Tag Archives: Kargil War

The Kargil Hero Who Closed His Eyes Only After Seeing the Indian Flag Once Again on Tololing Top

June 21, 1999 was his 30TH birthday, and he spoke to his family members over phone. Little did they know that it would be his last telephone call. Seven days later, on June 28, 1999, the family of Major Padmapani Acharya received a phone call from the Army, saying that he had fought bravely in Kargil and was no more. Smt.Charulatha Acharya, his wife, was six months pregnant when her husband passed away. It is impossible to feel the pain what she would have undergone then.

On 28 June 1999, in the battalion attack on the Tololing feature by the 2nd Rajputana Rifles, Major Padmapani Acharya as a Company Commander, was assigned the formidable task of capturing an enemy position which was heavily fortified and strongly held with mine fields and sweeping machine gun and artillery fire. This was a very strategic position as it overlooked the Srinagar Leh highway. It was at an altitude of 5,000 metres, and the enemy was positioned on the hill top, showering bullets. Success of the battalion and brigade operation hinged on the early capture of this position. However the company attack almost faltered at the very beginning, when the enemy’s artillery fire came down squarely on the leading platoon, inflicting large numbers of casualties.

With utter disregard to his personal safety, Major Padmapani Acharya took the reserve platoon and led it through raining artillery shells. The risks were huge and so were the causalities but achieving his mission was his sole purpose. Even as his men were falling to enemy fire, he continued to encourage his men and charged at the enemy with the reserve platoon up the steep rock face. Unmindful of the hail of bullets from the enemy’s bunker, Major Padmapani Acharya crawled up to the bunker and lobbed grenades. Severely injured and unable to move, he ordered his men to leave him and charge at the enemy while he continued to fire. The battle of Tololing Top was fierce and night long but in the end, Major Acharya’s team succeeded in recapturing Tololing Top. The dynamism, raw courage, personal example and supreme sacrifice of Major Acharya enthused the troops and the Knoll was quickly overrun, providing the Battalion its foot hold on ‘Black Rock’.

Many say that this win was pivotal and turned the course of the kargil war. As for the great Indian hero, he closed his eyes only after the Indian flag was flying high once again on Tololing Top.  He was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra award.

Padmapani was born in Odisha and had shifted to Hyderabad. He then joined army under the training and inspiration of his father, Jagannath Acharya. His father belonged to the retired wing commander of the Indian Air Force during the years 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. Padmapani was a resident of Hyderabad and then was married to Charulata. And his sole inspiration remained  his father, the way he serves the motherland and his dream of serving and securing the people of the motherland in a similar way.

Padmapani’s mother Vimala Acharya recalls her son as a jovial person and a voracious reader. “As a mother, I am definitely sad and hurt but as a patriot, I am proud of my son. He lives forever, whereas I will not. He made me promise that I would not cry when he left for the front,” she says. Despite the supreme sacrifice made by their elder son, the family’s tradition in serving the Armed forces continues. Padmasambhav Acharya, younger brother of Major Padmapani Acharya, is a colonel with the Rajputana Rifles. He  was a captain in the Indian Army in 1999 and was a part of Operation Vijay in Kargil. A road, called Major Padmapani Acharya Marg was named in his honor which leads to Major Acharya’s house in Hyderabad. The events of Battle of Tololing was adapted as one of the prominent battle scenes in the Hindi war film LOC Kargil in which actor Nagarjuna portrayed the role of Maj Acharya.

Captain Neikezhakuo Climbed Kargil’s Icy Slopes Barefoot to Defeat the Enemy

Fondly addressed as Neibu by his family and friends, and Nimbu Sahab by the north Indian soldiers who served under him, Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguruse was born in Nerhema village in the district of Kohima. Neibu’s father, Neiselie Kenguruse, was a grade peon in the government. Deeply religious and anti-war, he initially didn’t want his son to join the army but Neibu convinced him that the honour of serving in the armed forces far outweighed the risks that the job entailed. After graduating from the Kohima Science College, Neibu served as a teacher at a Government High School in Kohima before being commissioned into the Indian Army on December 12, 1998.

