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Tololing, Tiger Hill: Kargil War heroes remember victory

The war officially ended on July 26, 1999, after the Indian forces successfully repelled the Pakistani forces that had clandestinely seized important positions in Ladakh.

News Arena Network - New Delhi - UPDATED: July 3, 2024, 08:55 PM - 5 mins read

Tololing, Tiger Hill: Kargil War heroes remember victory

Tololing, Tiger Hill: Kargil War heroes remember victory

File photo of 155mm Bofors howitzers blasting away Pakistani bunkers in Drass sector during 1999 Kargil war.


During his fourth month of service, Lieutenant Balwan Singh, a young officer, commanded the Ghatak Platoon of the Indian Army in a crucial attack on Pakistani intruders in the Kargil War. He was part of the courageous group of soldiers who successfully seized Tiger Hill on July 4, 1999.

 

"There was no looking back from there. It was victory after the capture of the Tiger Hill," recalls Singh, now a colonel with the famed 18 Grenadiers, who was injured while fighting the enemy but continued to fight.

 

He received the Maha Vir Chakra in recognition of his bravery.

 

The 18 Grenadiers, raised in 1976, played a crucial role in the conflict. The battalion was honoured with 52 awards, including one Param Vir Chakra, two Maha Vir Chakras, six Vir Chakras, multiple Sena Medals, and a Commendation Card from the Chief of the Army Staff.

 

On Wednesday, Colonel Singh and numerous other Kargil heroes from the battalion reminisced about the courageous actions of its soldiers during Operation Vijay.

 

The war officially ended on July 26, 1999, after the Indian forces successfully repelled the Pakistani forces that had clandestinely seized important positions in Ladakh.

 

During the night of July 3, 1999, members of 18 Grenadiers, known as the Pole Star Battalion, set out on their objective to seize Tiger Hill and succeeded by the following morning, according to Brig (retd) Khushal Thakur, who led the battalion during the pivotal engagements at Tololing and Tiger Hill.

 

"On June 12-13, 1999, we won Tololing and it was a big turning point in this war. It boosted the morale of our armed forces and the countrymen and dipped the morale of the Pakistani side. One by one, we kept capturing the peaks in Mushkow or Batalik sector, and the next task was Tiger Hill," Brig (retd) Thakur, who was a colonel during the war, told PTI.

 

"For the Tiger Hill, I had adequate time for reconnaissance. I had artillery guns, multi-barrel rocket launchers and high-altitude warfare equipment... Despite all the losses suffered, the morale of the men of 18 Grenadiers was sky high, and our brave men captured the Tiger Hill, planting the Indian flag on top," he said.

 

There weren't many TV channels back then, but the defining images of Indian soldiers celebrating the conquest of Tiger Hill became symbols of their bravery.

 

Col Singh said the battles of Tololing and Tiger Hill were decisive battles.

 

"Initially, we captured Tololing. Tololing is very near to NH-1 Alpha (National Highway-1A). It is just 3 km from NH-1 Alpha. The same is the case with Tiger Hill, an 8-10 km stretch of NH-1 Alpha is visible from the top of the Tiger Hill. You can't do any movement on this road," he said.

 

"They (infiltrators) had all kinds of weapons, automatics, anti-aircraft guns, and other missiles on Tololing and Tiger Hill, and both the features were very, very important to capture," he added.

 

The Indian Army will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Kargil victory on July 26. Several programs have been organised leading up to the main commemorative event in Kargil later this month.

 

During the conflict, Col Sachin Annarao Nimbalkar, who was approximately 23 years old at the time and serving as a captain with the 18 Grenadiers, was one of the soldiers recognised for their bravery with a Sena Medal.

 

"We were fighting with our backs to the wall, and every inch that we had to capture was a big fight. The victory in the Kargil war was attained with great sacrifices made by various units.

 

"If I talk about my unit, 18 Grenadiers, we are bravehearts, two officers, two JCOs, and 30 other ranks sacrificed their lives (in this war) and many others were injured and some disabled for life," Col Nimbalkar told PTI after paying homage to fallen heroes at the National War Memorial.

 

"So, this tells the cost of capturing the features of Tololing and Tiger Hill as far as my battalion was concerned," he said.

 

The officer in the Army, who comes from Maharashtra, proudly displays the regimental insignia with the motto 'Sarvada Shaktishali' on his military cap and describes its background.

 

"We are now celebrating the 25th year of Kargil Vijay Diwas... I remember when we were successful, I remember when we were facing casualties, I remember Lt Col Viswanathan, who sacrificed his life during the battle of Tololing," he said.

 

Col Nimbalkar paid homage to his Indian Military Academy (IMA) coursemate, Capt Manoj Pandey, the hero of the Tiger Hill battle, on his death anniversary at the memorial.

 

"There are mixed emotions. There is a sense of achievement, but it comes at a great cost. Today is the day for all of us to collectively acknowledge the efforts of our heroes and sacrifices (they) made for the nation," he said.



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