As India commemorates the 24th anniversary of Operation Vijay’s success on 26 July, the heroic tales of valour and sacrifice of the armed forces should make every citizen proud. The Kargil conflict may have sent shockwaves across India and the world when it started in the summer of 1999; however, the bravery and sacrifice displayed by the Indian Army during this intense battle made it forever etched in the hearts of people and the pages of history.
The limited war erupted in the icy heights of the Kargil district in Jammu and Kashmir in May 1999. It was a result of Pakistan’s intrusion into the Indian side of the Line of Control (LOC), violating the sanctity of the temporary line dividing the erstwhile state of J&K into two, with one part under illegal Pakistani occupation. The Pakistani Army, true to its traditions, pushed both its regulars and terrorists across the LoC to occupy strategic heights in the Kargil sector during the winter months, when the two armies withdrew from the rugged mountain heights to escape the extreme cold, with an informal understanding to respect the sanctity of the line.
This act of aggression may have caught the Indian Army off-guard as the spring of 1999 arrived, but it responded swiftly to this audacious act and embarked on a mission to reclaim the occupied territories. What followed was an intense and heroic struggle that lasted for nearly three months and a military campaign for textbooks on how to win the high-altitude wars.
The response of the Indian Army to this Kargil intrusion was marked by unparalleled bravery, unwavering determination, resilience and courage, up in those life-threatening treacherous conditions. The soldiers exhibited unwavering courage as they confronted harsh weather conditions, steep inclines and rugged terrain, and the continuous fire to push back the determined invaders. Their exceptional skills, determination, and unyielding resolve throughout the war left the world in awe of their gallantry, with every soldier acting as an epitome of sacrifice and patriotism in defence of the nation’s integrity.
The stories of valour and sacrifice revealed the determination and strength of the Indian Army to the world. Countless stories of individual acts of bravery emerged during the Kargil War, which has been etched into the nation’s popular memory. The valiant efforts of soldiers like Captain Vikram Batra (Param Vir Chakra, Posthumous, 13 JAK Rifles), Captain Manoj Pandey (Param Vir Chakra, Posthumous, 1/11 Gorkha Rifles), Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav (Param Vir Chakra,18 Grenadiers), Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari (Maha Vir Chakra, Posthumous, 18 Grenadiers), Major Vivek Gupta (Maha Vir Chakra, Posthumous, 2 Rajputana Rifles), Captain N Kenguruse (Maha Vir Chakra, Posthumous, 2 RAJ RIF), Lieutenant Balwan Singh (Maha Vir Chakra, 18 Grenadiers), and Rifleman Sanjay Kumar (Param Vir Chakra, 13 JAK Rifles), among others, demonstrated unconquerable spirit and selflessness.
These bravehearts knew the risks, yet they marched forward to safeguard their motherland and, as such, became household names and inspirations to the new generation of Indians, who remain confident of conquering the world while defending the motherland.
As much as we celebrate the heroics of the Indian Army, it should never be forgotten that the sacrifices of these soldiers and their families remain immeasurable in words or otherwise. Can there be any higher level of sacrifice that anyone could ever offer for the unity and integrity of the nation? The answer is straight no, and hence it becomes paramount for the country to celebrate their courage while committing ourselves to the betterment of the nation in whatever way one can contribute.
At the same time, it must be noted that the success of Operation Vijay conveyed an explicit message to Pakistan and its rogue army that their dirty tricks to destabilise India in Jammu and Kashmir would not go unchecked. It was because of this outright victory that the initiator of the Kargil War, General Parvez Musharaf, who installed himself as Pakistan’s president after staging a coup d’état following the humiliating defeat, came begging for dialogue to resolve bilateral issues between the two countries. It also became a defining moment in crushing the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K, which ushered in a new era of hope and confidence for the locals in the democratic ideals of India. Further, it marginalised the minuscule pro-Pakistan constituency that had thrived on the cycle of violence and instability in the region.
With the legacy of the Kargil War martyr’s living on, their valour has become an integral part of India and India’s history, reminding us of the indomitable spirit that courses through the veins of our armed forces. The bravery of the Indian Army during the Kargil War united the nation like never before. People rallied behind the armed forces from the length and breadth of the country, be it the cities or the villages, by providing unwavering support and gratitude. The sacrifices of these martyrs reinforced the sense of national pride and strengthened the nation’s commitment to defending the country’s sovereignty. As the country faces some challenges from the adversarial forces hell-bent on jeopardising the stability and security of India, the anniversary of the Kargil War serves as a uniting factor to defeat the nefarious designs of the enemy forces.
Therefore, as we commemorate our heroes in respect and gratitude, their courage, sacrifice, and dedication inspire the nation. The country owes gratitude to these bravehearts and their families, for their supreme sacrifices have ensured that the tricolour flies high and India stands strong and proud.
At last just want to say that,
Bodies battered and minds shattered;
They carried on ‘coz Victory mattered