In 1999, when the Kargil war started, Capt. Kenguruse was a junior commander in the Rajputana Rifles battalion. For his determination and prowess, he was made the lead commander of the Ghatak Platoon of his battalion. Only the most physically fit and motivated soldiers make it into the dreaded Ghatak platoon that makes up the first wave of Indian Army’s counter forces. On the fateful night of June 28, 1999, Capt. Kenguruse’s platoon was given the responsibility of taking out a strategic machine gun post held by the enemy on a cliff face, the Black Rock. Heavy gun fire from this position had been hindering the battalion’s progress in the sector for days.

As the commando platoon scaled the cliff, they came under intense mortar and automatic fire from above. As a result, the team faced heavy casualties with Capt. Kenguruse being shot in the abdomen. Undeterred by the injury, he urged his men to carry on with the assault. On reaching the final cliff face, the platoon was halted by a sheer vertical rock wall that separated them from the enemy post. To ensure that his platoon was able to climb this sheer cliff, he secured a rope for his men but his boots kept slipping on the icy slopes that hung at an obtuse angle. It would have been easy for him to retreat and get medical help but the profusely bleeding Capt. Kenguruse decided to do something incredibly brave.

At a height of 16,000 feet and in the bitingly cold temperature of -10 degrees Celsius, Capt. Kenguruse kicked off his boots. Using his bare feet to get a grip, he somehow climbed up freezing cliff while carrying a RPG rocket launcher with him. Once on top, Capt. Kenguruse fired the rocket launcher at the seven Pakistani bunkers that stood before him. They replied with a hail of gunfire but he kept firing till he had decimated the bunkers. Two enemy soldiers from a nearby bunker rushed towards him, and he tackled them with his commando knife in hand-to-hand combat. He single-handedly downed two more infiltrators with his rifle before a volley of bullets blew him off the cliff. But his daring act had done enough to ensure that his troops would go on to capture the position.Capt. Neikezhakuo Kenguruse was just 25 when he single-handedly neutralized the crucial enemy position before breathing his last. In his last letter to his father Capt. Kenguruse had written, “Dad, I may not be able to return home to be a part of our family again. Even if I don’t make it, do not grieve for me because I have already decided to give my best for the nation.” For his unmatched courage and supreme sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the only soldier from the Army Services Corps (ASC) to have received it. Captain Kenguruse’s death had as much an impact as his life.When his body arrived in Dimapur, thousands lined the road to his village, where he was buried with full military honours. Three decades of insurgency was forgotten as Nagaland united with rest of the country in grief.

The Hero from Ladakh who Notched India’s First Win in Kargil

In 1999, Sonam Wangchuk was a Major in Indian Army’s infantry regiment, the Ladakh Scouts. Nicknamed the “Snow Warriors” or “Snow Tigers”, this regiment specializes in mountain warfare. Knowing the mountains like the back of their hand, Ladakh Scouts carry out reconnaissance missions and set up observation posts for army regiments operating at high altitudes.

On May 26, 1999, Major Wangchuk was on an annual vacation at his home in Khakshal in Leh. During that time, the Dalai Lama was visiting Leh and Major Wangchuk, a deeply religious Buddhist, was one of the first people to seek the spiritual leader’s blessings before heading to the front. Two days later, Major Wangchuk reported at Handen Brok, a Border Security Force base camp in the Chorbat La sub sector of Batalik. The last stop before the Line of Control, this was the post from where recon patrols were sent out into the mountains. With his natural acclimatization to the region, local knowledge and experience in Siachen, Wangchuk was often given the task of establishing an observation post on the Line of Control high in the mountains.

At that time, the Indian army was still in the dark about the extent of Pakistani infiltration. Unaware of the heavy Pakistani presence just above, Wangchuk and his band of 30-odd soldiers of the Ladakh Scouts left on their next mission to establish their post on an 18000 feet high ridge just inside the Indian side of LoC. Glacial, slippery and rocky, the steep mountain had a gradient of 80 degrees, and climbing it in the freezing sub-zero temperatures of Ladakh was a tough test for even skilled mountaineers.

