldiers lost their lives and some more were injured, causing the attack to be disrupted for a short while. However, Capt. Vijyant was a brave-heart. With his undying spirit, love to serve the nation, and tremendous urge to capture Knoll, he gathered himself and moved through a ravine to face the enemy with the remaining soldiers.

While the exchange of fire was going on, Capt. Vijyant along with his platoon secured a foothold on Knoll. By this time, his company commander Major Padmapani Acharya had been killed. This further angered Capt. Vijyant and he surged ahead with his colleague Naik Tilak Singh. There were two enemy machine guns firing towards them. After about an hour and a half of fierce exchange of bullets, Capt. Vijyant moved ahead to kill the enemy. Suddenly, a burst of fire struck him on his head. He fell in the arms of his comrade Naik Tilak Singh and closed his eyes forever. The victory at Knoll on 29 June, 1999, is a saga of bravery unmatched, and unbounded grit and determination.

Capt. Vijyant was awarded India’s high military honour, the Vir Chakra by the President of India, for his acts of bravery during the Kargil War. In an exchange of mails, Capt. Vijyant Thapar’s father, Col. V. N. Thapar told me that he is grateful for the fact that the nation still continues to remember his son:
“Sixteen years after we lost our son in the Kargil war your mail was most thoughtful. Thanks. It is this support that has sustained us through these years. Young men like Vijyant did what the nation expected of them – their duty. Actually, the war at Kargil brought the best in the Indian nation – those like Capt. Vijyant, who fought bravely and fell honourably to redeem India’s sanctity and the countrymen who showered their love and their support for the brave hearts. We, of course, feel proud of what he has done, but losing a young son is painful and we go through it every day of our life.
Kargil is already a distant memory. We don’t want the legacy of the young men like Capt. Vijyant to fade and be lost to the coming generation of Indian, who have a right to know what their previous generation did and be inspired.”
Capt. Vijyant Thapar in his childhood days
Even as a child, the captain always thought about others more than himself. As a person, he was very warm hearted and considerate. He always wanted to be in the Army. His favourite toys were guns. He would wear his father’s peak cap, take his cane, and march around like an officer. At the age of four or five, he had already fired a pistol sitting in his dad’s embrace.

His brother, Tarun Thapar says, “Robin’s sacrifice has deeply moved us all. He will always remain in our hearts.” 

During his training, Capt. Vijyant did very well and got the silver medal for standing second in the order of merit in the first term. He also got a Gold Medal in Water Polo. He was a very principled and disciplined person and nothing was more important to him than his nation, India.

At the age of 22 when life was still to come he chose to battle with the enemy with utter disregard for his personal safety.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Cover of the last letter
The last letter

Last Letter
The fighting-point

Friday, July 10, 2015

Capt. Saurabh Kalia: Even after sacrificing his life why he will never get justice?

Kargil War Heroes – Part 7

Captain Saurabh Kalia would have been 39 years old today. But he chose otherwise. His tale is heart-rending. He was subjected to the most brutal form of torture by the Pakistan Army. Even after 16 years, his parents continue to seek justice for him. How can our country afford to be this heartless?

He was a brave son of this nation and he proved to be extraordinary. Born in Amritsar, he was the son of Mrs. Vijaya and Dr. N. K. Kalia. He was a brilliant student and was selected in Indian Military Academy in 1997. Later, he was commissioned in December 1998. His first posting was in the 4 JAT Regiment in the Kargil Sector, along with five other soldiers – Arjun Ram, Bhikha Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh.

Capt. Saurabh Kalia was the first Indian army officer to observe and report large-scale intrusion of Pakistani Army and foreign mercenaries on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) at Kargil. On May 15, 1999, he and his men got engaged in a continuous cross fire with the Pakistan Army across the LoC. After running out of ammunition, they were encircled by a platoon of Pakistani rangers and subsequently, captured alive.

For 22 days (May 15, 1999 – June 7, 1999), they were held in captivity where they were exposed to third degree torture. On June 9, 1999, their bodies were sent back to India with their eardrums pierced with hot rods, eyes punctured and removed, most of the teeth and bones broken, and limbs and genitals cut or chopped off. This created widespread stir among the denizens as these prisoners of war were treated in violation to the Geneva Convention on treatment of war prisoners.

