Remembering Kargil heroes, 11 years after victory

July 25th, 2010 - 3:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) The nation will Monday remember its soldiers who were killed in the summer of 1999 while protecting the Kargil heights in Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistani raiders and camouflaged regular troops in an audacious invasion attempt that was met with heroic deeds and a decisive military victory.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony and the three service chiefs - Gen V.K. Singh of the army, Admiral Nirmal Verma of the navy and Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik of the air force - will pay homage to the ‘Kargil martyrs’ at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas, as the day is also remembered.

Officers and soldiers as well as families of many of those killed will place wreaths at the war memorial in the capital. More than 500 Indian soldiers were killed in the Kargil war that lasted two long months.

In the past 11 years, the day has been marked by emotive gathering as parents and siblings of soldiers assemble at various places for functions to pay homage to their loved ones who perished while fighting Pakistani raiders in the high altitude and inhospitable battleground.

As part of its strategy to reach out to defence and paramilitary personnel, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will mark the day by taking out processions, candle-light vigils and paying tributes to the martyrs.

The war took place on the peaks of Kargil near the Line of Control - the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Like in the better known Tiger Hill and Tololing, heavy fighting took place in 1999 for the strategic hills off Drass, the second coldest inhabited place in the world located about 60 km from Kargil town.

The entire region falls in Kargil district, giving the 1999 military showdown the name of “Kargil war”.

Pakistan-backed Islamist insurgents as well as regular soldiers sneaked into Jammu and Kashmir and quietly took control of the hills until they were first detected by nomads. Their discovery in Indian territory led to full-fledged fighting between Indian forces and the heavily-armed infiltrators, almost triggering the fourth full-scale India-Pakistan war and leading to an intervention by the US.

The battle for Drass was immortalised by the death of Captain Vikram Batra of 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles who helped capture two peaks and then died fighting for the control of Point 4875.

He came under attack while trying to rescue an injured officer. His final words, according to his colleagues, were “Jai Mata Di”!

The intruders, who had come for a long haul, came as close as 300 metres to a key national highway connecting Srinagar with Leh and the border town of Kargil. Drass town suffered heavy damage in the fighting.

The intrusion took place as India was busy celebrating then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s successful Lahore peacemaking visit.

Kargil gave the country many young and fearless champions. Names like Captain Anuj Nayyar, Captain Vikram Batra and Lieutenant Manoj Pandey became household heroes.

July 26 is annually celebrated as “Kargil Diwas” or Kargil Day.

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