“I will either come back after raising the Indian flag in victory or return wrapped in it. But I’ll come back for sure.”

This is what Captain Vikram Batra said when he came home for the last time during the Holi holidays. The young warrior, who chanted Yeh Dil Maange More, came home the next time, as he said, with the national flag wrapped around his body but only after the enemy had been decimated and the same flag had been successfully hoisted.

Captain Vikram Batra and many such legends of Kargil War followed the legacy of such a sacrificial and heroic Indian Army. The courage of the parents who receive the Tricolour in the place of their children is the reason we live safely.

In the summer of 1999, ‘Operation Vijay’ embodied the thrilling adventures, bloodshed and relentless sacrifices made by our soldiers to reclaim the motherland from the enemy. The day we chased away the enemy and hoisted the victory flag is remembered as ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’. Let us recall the supreme sacrifices made by these heroes for the motherland and the events that took place around it.

Lahore Declaration

It was hoped that both India and Pakistan would make every effort to establish a peaceful environment, as a direct war would be catastrophic after the two countries became nuclear powers (after 1998). One half of that hope and trust was fulfilled. India has done all it can for regional peace. Our then Prime Minister Vajpayee travelled on the inaugural bus between India and Pakistan for the first time on February 21, 1999, to sign the ‘Lahore Declaration’. In the environment of both countries becoming nuclear powers, the peace deal was very popular at the time. It was signed by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and his counterpart Vajpayee.

It was widely rumoured that Pakistan Army Chief Pervez Musharraf did not like the declaration and had bigger plans on his own. To prove it true later, within two months of the signing of the agreement, Pakistan Paramilitary soldiers, disguised as Kashmiri militants, infiltrated the Indian side of LOC.

Strategic analyst Lieutenant Colonel CR Sunder (retd) says that the Kargil war was caused by Musharraf’s personal ambition. He added that Musharraf, who led Operation Siachar, which lost the Siacher Glacier to India in 1984, had a long-held desire to capture Kargil, a plan that began to be implemented in 1998 when he rose to be the Army Chief.

How It All Began

For easy understanding, we can divide the Kargil War into three parts. Disguised as Kashmiri militants, the Pakistani military entered the Indian border near Kargil and occupied significant areas and ridges. After India discovered this, it mobilized its forces to recover the lost territory and launched an offensive. India’s victory in the large-scale war between the Indian and Pakistani forces drove the enemy forces out of our land and levelled the border situation as before.

The city of Kargil is located at a distance of 205 km (127 miles) from Srinagar. The reason Kargil was targeted was that its terrain was ideal for capturing many military positions in advance. It is very easy to defend after capturing those mountain ridges. Any attack to evacuate occupiers in a mountain environment war requires a high proportion of attackers to the defenders, and difficulties increase with altitude and freezing temperatures.

In early May, the peak summer time, Pakistani paramilitary troops began to infiltrate the Indian border, which was reported to the Indian Army by local herdsmen. Six Indian soldiers who went on patrol to monitor this were captured, tortured and killed.

On May 15, 1999, soldiers of the 4th Jat Regiment, Saurabh Kalia, Arjun Ram, Banwar Lal Bakaria, Bika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh, were on regular patrol at the Kaksar Sector Bajrang Post in the Ladakh mountains. Then a gun battle broke out with Pakistani forces across the LOC. Exhausted by the ammunition, they were surrounded by a contingent of Pakistani Rangers and captured before Indian reinforcements could reach them.

Post-mortem examinations of the slain soldiers conducted by India reported that the prisoners variously had cigarette burns, ear-drums pierced with hot rods, many broken teeth and bones, fractured skulls, eyes that had been punctured before being removed, cut lips, chipped noses, and amputated limbs and genitalia. According to the examinations, these injuries preceded the captives being shot dead in the head.

Their torture and murder caused great unrest in India. Pakistan denied this outright. India, which had until then considered the incursions to be the handiwork of regular Kashmir militants, realized the seriousness of the occupation and began to take retaliatory measures.

The Brief Timeline Of the War (1999)

 On May 3, the infiltration of the Pakistan Army in Kargil was reported to the Indian Army by local shepherds. An army patrol was dispatched on May 5 to monitor this; 6 Indian soldiers were captured and tortured.

