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.
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