The Deputy High Commissioner of the Pakistani Embassy in New Delhi was summoned on June 15, 1999, and a notice of breach of the Geneva Convention was submitted for the torture and killing of the prisoners of war. The Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh raised the issue with Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan for the identification and punishment of the guilty, but Pakistan continued to deny all the charges. On top of it, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik went on record to say that Capt. Saurabh Kalia and others died because of extreme weather conditions.
However, just like yesterday’s news dies out today, he was forgotten by the nation. But his father continues to hold on to the lamp alone for the past 16 years.

Captain’s family kept trying hard for justice in this case. His father wants the act to be declared a war crime by the UN, and is leaving no stone unturned to get the people responsible for the war crimes punished. However, the government seems to be unperturbed even after numerous letters to the Centre to pursue the matter with the world body.
Britain: We are seeking from the Indian Army a full report of the post-mortem, unfortunately without any success so far.
Israel: Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Pakistan.
Germany: They had contacted the ministry of external affairs and had not received a reply.
Pakistan denied the torture of the six soldiers and rejected India’s demand to punish the guilty.
Capt. Saurabh Kalia’s parents with a photograph of their son.
Even after selflessly sacrificing his life for the nation at an age of 22, there are chances that Capt. Saurabh Kalia might never get the justice that he deserves. The government won’t want Kashmir being dragged in UN court after all. The Modi government has thus decided to bury the case completely as they don’t want their relations with the “neighbouring country” being hampered because of this. In an official statement, The External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that the government had “conventionally held the position that India and Pakistan cannot invoke the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in relation to disputes concerning armed conflicts, hostilities etc. and as they are both members of the Commonwealth”.

A year ago, a YouTube video of a Pakistani soldier admitting that the 32-year-old Indian Army officer was tortured and killed during the 1999 Kargil war, went viral but all the efforts seem to be going in vain.

“I am ashamed of being an Indian. The country has spineless leaders,” said N. K. Kalia. Recently, he has filed a petition in his pursuit of justice. Following the petition filed by his father, N. K. Kalia, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre to seek a response within ten weeks.

He fought bravely, risking his life, leaving his family behind and yet, this is what he got in return. We’re a population of approximately 1.252 billion. Can’t we come together to do our bit for our soldiers? Are we so thankless? To support a father’s fight for justice, you can sign the online petition here:

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Some personal belongings of Capt Saurabh Kalia. Pictures taken at Saurabh Museum, Palampur:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia: Sacrificed his life while saving others at Kargil

Kargil War Heroes – Part 6

The nation owes much to Army as it safeguards the nation from the enemies, while people sleep inside their homes. Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia was fondly known as “Rambo” during his schooling days in Jammu. Born on April 13, 1971, he sacrificed his life on 15 June 1999 during ‘Operation Vijay’ which involved recapturing of Point 5140, which dominates the Srinagar-Leh highway. At 17,000 ft along the Tuloling Ridge Line, this point was the highest position occupied by the Pakistan Army intruders in the Kargil sector.

In order to capture this point, three battalions were sent out from different directions – Garhwal Rifles, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and Naga Regiment. Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia was among the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.

Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia was the grandson of Lt. Col. Khajoor Singh and son of DIG BSF Mr. Arjun Singh Jasrotia. Continuing the family tradition, he joined the Indian Army in 1996 after graduating from Commerce College, Jammu. Nationalism and patriotism was in his blood.
Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia moved with the unit for ‘Operation Vijay’ as part of 56 Mountain Brigade on 15 Jun 1999. There was heavy artillery shelling from the enemy’s side. The very first shell injured six soldiers and sent across a wave of shock and panic among other who desperately ran for cover. Major Jasrotia immediately sensed the gravity of the situation. He decided to be brave and took charge of the situation. Subsequently, he ordered all the troops to take cover within the area of the administrative base. He himself attended to the casualties instead of taking cover. Though artillery shelling continued but it didn’t stop him. He then arranged for evacuation of the wounded soldiers to safety. The shelling continued unabated.
Statue of Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia

Amidst the bombardment, he organized troops into suitable groups and together they carried the soldiers on their backs. Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia got seriously injured when during the evacuation of the casualties, a shell landed in his close vicinity. Disregarding his injuries, he continued with his task of evacuating the injured soldiers. His condition got worsened due to steady loss of blood. Despite persistent persuasions by the troops, he refused to leave the battleground as life slowly ebbed out of him. He finally succumbed to his injuries. But before he closed his eyes, he sent six serious casualties to safety, all of whom later survived.

