Major Adhikari was a man par excellence and had won our hearts.
His supreme sacrifice for the nation shook us till the roots.
A fascinating excerpt from Param Vir Chakra Captain (Honorary) Yogendra Singh Yadav’s book, The Hero of Tiger Hill.
On 28 May, the Commander of the B Company, Major Rajesh Adhikari was taken for an aerial survey of the area.
When Major Adhikari surveyed the mountains, found out the real number of the terrorists and conducted a recce to find out their defensive positions, he was shocked.
The number of terrorists which we had been told was around five was much more.
It was close to twenty-five and they had made bunkers for themselves.
When he came back from the recce, he looked upset. I met him, as we had become friends.
When we went for operations in Kashmir, I used to be with him.
I knew there was something serious behind his frown that fateful day. Things were about to change drastically.
I will always remember how he helped me at every step.
His positive attitude and ringing laughter is etched in my memory.
When I reached the Unit after coming back leave, Adhikari sir had come back after a recce of the mountains in a helicopter.
As soon as he saw me, he said, ‘So dost, you are back after your wedding. Why did you come back now, Yogendra? The situation is very bad. No one knows what will happen.’
I saw a strange kind of confusion mixed with sadness on his face and said, ‘Sir, everything will be alright. Here, have some sweets that I have brought.’
He had some sweets and then I gave him some water. Then he started again, ‘We are very close to the enemy,’ he said that and went away.
This was our last meeting. A and B Companies were deployed on the right side of the Tololong mountain and C and D companies on the left.
There was a team to provide ration and ammunition supplies to the A and B companies, but there was no such team for the C and D Companies.
Fifteen jawans, including me, who had come back from leave, were ordered to supply ammunition and ration to these companies instead of being sent to their own companies.
I was very keen to go and fight on the front with my comrades, but it is a soldier’s duty to obey orders.
No soldier can disobey, because it is always part of a bigger plan about which he does not know. This is the sort of discipline which prevails in the Army.
Anyway, I suppressed my own desire of fighting at the front and became part of the team that supplied ammunition and ration.
I understood that it was because of our efforts that the jawans were fighting at the front.
How would they fight if they did not get regular supplies of food and ammunition? They had full faith in us, that we would never let their supplies stop.
We also trusted those jawans at the front that they would stop all bullets coming in our direction.
There was complete faith in each other that neither would stop doing one’s duty.
On 28 May, when we were going towards the mountain, we noticed that three IAF helicopters were raining rockets and bullets atop the Tololing peak.
When they were returning after having fired, the enemy suddenly attacked them with guided missiles.
The Surface to Air Missile struck the helicopter behind us and it caught fire immediately, falling in a canal on the other side of the mountain.
The pilots of that helicopter had managed to bail out with the help of a parachute, but they were captured by the enemy.
They killed one and the other returned that very day.
One MiG-21 belonging to us was also shot down by the enemy in the Kargil sector.
All these incidents made it clearer that these were no ordinary militants, but the Pakistan army holding the peak.
These extremely painful incidents shook up not only the Army, but the entire nation.
It was now a question of the honour of the country.
So, to teach the Pakistani army a lesson, a three-pronged operation started.
The infantry started Operation Vijay, the Indian Air Force started Operation Safed Sagar and the Indian Navy started Operation Talwar — all three at the same time.
These three wings of the Indian Armed Forces are like the three points of Lord Shiva’s trishul, capable of achieving any aim, destroying any target in their united effort.
They had resolved to keep up the honour of the tricolor and eliminate the enemy at any cost. They all jumped into the fray in full earnestness.
Our Air Force started raining bombs on the mountain peaks while the infantry fought with great courage on the ground. The Indian Navy surrounded the Karachi port.
That day, on 28 May, Major Rajesh Adhikari attacked the Tololing mountain with his team.
They reached the bunkers of the enemy and there was fierce battle. All our soldiers were killed in action in this combat.
With this news, the unit went into deep anguish.
Major Adhikari was a man par excellence and had won our hearts.
His supreme sacrifice for the nation shook us till the roots, but we gathered ourselves and fought hard once again.
Along with preserving the honour of our country, we also wanted to avenge for all our dear ones lost.
Before Major Adhikari’s team had gone up, we had managed to collect the mortal remains of our fallen heroes and taken them to the base camp. But with Major Adhikari’s team, the mortal remains were still lying in the bunkers of the enemy.
A number of efforts were made to retrieve their bodies, but they were unsuccessful. The higher authorities were also raising questions now.
Senior commanders had a conversation with Colonel Khushal Thakur. ‘Colonel Thakur, order your unit to climb down; we will send another platoon to do the work.’
But he was not to be browbeaten. True, we had not been able to capture the peaks yet, but he was sure of our victory.
He said, ‘Sir, this is the Unit from the Grenadiers Regiment. This same regiment had broken the morale of the Pakistani army completely in 1956. The Commanding Officer of the Unit does not only give commands, he is like a father to the entire Unit. All the soldiers are like his children. We will not leave without getting back the mortal remains of our children.’
All of us could understand the underlying emotion behind this, because we would never go anywhere, leaving our friends, our brothers behind.
He said, ‘Victory or death! Either my entire battalion will lay its life for the country and go down, or attain victory. No one will go down that mountain before that. Jai Hind!’
This increased the confidence of the senior officials.
His powerful words inspired young jawans like us immensely.
We started making plans about how to win Tololing and avenge the death of our comrades and get their mortal remains.
It was a ‘do or die’ situation and we were ready to sacrifice our lives.
This edited excerpt from The Hero of Tiger Hill by Captain (Honorary) Yogendra Singh Yadav has been used with the kind permission of the publishers, Srishti Publishers.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com
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