Exclusive — Kargil Vijay Diwas: Maj Gen GD Bakshi and journalist reminisce Kargil War
On July 26, 1999, the Indian Army had announced the successful culmination of "Operation Vijay", declaring victory over Paksitan after the nearly three-month-long battles in Kargil.
New Delhi: India is paying tributes to war heroes on Kargil Vijay Diwas today (July 26). It is celebrated every year on July 26 to recount the sacrifice and martyrdom of our armed forces that brought laurels to the country by defeating a deceitful and untrustworthy neighbour of ours, Pakistan, during the Kargil War in 1999.
It is celebrated to honour the sacrifices of the nation’s brave soldiers who laid down their lives on the lofty heights of Kargil on the frontlines to secure an unparalleled victory in the annals of military history.
The slogans like ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ and ‘Jhanda Uncha Rahe Hamara’ became so popular and intoxicating that even today they have the same effect as they did 21 years ago.
Recounting that “Goli lagne par karahne ki bhi ijazat nahi thi jawano ko…,” veteran journalist Law Kumar Mishra and Retd Major General GD Bakshi shared their experiences with Asianet Newsable on the heroic deeds of India’s soldiers and the details of various battles which made this victory possible.
Major General GD Bakshi (Retd): (A man of versatile talents, Bakshi is possibly India’s most famous thinking and talking military veteran, certainly the most popular with the resurgent nationalists. Author of several well-researched books on military strategy, he is best known for his forceful articulation of the national interest on prime time news on several channels. Ex-Army General Bakshi is from the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. He was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal for commanding a battalion in the Kargil War. Later, he was awarded the Sena Medal for distinguished service in commanding a battalion during counter-insurgency drives. He subsequently commanded the Romeo Force (Part of elite Rashtriya Rifles) during intensive counter-insurgency operations in the Rajouri-Poonch districts of Jammu and Kashmir and succeeded in suppressing the armed militancy in this area. He has served two tenures at the Directorate General of Military Operations and was the first BGS (IW) at HQ Northern Command, where he dealt with Information Warfare and Psychological Operations.)
‘‘Kargil Vijay Diwas (26 July) is the day when we won a great victory against Pakistan. Pakistan had a treacherous attack in Kargil. In1998, our Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had gone to Lahore on Lahore Bus Yatra to talk peace with Pakistan. We had signed the treaty of Lahore and hoped that now that two countries are nuclear, there would be peace. But even as the peace deal was being signed, Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf was planning to stab India in the back by striking in Kargil. They came and occupied the heights of Kargil overlooking the Leh and Srinagar Highway with a view to cut it by bringing direct fire weapons onto the road.
“They came in the guise of civilian terrorists. But it was five units of northern light infantry. India was initially surprised. But then India hit back hard with its artillery, with air force…and the infantry fought yard by bloody yard…inch by bloody inch…and threw every Pakistani out of every inch of our soil. More than 550 of our jawans laid down their lives and about 2,000 were wounded. India paid a big price, but we threw Pakistani out and India gained a lot of respect in the world forum because of this.
“And today we remember all those martyrs like Capt Vikram Batra, Param Veer Chakra; Capt Manoj Pandey, Param Veer Chakra with great pride. We have some of them alive with us. Honorary Capt Yogendra Yadav and Subedar Major Sanjay Kumar are still with us. Lt Gen YK Joshi, senior Army officer in the northern region, Veer Chakra awardee, was a Commanding Officer in Operation Vijay in 1999. YK Joshi himself led several assault operations, to push the enemy back from Indian territory. Today is the day to bow down our heads in honour of their courage, their sacrifice and their great determination to do what was right for the country. Jai Bharat! Jai Hind!’’
Law Kumar Mishra: (A veteran journalist who covered the Kargil war. Worked with several leading dailies including The Times of India. During his four decades of journalism, he has rendered his services in 10 states, including Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Jharkhand.)
“It was an experience of a lifetime for me as a journalist to cover the Kargil War. The 15 Corps of Indian Army had issued permission letters for entering the war zone. After having breakfast in the Army camp at Sonemarg, we were allowed to enter the conflict area from Jhumra Mor which led us to Drass around noon, crossing Zozilla Pass on the highway at a height of 12,000 ft. For the first time, we could see hundreds of Bofors guns lined up on the southern end of the NH-1A (Ladakh to Srinagar) and thousands of emptied shells lying on the fields. Jawans and officers of 8 Mountain Division and 8 Grenadiers were in action with their war cries. Some of them were shouting ‘Raja Ramchandra ki Jai’.
“We could notice heavy shelling after sunset as we were put in some bunkers. The parallel telecommunication system laid down by Pakistani army in Drass town was visible indicating locals’ role in helping them. The Drass Circuit House was also bombed by the enemies. On NH-1A, we could see two oil tankers burned due to Pak shelling.
“At Kargil Circuit House, the local MLA and state tourism minister had evening tea with us and showed us the movement of Pakistani troops on snow scooters on a hill facing Kargil town. Since war was raging on full scale, all hotels and restaurants at the bus stand had shut down. Only one hotel, Hotel Zozilla, was open, where we stayed. Hotel Kargil was damaged due to shelling from across the border. The bungalow of the SP too was hit by shells. The deputy commissioner of Kargil had shifted to a guesthouse when his bungalow too received shells. Only one roadside dhaba of a Sardar was open, which served only dal, chawal and onions. The only means of communications was a STD booth, which used to be open for a few hours, both for newsmen and the Army jawans. The jawans queued up to talk to their relatives before marching to the hills and the reporters waited for faxing their reports.
“Once shelling started from the Pakistan side, even this STD booth was shut down and reporters and jawans made to remain indoor till shelling concluded. One evening, I met a jawan who hailed from Buxar in Bihar, scheduled to leave for hills early next morning. Since he was not able to talk to his relatives over phone, he handed over the telephone number of his relative with a request to convey them that he was safe.
“During evening hours, it seemed to be sort of Diwali, with both Indian and Pakistani troops exchanging fire amid deafening sound and lights. Once we were in the war zone, it was difficult to come out of Sonemarg or Kargil as the roads to Leh and Srinagar were closed. The daily briefing took place at Drass, but once we entered Kargil, reporters had to depend on the local Army or official sources for developments. We got reports about barbaric killings of our officers and jawans at Batalik sector. While returning from Kargil after the ceasefire took place, we were told at Drass about the casualties of our officers, some of whom had briefed us and exchanged pleasantries when we were on the way to Kargil. The grateful nation will always remember their patriotism and valour.”
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