During their ascent towards the LoC, Major Wangchuk and his team were ambushed by the enemy firing from a vantage position. In the heavy shelling, a NCO of the Ladakh Scouts was killed. Leaving behind one of his jawans to take back the body of the slain soldier and the information the base about the ambush, Major Wangchuk held his column together to continue the climb to LoC. He knew it was essential to prevent the infiltrators from occupying the strategically superior position.

Under heavy Pakistani fire from the flanks, the incredibly nimble Major led his team by deftly dodging bullets and ducking behind boulders. When bullets fell short, the team climbed to higher positions and rolled boulders on to the enemies. Halting and charging ahead with dexterity, Wangchuk and his team finally made it to the ridge in three hours. Spotting a group of intruders trying to scale the ridge from the Pakistan side, Major Wangchuk then planned a daring counter ambush of his own. He told his men to hold on till the enemy came within range. When they did, he attacked them from the flank. In the gun battle that ensued, four infiltrators were killed, and their machine guns, ammunition and controlled stores were recovered.

Next day, Wangchuk and his band of scouts set out to clear the Chorbat La axis of all enemy intrusions. With the minimum time to plan their approach, the team, unlike other units, never got artillery support in their mission. At 18000 feet, where the thin air makes breathing ragged, they kept going till they had accomplished their very dangerous mission. With the LoC once again under Indian control, the mountains echoed with the war cry of the Ladakh Scouts, Ki Ki So So Lhargyalo (The Gods will Triumph). Cut off from the world except for their wireless and living off survival rations, Wangchuk and his men remained on one of the world’s most brutal battlefield for over a week to snap shut the crucial infiltration point. Not only had they prevented any subsequent infiltration, their daring act had returned India to a commanding position on the vital ridge that the intruders desperately wanted to occupy. For his exemplary service, Major Wangchuk was honoured with the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest military decoration. “Even as the Army and the country was raving about his wins in Kargil, he treated it with little excitement and kept smiling through it all,” said an Army officer, who knows him well.

The Maha Vir Chakra Awardee from Nagaland

Subedar Imliakum Ao was born on July 25, 1976 in the village of Chuchuyimpang in Mokokchung, Nagaland. His father is a retired state government employee and his mother is a homemaker. He has five siblings – four brothers and a sister. Two of his brothers are in the Nagaland police, one is in the civil services, and another is in the army. After completing his matriculation, he joined the 2nd Battalion of the Naga Regiment on May 4, 1994.

Between the months of May and July 1999, the Indian government launched Operation Vijay in the Kargil sector of Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian Army, supported by the Air Force, had to recapture the areas on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LOC), which had been infiltrated by Pakistani troops and militants. The 2nd Battalion of the Naga Regiment was one of the first units to be inducted into this area during the conflict. It moved from the Patan sector to Drass and thereafter to the Mushkoh valley.

Though the Washington Accord was signed on July 4, 1999 and the Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif agreed to withdraw his troops, the infiltrators continued holding on to positions on the Indian side of the LOC. Twin Bump in the Point 4875 complex was one such position. This was the enemy mortar position and 2 Naga was tasked to capture it.

“The schedule in the unit was very busy due to the ongoing war situation and to top it the weather conditions were just not forgiving. We moved into Mushkoh valley, which is located 15,000 ft above sea level, and were faced with heavy mortar bombardment on one side and inclement weather on the other,” continues the decorated soldier. In order to neutralize the bombardment from the enemy mortar post on the night of July 8, his company was tasked to assault and capture Twin Bump. The Subedar was just a Sepoy in 1999. He was part of the assault group that was tasked with stealthily neutralizing the enemy on the outer perimeter of the enemy mortar post.

