Kargil Vijay Diwas: Remembering the Heroes of Kargil War

Kargil Vijay Diwas is the day when the nation pays homage to all the Indian soldiers and civilians who served and fought for their motherland. On July 26, 1999, Indian Army successfully completed ‘Operation Vijay’. In 1998-99, Pakistan army personnel were infiltrating Indian borders to cause disruption in Kashmir and severe ties between the Kashmir and Ladakh region, disguised as mujahideens. ‘Operation Badr’ was the operation code used by the Pakistani army intruders. On July 26, Indian troops captured the highest outposts in the Kargil-Dras region, thus marking an end to two months long military conflict. The day is a remembrance for all the bravehearts who fought fearlessly in the extreme weather conditions, laying down their lives to protect the country.

How it all unfolded?

The period after the Indo-Pak War in 1971 saw a relative decline in direct armed conflicts between both countries with military involvement. However, India and Pakistan were both looking to control the Siachen Glacier region by putting up military outposts in the nearby mountains ridges.

As a result, there were small-scale military altercations during the 1980s. Siachen glacier was considered to be an important geographical location for both the nations. The 1990s saw tensions and conflict escalating due to the unrest in the valley fuelled by the rise of separatist movement. Pakistan was accused of supporting and training the ‘mujahideens’ in infiltrating the porous borders of the two countries. In 1998, both the countries conducted nuclear tests that made the world nervous, with the arch-rivals getting hold of weapons that could jeopardise the whole population of the subcontinent if used in a full-scale war. The situation became hostile between both the countries. In order to ease the growing tension amongst India-Pakistan, both countries signed Lahore Declaration in February of 1999. Things took a nasty turn when, during 1998-99, covert agents of Pakistan Army started training and infiltrating paramilitary forces, and some troops disguised as ‘mujahideens’ clandestinely entered India from the other side of the Line of Control (LOC). The ‘Operation Badr’ aimed to create disruption in the Kashmir valley and severe the links between the valley and Ladakh region, to coerce the Indian army to withdraw troops from Siachen glacier region, while forcing them to settle the Kashmir issue through negotiations.

During the initial days, Indian army could not figure out if it was a planned insurgency or the extent of it. They assumed infiltrators to be jihadis and were working to evict these jihadi elements from Indian Administered Kashmir. However, a shepherd named Tashi Namgyal who was out on the Banju Hills in Batalik on the look out for his yak noticed 6 Pakistani army men crossing into the Indian side of LOC. He immediately ran to the nearest Indian army outpost to report the incident.

Soon, Indian government had issued an order to mobilise 200,000 army personnel in the vulnerable region, and named the operation as ‘Operation Vijay’. Pakistani forces had covered 130 sq. km to 200 sq. km, and Indian troops became aware that the situation needs to be brought under control.

The honoured fighters of Kargil War

Kargil War was the first war to be covered by Indian journalists from the location of war directly. Several Men of Honour fought valiantly against the Pakistani army. Some stayed and saw the tricolour unfurled at the top of the highest Indian Military check post. Several army personnel were wounded, while some had achieved martyrdom.

Here is a list of Gallantry Award winners for their contribution in protecting the nation:

Name Designation Regiment Awards When
Yogendra Singh Yadav Grenadier 18 Grenadiers Param Vir Chakra
Manoj Kumar Pandey Lieutenant 1/11 Gorkha Rifles Param Vir Chakra, Posthumous Posthumous
Vikram Batra Captain 13 JAK Rifles Param Vir Chakra Posthumous (In pic)
Sanjay Kumar Rifleman 13 JAK Rifles Param Vir Chakra
Anuj Nayyar Captain 17 JAT Regiment Maha Vir Chakra Posthumous
Rajesh Singh Adhikari Major 18 Grenadiers Maha Vir Chakra Posthumous
Haneef-u-ddin Captain 11 Rajputana Rifles Vir Chakra Posthumous
Mariappan Saravanan Major 1 Bihar Vir Chakra Posthumous
Ajay Ahuja Squadron Leader Indian Air Force Vir Chakra Posthumous
Chuni Lal Hawaldar 8 JAK LI Vir Chakra. Also awarded Sena Medal for gallantry and posthumously awarded Ashok Chakra as a Naib Subedar

Same old story

Pakistan initially did not own up to their involvement in the Kargil conflict, stating that the Indian army was involved in a fight against ‘Kashmiri freedom fighters’. But, later on the Pakistani government awarded medals to Pakistani soldiers, which removed the uncertainty related to Pakistan’s involvement in the whole incident.

All in all, both countries suffered high number of casualties in the two month long conflict, as Pakistan lost between 357 to 453 soldiers, while for India victory came with a huge price as the casualty toll on India’s side was 527, according to official records. As a consequence of war, India increased its defence expenditure. However, it led to procurement irregularities by the government. In the last 24 years, situation on the ground has not changed much with respect to bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. Kargil War will forever be etched in our collective memories. Indian army showed why it is one of the best armies in the world, with an ability to guard our borders irrespective of hostile terrains. Pakistan’s obsession with India and Kashmir is never going to get over, while Kashmir remains a political bone of contention for leaders from both the countries, who time and again use the Kashmir issue for political and electoral benefits.

Related Links:

July 26th 1999 – Kargil War Ends

Major wars fought between India and Pakistan

Famous War Memorials of Puducherry