An ammunition dump in Kargil was damaged in heavy shelling by the Pakistani army on May 9. On May 10, infiltrations were first observed in the Tross, Kaksar and Mushko sectors. In mid-May, the Indian Army moved more troops from the Kashmir Valley to the Kargil sector.

On May 26, the IAF launched airstrikes against the infiltrators. On May 27, Pakistani Army Air Defense Forces shot down two of our aircraft and Lieutenant Kampathy Nachiketa was taken prisoner of war. On May 28, the IAF MI-17 was shot down by Pakistan, killing all four onboard.

On June 6, the Indian Army launched a major offensive in Kargil. On June 9, the Indian Army recaptured two important positions in the Patalik sector. On June 11 India released a conversation between Pakistani Army Commander General Pervez Musharraf and Lieutenant General Aziz Khan, Chief of Staff in Rawalpindi, as evidence of the Pakistani military’s involvement in the Kargil war.

On June 15, US President Bill Clinton, in a telephone conversation, forced Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to withdraw from Kargil. On June 29, the Pakistani military’s food and arms supply route were stopped by their own prime minister, prompting them to retreat. The Indian Army was sent towards the Tiger Hills. On July 2, the Indian Army launched a three-dimensional offensive in Kargil.

On July 4, the Indian Army recaptured Tiger Hills after an 11-hour battle. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced that the Pakistani military had withdrawn from Kargil following a meeting with Clinton.

Pakistan began to retreat on July 11; India captured major peaks in Badalik. On July 14, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared Operation Vijay a success. The Government of India imposed conditions on negotiations with Pakistan. On July 26, the Indian Army announced that the Kargil conflict had officially ended and that the incursions had been completely repelled.


527 heroic deaths were reported on the Indian side. Four Param Veer Chakra awards and eleven Maha Veer Chakra awards were awarded to soldiers. Heroes are the soldiers who died, were wounded and participated in the effort to defend their motherland. I name a few such legends for the sake of brevity.

Captain Vikram Batra was an officer of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. As part of Operation Vijay, Captain Batra killed five enemy soldiers with his hands in a head-on battle. He accomplished an impossible task in the face of fierce enemy fire. His code name was Sher Shah. He received the prestigious Param Veer Chakra award after his heroic death.

Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey, who was part of the Gorkha Rifles during the Operation Vijay, pushed back the infiltrators with heavy casualties. He also received the Param Veer Chakra award after his heroic death.

Rifleman Sanjay Kumar of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, in an operation to capture a point in the Mushko Valley, fought head-on with the enemy and chased them, using their machine guns and killing many of them as they fled. He received the Param Veer Chakra Award alive.

The Param Vir Chakra was also awarded to Grenadier Yadav, one of the 18 Grenadiers. He was part of the leading team of the Kathak Regiment that captured Tiger Hill. In the midst of the fierce gunfire, he suffered multiple injuries and crawled to the enemy position.

The names of the fallen soldiers are engraved on the memorial wall at the Kargil Memorial. A museum attached to the Kargil War Memorial has also been set up to commemorate the victory of ‘Operation Vijay’. There are pictures of Indian soldiers involved in the Kargil war, archives of important war documents and records, Pakistani war equipment and official emblems of gear and army.

Many on the Pakistani side have been quoting different numbers about the casualties on their side. During the war, the government of Pakistan, which initially denied the full contribution of its soldiers, refused to even receive the bodies of dead Pakistani soldiers. This caused great turmoil in Pakistan. Now, Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif take turns blaming each other for who is responsible for the war. Pakistan may have backed down for fear of a nuclear war. But it is true that Pakistan has been strongly condemned and humiliated on the world stage.

The ‘Kargil War’ will always be etched in the minds of our generation known as the 90s kids. In our country, those who have only seen war in school subjects and movies have endured reading it in the newspaper. Heroes have lived among us. It just made us realize we were looking for them somewhere else. The thrilling heroic tales that were told and the tears that we shed while lighting the Diya on ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ on the doorstep every year will always echo the memory of our Kargil heroes.





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