The inside story : Mashkoh – Kargil as I saw it # 19
Brig Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM
After successfully capturing three enemy sangars and killing nine enemy soldiers on Pimple 2, Captain Anuj set his eyes on the fourth sangar. Captain Anuj’s platoon was pinned down by heavy fire from the fourth sangar. In the meanwhile, at around 0300 hours on 07 Jul, the second platoon under Sub Darshan Singh was launched for capturing the fourth sangar from the northern direction. However, due to the steep gradient, the platoon was unable to close in with the sangar from the north. After that, a platoon from A company was tasked to clear the fourth sangar from the southwest direction. However, it could not be cleared due to the ineffectiveness of RL (rocket launcher) rounds on the rock face of the sangar. It was already nearing first light and daybreak.
By now it was 0500 hours on 07 Jul 99, Captain Anuj made a final attempt to clear the fourth sangar, Captain Anuj dashed ahead firing from his hip, unmindful of his safety. Unfortunately, the enemy fired an RPG( rocket-propelled grenade) round which hit Anuj on his neck. Anuj fell but continued to motivate his men to press on the assault. “Come back, victorious. Never show your back to the enemy and do not become a prisoner of war or be declared missing”, Anuj Nayyar’s father had said to him on a satellite phone, just a day before. It was around 0500 hours 07 Jul; I had lost radio contact with Anuj as he had stopped responding. I tried my best to contact him, but he would not respond. My sixth sense told me that something was wrong! I asked B company commander Major Punia, who was a reserve for this operation, to take a platoon ahead and try to establish physical contact with Captain Anuj as he had stopped responding on a radio set. It was almost 0700, 07 Jul, hours and broad daylight when Major Punia started moving forward with his platoon. The enemy was still firing from the fourth bunker and was also engaging with artillery fire. Crawling up, inch by inch, against the smooth incline in the face of the enemy fire made the task of the troops highly risky. We were losing men. Enemy artillery fire played merry hell against the own forces on Pimple 2. Every movement against the enemy was being met with deadly sniper fire from the adjacent heights. Major Punia could finally establish visual contact with Captain Anuj and his team at about 0900 hours and found Anuj and five of his brave soldiers lying motionless next to the fourth sangar. When he informed me about this incident, I was speechless. I had known Anuj as a young lad who had joined the unit just a few years back. He was full of josh and energy, always willing to take on additional responsibilities. Fond of games and within a short period, he had established a good rapport with his men. He was to get married to Timi, his schoolmate, immediately after the war. Losing him like this was one of the saddest moments of my life. Now when I look back, I feel that when he gave his ring and wallet to the adjutant for safekeeping before he went for the attack, I think he had a premonition of the things to come and that he may never come back to take his personal belongings ever.
Anuj got his promotion to the rank of Captain just a few days before the war and I had pipped him with the captain’s status in the war zone. I remember having told him, “very few lucky ones get their promotions in the war zone, and you are one of them. With three stars added to your shoulder, your responsibilities towards your men increase manifold. I am confident that you would live up to additional responsibilities thrust upon you. You are also fortunate that you are participating in the war at such a young age. Only lucky ones get this chance. I had to wait for 20 years to see this day in my life. All the best for your future endeavours”. I can now vouch with confidence that he lived up to his reputation and commitment much beyond my imagination.
Meanwhile, Havildar Kumar Singh who was busy neutralising the fourth sangar was also hit by enemy fire several times before he attained martyrdom on the battlefield. Havildar Kumar Singh was another NCO who proved his bravery and daunted leadership in the face of the enemy. He was one of the average NCO who had been promoted in the promotion exams without the test, and he proved his worth on the battlefield with daring leadership skills. He was awarded Vir Chakra for his gallantry.
I must say with pride that all the havildars I had promoted in the war zone, displayed extraordinary grit and determination in the face of the enemy and each one performed exceedingly well during the battle. That’s what motivated men can achieve for you and the unit. Some of them proved to be actual dark horses on the battlefield. What I saw was that some of the well-built men, who would impress you with their appearance and performance in the sports field chickened out in the face of grave dangers, and some very modest soldiers displayed raw courage in the face of the enemy. I remember there was one athlete who had represented the services team, and I saw him hiding behind the boulder when the rest of his company had left for the attack. He was so scared that he refused to move despite all the abuses he got from his comrades. In the thick of attack, he came down with the injured soldiers to the battalion base and was trembling with fear. He was trying to hide. These are some of the psychological effects which soldiers go through during the battle. The sounds of guns, artillery shells and the sight of injured and dead comrades impact their minds in a negative manner, which force them to have escapist tendencies. These are isolated cases that need treatment immediately after the war.
After the first light, there were almost three platoons on the objective which had limited deployment. At this point, the enemy started engaging Pimple 2 with artillery DF(SOS) and also commenced snipping and automatic fire from the pocket of resistance on Point 4875. Due to significant enemy shelling and sniping, there were a lot of casualties to own troops, including two leading platoon commanders. Thus, there was a momentary loss of command and control.
The forward observation officer with C company, Captain Shashi Bhushan Gildiyal took control of the situation. At 0900 hours on 07 Jul, he saw 15 to 20 enemy soldiers concentrated in the area close by, clearly preparing for the counter-attack on Pimple 2. He at once brought down effective artillery fire upon them, breaking up the concentration which then dispersed towards the bowl. In the process, Captain Gildiyal also got injured due to enemy fire, but he continued to hold the ground. Captain Gildiyal was awarded VrC (Vir Chakra) for bravery.
I had to inform Captain Anuj’s parents about this sad and unfortunate incident and tell them that I could not bring back their son alive from the war zone. I was very disturbed by the number of casualties we had suffered so far. It was one officer, one JCO and 34 other ranks and almost a hundred injured. It was a heavy price to pay. But I was happy that my men fought like tigers and did much more than I had expected. I was very emotional at that time, and privately, for the first time in my life, I cried like hell for losing so many of my comrades and those who got injured due to gunshot wounds and splinter injuries. I said to myself that I have failed to keep up my promise to bring all my soldiers alive after the battle. Under the circumstances and the enemy opposition, we were facing it was well-nigh impossible to complete our task without suffering casualties. But I will carry this guilt throughout my life that I could not save the lives of my soldiers—guilt about surviving when others have not.
I requested my adjutant to inform the parents of Anuj about the unfortunate incident as I was in no condition to do so. He did so with a heavy heart and broke this tragic news to his parents in Delhi. Initially, his father when he got this news of his son’s martyrdom in action was very composed and told the adjutant, “don’t worry, my son was born to serve the nation and lay down his life for the nation. I am proud to be his father”. But after a few minutes, he could not speak further, and he broke down crying and handed over the phone to Anuj’s would-be father-in-law. He was a retired Lt Col and could understand the situation. He was explained in detail how Anuj died fighting the enemy bravely. He told him about the ring, wallet and the watch which Anuj handed over before going for the final assault. He asked us to send all his personal belongings with his mortal remains.
Capt Anuj Nayyar was awarded Maha Vir Chakra, the nation’s second-highest gallantry award on 15 Aug 1999. It was received by his mother
To know more about the Kargil war, read the book, “Mashkoh: Kargil as I Saw it”.