Friday, August 21, 2009

All is fair in love and war

Chants of Allah-o-Akbar by Col Ajit Singh Shekhawat's unit fooled the Pak insurgents on Khalubar hill

It was a stormy night on June 30, 1999, on the Khalubar hill in Kargil. The Pakistani insurgents were sitting easy in their bunkers. Apart from the steep hill, torrential rains ensured that nobody dared to venture there. Or so, they thought.

Chants of Allah-o-Akbar suddenly woke them from their slumber. They thought reinforcements from the Pakistani army had arrived. They pulled many of the climbers up the hill. It was their last mistake.

Fooled by the chanting, the Pakistani insurgents indeed helped the Muslim Company of 22 Grenadiers led by Colonel Ajit Singh Shekhawat climb the hill to eliminate them.

Country first: Colonel Ajit Singh Shekhawat

In fact, it was only a handful of jawans who had managed to reach the top due to hostile weather. But the mission was to be completed before daybreak and it was decided to launch the attack immediately. Taken by surprise, the Pakistani insurgents were either killed under heavy fire by the Grenadiers or fled the scene.

For Col Shekhawat, fighting Pakistani ultras was almost a daily business. During his six-year stint in Jammu and Kashmir, he had commanded many such operations. Kargil was just another level of his engagement with the insurgents.

"Col Shekhawat's unit was posted at Hyderabad when intrusion was detected in Kargil. The 22 Grenadiers was awarded as 'Bravest of the Brave' during their stint in counter-insurgency operations and they were considered best suited for operations in mountainous terrain," said honorary lieutenant (retd) Chhagan Singh, a 1971-war veteran, as he recalled his son's role in Operation Vijay.

Landmark victory

The win on Khalubar hill became a landmark event in the Kargil war where the Indian soldiers defeated Pakistanis in most adverse conditions.

"Soldiers by nature are very religious and when it comes to the Indian army, every soldier's first religion is his country. The determination of the men can be assessed from the fact that more than ten men from the same company laid down their lives during the operation," said a senior army officer.

However, the battle was not over and the 22 Grenadiers kept fighting the Pakistani reinforcements, and there came a time when Col Shekhawat asked for artillery shelling on the incoming Pakistanis.

Heavy shelling

"The company knew that the artillery shelling could kill them also, but they were ready to lay down their lives.

Col Shekhawat himself got injured during the operation," said another senior officer.

A pure infantry man, Col Shekhawat is known as an expert shooter and mountaineer and he loves to spend time with his soldiers.

"He is a pure soldier, who is very much admired by his men. He used to observe fast during Ramadan along with his soldiers," he added.

Inspired from his father Col Shekhawat wanted to join the Navy, but now he feels lucky to have joined the infantry.

Hon Lieutenant Chhagan Singh is a proud man, as both of his sons made their career in the armed forces.

Col Shekhawat's younger brother, Ranjit Singh, joined Indian Navy and is posted at Vishakhapatnam as a Commander.

Grenadiers all the way
Grenadiers have the unique distinction of receiving the highest number of Param Vir Chakra (PVC) the highest gallantry medal in the Indian army. 18 Grenadiers infantry unit of the Indian Army won the Tiger Hill in the Kargil war and Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav was awarded PVC in the operation. Yadav received 14 bullets while killing Pakistanis on the Tiger Hill top, but he did not stop there, and in fact, climbed down the steep hill to inform his company about Pakistani reinforcement.

The concept of Grenadiers evolved from the practice of selecting the bravest and strongest men for the most dangerous tasks in combat.

No comments:

Post a Comment