Thus, more than himself he cared about his fellow army soldiers. Major Ajay Singh Jasrotia was awarded with the Sena Medal for his exceptional sacrifice during Kargil War. His contribution cannot be ignored. He was an exemplary soldier who can be a motivational force for others. His family is proud of him. Even after 16 years, he continues to live as heroes like him can never be forgotten.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Major Padmapani Acharya: A portrait of valour

Kargil War Heroes – Part 5

For soldiers, there seems to be nothing more essential than the nation. For them, celebration means victory in a war. Their whole life is centered on the nation. June 21, 1999 was Major Padmapani Acharya’s 30th birthday, an occasion to be cherished. He spoke to his family members over phone on that day as he was posted at Kargil. If only he knew that it would be his last phone call…

Just a week after his birthday, on June 28, 1999, Indian Army 2nd Rajputana Rifles was assigned the task to take possession of the enemy bunker at the Tololing Top as it was a dominant position overlooking the Srinagar – Leh Highway (NH 1D). Success of the battalion hinged on the early capture of this position. The Battle of Tololing was thus, one of the pivotal battles in the Kargil War.

There was a large number of causalities as a result of this attack but this didn’t stop Major Acharya from performing his duty for the nation. Unmindful of his own safety, Major Padmapani Acharya took the reserve platoon and led it through raining bombardment. His men were heavily injured but he continued to encourage them and charged at the enemy with the remaining soldiers. He crawled up to the bunker and lobbed grenades. When he was severely injured and unable to move, he ordered his men to leave him and attack the enemy while he continued to fire. After a night long fierce hand-to-hand battle, the battalion succeeded in recapturing Tololing Top thus turning the course of Kargil War. It was only after the mission was accomplished that the Major closed his eyes.
His wife Charulatha, mother Vimla and daughter Aparajita

His family got a call from Army, saying, “Your son fought bravely. He created history but is no more.” Major’s wife, Mrs. Charulatha Acharya was six months pregnant when her husband passed away. It is impossible to feel the pain that she would have undergone then. His father Jagannath Acharya, a retired Air Force Wing Commander remembers him with pain in his heart, “You have to accept the inevitable and adjust accordingly. It is tough to digest, but we all are proud of him and miss him.” His mother reveals that the Major had done a course in Hotel Management but his passion for Army won at last, “As a mother, I am definitely sad and hurt but as a patriot, I am proud of my son. He lives forever, whereas I will not. He made me promise that I would not cry when he left for the front.”

His parents – Jagannath Acharya and his wife Vimala Acharya
In his last letter dated 19 June 1999 to his father, Major Padmapani Acharya said “…combat is an honour of a lifetime and I would not think of anything less. What better way to serve the nation”.

He is a true inspiration and his daughter Aparajita (now in class 11th) hopes to follow his footsteps someday. “Now that the Army has opened its gates for women. I would love to see my granddaughter join the Army,” says Mr. Jagannath Acharya, proudly. Thus, even after the supreme sacrifice of Major Padmapani Acharya, the family continues to be driven by their tradition of serving in Indian Armed Forces. The nation can do their bit by remembering him in their prayers and continue to keep him alive in their hearts.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg
The last letter that Major Acharya wrote to his father

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Capt. Anuj Nayyar: For this Kargil hero, nation came first, everything else later

Kargil War Heroes – Part 4

During the training period, soldiers are often told that they are born to sacrifice their life at the time of need. But have you ever wondered what all do they leave behind?

Capt. Anuj Nayyar was only 24 when he died fighting for the nation. He left behind not only his family but also a loving fiancée who he loved for the past decade. He was a true hero in every sense.
Born on 28 August, 1975 in Delhi, he was awarded with Maha Vir Chakra for his leadership qualities and heroic act. His mother, Meena Nayyar worked for South Campus library at Delhi University, while his father, S.K. Nayyar worked as a visiting professor in Delhi School of Economics.

