Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kargil war: the neglected heroes

The Tribune Sunday, July 25, 2010, Chandigarh, India
Kargil war: the neglected heroes
Many military veterans have returned the medals awarded to them for gallantry and fighting wars to the President, a sure sign of frustration and feeling of neglect, points out Gen V.P. Malik (retd)

Peter and Saily Keishing live in a small double-storey house in a narrow, steep sloping street of Shillong. When we visited their home recently, the whole family was present to give us a warm reception. Our conversation was mostly about their middle son, Nongrum, who had created history in Meghalaya by getting commission into the Army and leading his men of 12 JAK Light Infantry in the Kargil war.

Captain Nongrum had demonstrated outstanding gallantry while leading his men to capture Point 4812 and was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously. His battalion also captured the first Pakistan Army prisoner of war, Naik Inayat Ali, which ended all misinformation about mujahideen being the infiltrators.
The Keishings maintain Nongrum’s room with almost everything that he left behind. All awards, presentations, write-ups in the media are kept in this room. Keishings have lost their son. But his gallantry and sacrifice for the nation live on for the family and their friends!

Gopi Chand and Mohini Pandey too maintain a separate room with all the memorabilia of their son Manoj in their house in Gomti Nagar, Lucknow. “He continues to live with us”, said his sister when we visited their home. Her brother Lieutenant Manoj Pandey of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles participated in a series of attacks at Khalubar. On the night of July 2–3, 1999, when Manoj’s platoon approached their final objective under intense enemy fire at Khalubar, it was nominated to clear the interfering enemy bunkers.

While clearing the third bunker, he sustained a machine-gun burst to which he succumbed. His daredevil act, however, enabled the Gorkhas to capture Khalubar. Manoj Pandey was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his outstanding acts of bravery.

In every martyr’s home that I have visited after the Kargil war, there is a room or a corner full of memories, which gives pride and sustains the family.
Captain Vikram Batra, awarded the PVC for his actions at Point 5140 and Point 4875, reminds us of his success signal, “Yeh dil mange more”. Grenadier Yogendra Yadav, also awarded the PVC, led the assault to fix a rope for his colleagues on top of Tiger Hill. Captain Vijayant Thapar, in his last letter to his parents, wrote, “By the time you get this letter, I will be enjoying the company of Apsaras in the sky.” He ended up his letter with “OK then, it is time for me to join my assault party of the dirty dozen.” The Vir Chakra in Vijayant’s room is the pride of the family.

Sudhir Kumar, my ADC, volunteered to join his battalion 9 Para. Without acclimatisation, he led his troops to capture Zulu Top, almost the last battle in the Kargil war. Hanif-ud-din led his team of 11 Rajputana Rifles to capture Point 5590. He succumbed to his injuries and the body fell in a crevice. His mother had to wait for 20 days before we could recover his body and hand it over to her. Captain Kengruse scaled a sheer rock face at Three Pimples in Dras bare-footed, literally hanging on by his fingers and toes. After reaching the top, he killed two enemy soldiers with a commando knife before he was fatally wounded.

Thousands of Naga people along the road between Dimapur and Kohima spent long hours to salute his body on its last homeward journey. 1 Bihar lost Major Sarvanan in a failed assault on Point 4924 at the Jubar complex on May 29. Determined to recover his body, the battalion captured this feature finally on July 8. The battalion recovered his body along with a large cache of enemy arms and ammunition and dead bodies of many Pakistani soldiers. At this time, our national spirit and respect for the soldiers was so high that a Union Minister, the late Ranganathan Kumaramangalam, personally escorted Saravanan’s body to his hometown in Trichnapally, where a solemn farewell was given.

There were countless acts of gallantry, displays of steely resilience, single-minded devotion to duty and sacrifices. The war in Kargil saw unalloyed heroism, which will remain a benchmark for valour whenever the security of our nation is threatened. All units responded with alacrity and with their characteristic steadfastness and perseverance.
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Kargil war: the neglected heroes

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