India celebrate’s 24th anniversary of its victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999 on July 26, 2023. This historic day, known as Kargil Vijay Diwas, pays heartfelt tribute to the unflinching heroism and sacrifice of Indian soldiers who battled valiantly to reclaim the heights captured by Pakistani infiltrators.
Understanding the Kargil War’s Background
The Kargil War began when Pakistan secretly sent troops and militants across the Line of Control, the unofficial border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. This was known as “Operation Badri” and aimed to cut off the connection between Kashmir and Ladakh, forcing India to negotiate a resolution for the Kashmir conflict. Pakistan also wanted to bring international attention to the issue and gain support from its allies.
However, India’s vigilant patrols detected unusual activity in the Kargil sector in May 1999, thwarting Pakistan’s plans. In response, the Indian Army launched “Operation Vijay” to evict the intruders who had seized vital posts on the mountain ridges overlooking National Highway 1D, a lifeline connecting Srinagar and Leh. The operation involved the strategic deployment of the Indian Air Force, relentless artillery shelling, and ground assaults by the infantry and special forces.
The Kargil War persisted for over two grueling months, witnessing some of history’s most intense and high-altitude battles. Indian soldiers confronted numerous challenges, from harsh weather conditions and treacherous terrain to enemy fire and acclimatization hurdles. Nonetheless, their unparalleled bravery, unwavering determination, and deep patriotism led to the recapture of all posts by July 26, 1999.
The Sacrifices and Heroes of the Kargil War
The Kargil War took a toll on both sides, with 527 Indian soldiers losing their lives and more than 1,300 sustaining injuries. Pakistan experienced approximately 700 fatalities, and an undisclosed number of soldiers were wounded. The conflict also led to the displacement of numerous civilians residing along both sides of the LoC.
Among the brave martyrs of the Kargil War were several heroic officers and soldiers who gained renown for their acts of valor. A few of them are as follows:
- Captain Vikram Batra: Awarded the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), India’s highest military honor, posthumously for capturing Point 4875 and Point 5140. He became immortalized for his iconic radio message “Yeh dil maange more” (This heart craves more) after securing Point 5140. He fell in action on July 7, 1999.
- Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey: Posthumously honored with the PVC for his exceptional leadership and courage in capturing Jubar Top and Bunker Hill. He fearlessly led his platoon through a barrage of bullets and grenades, neutralizing multiple enemy positions before succumbing to his injuries on July 3, 1999.
- Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari: Awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), India’s second-highest military honor, posthumously for his pivotal role in capturing Tololing Top. Leading his company, he launched a daring assault on the enemy stronghold, engaging in hand-to-hand combat before being fatally wounded on June 13, 1999.
- Major Vivek Gupta: Also posthumously bestowed with the MVC for his instrumental role in capturing Tololing Top. Fearlessly commanding his battalion’s Delta Company, he spearheaded a fierce attack on enemy positions, eliminating several adversaries before laying down his life on June 13, 1999.
These gallant individuals represent a mere fraction of the many heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation during the Kargil War. Their extraordinary tales continue to inspire generations of Indians, instilling a sense of pride and honor in serving the country.
The Significance and Observance of Kargil Vijay Diwas
Kargil Vijay Diwas serves as a day of reverence and appreciation for the martyrs of the Kargil War, extending gratitude to their families for their supreme sacrifice. It also commemorates India’s military prowess and diplomatic triumph over Pakistan, forcing the latter to withdraw its troops under international pressure.
Annually, the country organizes various events and ceremonies to mark Kargil Vijay Diwas. The central ceremony unfolds at the Kargil War Memorial in Drass, where the Prime Minister or Defence Minister pays homage to the fallen soldiers, laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti (the eternal flame of the soldier). Attended by senior military officials, war veterans, martyrs’ families, and dignitaries from diverse fields, the event holds immense significance.
Additional activities encompass cultural programs, exhibitions, seminars, rallies, candlelight vigils, and blood donation camps. The media plays a pivotal role in disseminating awareness and educating the public about the significance of the Kargil War and the valorous individuals it produced.
Kargil Vijay Diwas transcends mere remembrance; it symbolizes determination and commitment. On this day, the nation reaffirms its pledge to safeguard sovereignty, uphold integrity, and cherish the ideals of democracy and peace. It stands as a testament to the spirit of “Kargil ka Bharat” (India of Kargil) – united, strong, and resilient.
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