Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Kargil - The Inside Story - Harinder Baweja

It's a very well written account of the Kargil war, from a soldier's diary. The author Harinder Baweja was an editor with Hindustan Times and she earned a reputation as a fearless reporter. She covered Kashmir and it is through her sources in the army that she pieced together this book.
Roli Books, 174 p, Rs. 395

What strikes you at first read is how the young men who are desperately trying to follow orders from their superiors are doing so with one hand tied behind their backs. At first they are told that there are some 7-8 militants on the Kargil sector and they have to engage with them which looks like a piece of cake. As they start losing more and more men to organised attacks and superior firearms, the men realise that they are dealing with a well-entrenched Pakistani army on the strategic hills of Kargil with loads of ammunition and supplies. Two entire brigades of the Pakistani army had infiltrated the Indian territory and fortified the positions as the top army brass ignored warnings. Intelligence has totally failed and the Pakistani army has a sinister design to cut off Ladakh by capturing these posts.

The initial attempts by ill-prepared units with inadequate weapons, maps, communication, medical and even stretchers; units that think they are tackling a few militants, result in grave losses as the Pakistan army simply picks them off from the top of the hill. Soldiers, officers fall one by one until the recognition that they were dealing with the army. Even then, the soldiers are not acclimatised to the terrain, do not have gear to climb, are not equipped for the cold, and are climbing almost a vertical climb. But they do it. Most of them want to go out into battle, to die for the country, to take revenge on the enemy that has mowed down a mate. The foreword by GL Batra, father of Param Vir Chakra Vikram Batra, who made the supreme sacrifice while fighting in the Kargil mountains, is moving enough. Vikram Batra's mates go berserk when they see their brave captain, who would always volunteer for the most difficult tasks, shot while retrieving a wounded colleague. So many names - Vishu, Saurabh Kalia, Tilak Banerjee keep coming back. 474 men were killed, 1109 injured by the time the war was won in July 1999.

The army top brass and government is not shown in great light largely to its own doing. So bad was the intelligence that when the action began the Chief of Staff was in Poland and while the boys were struggling against odds in the mountains, the General in charge of operations was inaugurating a gold tournament where his son was taking part. Also, seen is the irritation of the soldiers at the inappropriate and untimely noises made by the Defence Minister George Fernandes, and the projection of the army as heroes without taking care of their needs.

The Bofors gun features, as one of the decisive factors in the war, providing long range artillery cover. The army realises that while the Indian PM was making friendly overtures to the Pakistanis, they were already well-entrenched inside the LoC. Even more surprising, General Musharraf actually visits the places inside the LoC.

It's definitely worth a read because she has somehow captured the atmosphere very well. You feel exactly how the soldiers must have felt in those hills. 

1 comment:

Narayana Pillai said...

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movie. I request you to try some Tamil movies. There are many options there
hats off Mr. Harimomhan sir. Your blog is so intereting.