I was there to pay my respect to the Kargil war Heroes. It was June 2014. I know the area well. It was my place of posting once, almost thirty years back. The tears in my eyes, I didn’t forget ever for a day. My heart was heavy. Yes, I did cry, tears had started rolling out of my heart and soul. I could not stop myself. The names and those plates, in some hundreds, of martyred soldiers, next to Drass war memorial made me cry, remembering the fallen heroes, far away from home. Before they breathed their last, tears must have trickled from their eyes too. They were those soldiers who had faced the unknown fear to live death of glory forever. Brave soldiers gave up their lives fighting the enemy in extremely cold and adverse weather conditions.
A well turned out and smart NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) from JAK LI was perfectly to the mark in his briefing, giving out gist of operations undertaken during Kargil war in 1999. We were the strength of about twenty-five people. All were civilians except me. I had reciprocated with pride, when the NCO had sought permission to commence his briefing. His briefing made me remember the lives of those fallen soldiers, who had decided to go very far from the ones they loved. They were those brave soldiers who had kept their wives, children and parents waiting forever for them to return home. They reminded me of those touching lines from famous poem ‘Nameless Soldier’ by David Harris, “No more will he see the joy again within his loved ones’ eyes”. They were those soldiers who had fallen before their time and had left their mothers to weep for their lost sons.
I revisited my association with Colonel MB Ravindranath, Commanding Officer of 2 Rajputana Rifles. Recapture of Tololing Top was made possible through raw bravery and courage of his boys. His famous terse message with choked throat, “Sir, I’m on Tololing,” would remain historic. It was not easy; he had lost many brave boys of his. Recapture of Tololing Hill feature is the story of one of the toughest battle ever fought by the Indian army. Nearly half the total causalities suffered during the Kargil war were at Tololing. Those 90 soldiers from the unit, who volunteered to recapture this vital feature narrates a real story of raw courage. Word ‘Volunteer’ speaks volumes of their bravery. They were brave sons of their brave mothers.
Havildar Yashvir Singh Tomar charged the last of the bunkers and was later found with his rifle in one hand and grenade in the other. It was a fierce and night long and hand to hand battle. One officer, two JCOs and seven Jawans lay dead before him. Here bare hands and bravery had replaced the most lethal weapons. Later on, Colonel Ravindranath wept in his tent. He counted the price of recapturing a height, which changed the course of the Kargil war. It claimed lives of Lt Colonel Viswanathan, Major Rajesh Adhikari and Captain Vivek Gupta. Three week long assault finally was successful in reclaiming this hill feature by dislodging the intruders.
Location of the memorial itself is tribute to those brave sons of the soil. One is able to locate and see famous hill features, Tololing or Tiger Hill from there. Tiger Hill is one of the highest peaks in the area and its recapture was one of the most vital objectives for Indian forces during the Kargil War. It is also known as Point 5353 (16500 feet). A well laid out war museum within the complex makes the tribute to those brave souls complete. There were times, when graves of nameless soldiers used to lay unattended, at a place far from their homes. It was Mr George Mathew Fernades, India’s Defence Minister during Kargil war, who had worked hard to ensure that bodies of slain soldiers were sent to their homes for their last rites. He was a believer in truth and stood as humanitarian to the core. Such people rarely exist; he was the voice of a soldier. He was a real heroic leader. He made it possible that lonely graves did not exist, and later to be forgotten and remained unattended in battlegrounds far from their homes. It was made sure that those fallen soldiers were not alone, they were welcomed home. I proudly remember having met and shaken hand with him, while in service.
My visit makes me remember young Lieutenants, brave Captains and experienced Majors with great pride. They had led by setting examples personally and even coercing the troops into charging well fortified bunkers. They were the officers who had taken extra efforts to motivate their men to go for suicidal missions and enter hail of bullets, where flesh of brave charging boys was torn to shreds. It was an emotional visit. At the same time, I was happy that the deceased soldiers had their last rites performed by their families. Their graves were not left to be dug out by wild animals.