Capt. Anuj Nayyar was a young officer of the 17 Jat Regiment of the Indian Army. Even though his death resulted in grief that can never go away, his family is still proud of him. His father remembers him with a smile and shares an incident from his school days, “His Maths teacher used to call him ‘a bundle of energy’ as he was always on the run. He was the most notorious student in his class. Tired of his regular mischief, his teacher had once written on the notice board, ‘I want Anuj – dead or alive’!”

“He was the best volleyball player in his school. We used to tell him not to play because he ruined his shirt. From then on, he used to take off his shirt and play. Then we told him, his vest was getting dirty so he should not play the game. But then, he took off his vest too and played! With a mind like his, how could one stop him from doing what he wanted?” he asks.

In 1999, during the Kargil war in Jammu and Kashmir, Indian Army called out for its brave soldiers to safeguard the nation against the enemy. Capt. Nayyar was given the operation to secure Point 4875, also known as ‘Pimple II’, which was considered to be a strategic location on the western side of Tiger Hill. It was occupied by Pakistani infiltrators at that moment. Getting its possession back was a top priority for the Indian Army.

During the initial phase of the attack the platoon was deeply wounded. It was then decided that the team will split into two groups, one of them was being led by Captain Anuj Nayyar. Captain Nayyar’s troops consisted of 7 personnel, and they succeeded in locating 4 enemy bunkers. The Captain fought bravely against the enemy soldiers. The tenacity displayed by him in that situation is unparalleled. He managed to kill 9 Pakistani soldiers and destroyed three medium machine gun bunkers. Under his leadership, the platoon successfully cleared three of the four bunkers but while clearing the fourth bunker, a grenade from the enemy’s side fell directly on Captain Nayyar. Despite being severely injured, he continued to lead the remaining men in his company. It was only after clearing the last bunker that he breathed his last on 7 July, 1999.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg

Monday, July 6, 2015

Capt. N. Kenguruse: Climbed icy heights of Kargil barefoot to defeat the enemy

Kargil War Heroes – Part 3

A name rarely talked about among the Kargil martyrs is Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguruse. The soldier was born in Nagaland on 15 July 1974. He was called ‘Neibu’ by his family and friends and the north Indian soldiers who served under him fondly addressed him as ‘Nimbu Sahab’.

His bravery in the Kargil war can never be wiped out from the pages of history. He was awarded with the Maha Vir Chakra for his determination and prowess.

His moment of valour came when he was made a part of ‘Operation Vijay’. On the fateful night of 28 June 1999, he was the Ghatak platoon commander during the attack on area ‘Black Rock’ in icy heights of the Drass Sector.

Without thinking of his own safety, he volunteered to undertake a daring commando mission which involved attacking an enemy machine gun position on a cliff face. As the commando team scaled the cliff, Captain’s boots lost grip because of the slippery surface. But nothing can stop a soldier when he is at mission, and so was the case with the brave Captain N. Kenguruse.

At a height of 16,000 feet and a temperature of -10 degrees, he kicked off his shoes and somehow climbed up while carrying with him a rocket launcher with which he fired at the enemy position. He emerged as a true inspiration for his platoon when despite the hurdles, he killed four enemy soldiers. It was then that a bullet hit him hard, but before falling off the cliff, he had done enough damage to the enemy and proved his mettle.

His troops went on to capture the Lone Hill. When the mission was accomplished, they dedicated the victory to ‘Nimbu Sahab’. His dare devil act is exemplary for his troops as well as the whole nation. He was the true spirited warrior for his state and country.

His family never thought that he would don the military uniform one day, but when he did, he made them proud. His family has no qualms now. Their son has secured a place in millions of hearts across the nation and will continue to live there. In his last letter to his father he wrote – “I may not be able to return home to be a part of our family again. Even if I don’t make it, do not grieve for me because I have already decided to give my best for the nation.” Soldiers like him are not born every day. His brave contribution during the war is undeniable.

Capt. Neikezhakuo Kenguruse was just 25 when he breathed his last. His story should be an encouragement for the young generation to follow in his footsteps.

The whole Kargil segment and few other write-ups written by me can also be read here - Ila Garg