According to a Naga Regiment publication that described the operation: “Sepoy Imliakum Ao approached the enemy sentry during broad daylight and killed him. Thereafter, he kept moving forward and killed one more sentry and subsequently stormed the mortar position along with the Assault Group….. The elimination of the enemy personnel by Sepoy Imliakum Ao was a big success wherein three 120 mm and two 81 mm mortars were captured along with a huge stockpile of ammunition. The valiant action by Sepoy Imliakum Ao, which was a true demonstration of valour, in the presence of a well entrenched enemy was the sole factor which paved the way for a successful raid on the enemy mortar position which led to the destruction of the enemy ammunition dump.”

“It was a very difficult mission and all those who participated in it were aware of the threat. Though Nagas are born warriors, a scout’s job is the key to a mission’s success,” said an officer of 2 Naga. The assault group’s task involved killing the Pakistani soldiers guarding the mortar positions and ammunition depots. “The enemy positions were heavily guarded and the mission was to be carried out in daylight. But Imliakum Ao volunteered for it,” he added.As a young sepoy he had shown exemplary courage and determination. His grit and raw courage in the face of the enemy were instrumental in him being awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award of India, in Jan 2000. Promoted to the rank of Subedar on August 1, 2016, this highly decorated Junior Commissioned Officer continues to serve the nation with pride and dignity.

Kargil martyr from Meghalaya : Lt. Keishing Clifford Nongrum

On July 26, 1999, the Indian Armed Forces won a gritty and decisive war against Pakistan. In the ferocious battle, many brave young soldiers laid down their lives defending their nation on the inhospitable battlefield of Kargil. It’s been more than twentye years since then, but the unparalleled bravery and sacrifice of Kargil brave hearts are still etched in the collective memory of the country. However, few people know about Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum and his act of extraordinary courage that was responsible for giving the Indian army a crucial edge in the Kargil war.

Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum (Shillong, Meghalaya) was just 24 when the Kargil war begun. In the war, his battalion (12 JAK Light Infantry) was posted at the Batalik Sector. On the night of June 30, 1999, Lt Nongrum’s unit was given the responsibility of securing Point 4812, a peak whose strategic location made it a top priority for the army. In this operation, Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum was assigned the task of executing the assault on the cliff feature of Point 4812. Climbing the vertical peak from the south eastern direction was nearly impossible, but Lt Nongrum and his determined platoon took up the challenge. They steadily and stealthily clambered up the steep slopes to reach the enemy bunkers at the top.

On the peak, Pakistani infiltrators had entrenched themselves in interconnected bunkers carved out of boulders. This had made them immune to even artillery fire. As a result, on completing their ascent, Lt Nongrum and his battalion had to face strong enemy opposition in the form of heavy mortar and automatic machine gun fire.

Pinned down for about two hours by the heavy and consistent firing, Lt Nongrum decided to do something that would turn the tide for his platoon. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he charged through the fire zone, firing and lobbing grenades at the enemy bunkers. His grenades killed six enemy soldiers holed up in the bunkers, but while throwing them, Lt Nongrum was hit by several bullets.

Severely injured, Lt Nongrum continued to fight hand-to-hand (he was a boxer too) with the Pakistani soldiers in an attempt to snatch the machine gun in the remaining bunker. In a supreme sacrifice, he chose to fight till his last breath and refused to be rescued. He kept fighting valiantly till he finally succumbed to his injuries on the battlefield.

This extraordinarily brave move of Lt Nongrum stunned the enemy, giving valuable time to his troops who closed in to finally clear the position. Thanks to Lt Nongrum and his team, the Indian Army had finally captured Point 4812. For his selflessness, dogged determination and raw courage in the face of the enemy, Lt Keishing Clifford Nongrum was posthumously awarded the Nation’s second highest wartime gallantry award, Maha Vir Chakra, on August 15, 1999. In 2011, Lt Nongrum’s father, Peter Keishing, made a personal pilgrimage to the spot where his son had single-handedly killed six enemy soldiers before breathing his last. He came back deeply moved and proud of his son who had made the supreme sacrifice in the service of his nation.