Majestic Ladakh : Kargil War Memorial, Drass

Kargil War Memorial

Kargil War Memorial

It was time to pay homage to the Martyrs of 1999 Kargil War at the memorial which is situated along the Srinagar-Leh National Highway in the village Drass of Kargil District. We entered into it and walked through the lane ‘Vijay Path’ that leads to the memorial. This path got its name from the Indian Military operation, ‘Operation Vijay (1999)’.

Vijay Path inside the Memorial

Vijay Path inside the Memorial

We could see the pink coloured memorial at the base of a high mountain. I knew, travelling of this Memorial would be a reminder of the great sacrifices made during the Indo-Pak Kargil War. It was a different feeling walking through the Vijay Path and reaching the memorial.

Kargil War Memorial is a monument established to commemorate the victories of Operation Vijay during the Indo-Pak war of 1999 and also to pay homage to war Martyrs who laid their lives while safeguarding our country against the Pakistani intruders. The memorial is made of pink sandstone at ‘ground zero’ with the backdrop of Tololing Range. On its rear wall, names of the martyrs are inscribed on golden plate.

Close view of the War Memorial

Close view of the War Memorial

Golden Plate on rear wall of the Memorial

Golden Plate on rear wall of the Memorial

I read therein the quote, “Beneath this earth young warriors sleep” and few lines from a poem of Martyr Ram Prasad Bismil (He was a great freedom fighter participated in Mainpuri Conspiracy of 1918, and the Kakori conspiracy of 1925 against the British Empire, and was sentenced to death by British Raj) at the bottom of the wall,

Shaheedon Ki Chitaon Par

Lagenge Har Baras Mele

Watan Par Mar Mitne Walo Ka

Yahi Baaki Nishaan Hoga

I got goose bumps immediately after reading the above lines. I looked at the mountain Tololing Range which overlooks the memorial– recapturing of which was a great challenge for Indian army.

The Memorial from the rear side

The Memorial from the rear side

Tololing’s victory was achieved sacrificing the life of many soldiers. I could visualize the encounters, the Pakistani invaders were sitting at the peak, a clear advantageous position, they had a clear sight and Indian soldiers were at their easy target. How each and every move of our army to recapture the peak was made ineffective by the enemy needed no explanation! Looking at Tololing I could realize there were no places to take guard while fighting the enemies out, the courage and braveries of the Army Commanders and Jawans and their supreme sacrifices only made the victory possible.

At the memorial, Army personnel brief to the visitors history of Kargil War, about the courageous and brave Jawans and how the Operation Vijay was carried out. We joined the other visitors and stood in a line. An Army officer narrated about the war to us, replied to all of our queries and showed all the peaks including the Tiger Hill.

Army Officer narrating the history of Kargil war to visitors

Army Officer narrating the history of Kargil war to visitors

Tololing range, from behind of which Pakistani intruders were targeting the army posts and logistics supplies, was set to recapture first in the mission. Pakistani intruders were shelling on Srinagar-Leh Highway (NH-1D) to take control of the Tololing range. On 16th May 1999, 56 Mountain Brigade was inducted for “Operation Vijay”.  Major climbing by the troop was done during the darkness of night and under possible covering. The formation achieved the honour and distinction of achieving the first success in Operation Vijay with the recapture of Tololing followed by the capture of point 5140. During this Kargil conflict Indian army made use of Bofors in the battle of Tololing range.

“Sir, I’m on Tololing Top”, a simple message from Col. M.B. Ravindranath, Commanding Offcer of 2 Rajputana Rifles announced the victory over Tololing after a fierce night-long battle (I read it here http://georgians.in/article_detail.asp?aid=183). The battle of Tololing was crucial to the Kargil victory, as it was the first success in Kargil war and highway was made safe from the shelling of Pakistani intruders.

A Board with narrations about Drass Warriors

A Board with narrations about Drass Warriors

My friends at the Memorial

My friends at the Memorial

We saw at the memorial an eternal flame that was dedicated to the Kargil War Martyrs on 18th May 2012. We saw Tiger Hill which is located on the far right of Tololing range.

Tiger Hill Peak is on the Left Top

Tiger Hill Peak is on the Left Top

Tiger Hill was also the subject of 1999 Indo-Pak Kargil War. It was a vital peak to recapture because of its location and height from where enemies could see the road and made the artillery fire. Difficulty was that Indian Military troops had no cover while climbing up and many troops of different battalion remained unsuccessful in the mission. But this is India, super heroes born here and Yogender Singh Yadav, a soldier of the 18 Granadiers unit of the Indian Army was one of them. He was scaling the Tiger hill with 24 other soldiers for three nights. They were 50 meters below the Tiger hill and a Pakistani bunker was just 10 meters above them. Fortune was not in their favour, during the scaling a stone slipped and rolled down which caused heavy firing from Pakistani bunker. 18 of them had to retreat and seven including him was in such a position, neither they could advance nor retreat. They waited for the right opportunity and started climbing again. They captured the Pakistani Bunker. Tiger Hill was then only 40 meter above them.  But the Pakistani army launched fierce attack on them. Granadier Yogender Singh Yadav sustained 15 gunshot injuries and lost all of his six comrades. When he gained consciousness he found one grenade left in his pocket and saw a rifle of Pakistani soldier lying nearby. He was single and heavily injured but so brave that he launched attacked on Pakistani camp with grenade first and then started firing. The Pakistani camp thought it was the attack by Indian Army and retreated from the Tiger Hill. He did it what was impossible. The valour of this brave man won the victory over Tiger Hill, it was recaptured. He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra – the country’s highest gallantry award. (I read the full story here http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-FORCES/History/1999/308-Seven-Hour-Battle.html)

Operation Vijay (1999) was the name of the Indian operation to clear the Kargil sector from the infiltrators of Pakistani soldiers. The victory in the battlefield was announced on 26th July 1999, which is celebrated as Vijay Diwas every year. A largest tricolour flag on a 100 feet pole was installed at this highest battle field in the world at ground zero of Kargil war dedicated at the memorial on 26th July 2012 to Kargil Martyrs.

Largest Tricolour Flag on a 100 feet Pole

Largest Tricolour Flag on a 100 feet Pole

Next to the memorial there is a small museum which features photographs and seized Pakistani weapons from the war.  A lane on the other side took us to the memorial ground- Vir Bhumi.

Vir Bhumi (Memorial Ground)

Vir Bhumi (Memorial Ground)

On the one side of the lane “Vijay Path”, an IAF MiG-21 is kept; these were used extensively in the Kargil war. On the opposite side, there was constructed the Vijyant Helipad to commemorate the valour of Capt Vijyant Thapar who audaciously attacked the enemy machine gun posts and destroyed them at Three Pimples, Knoll and Lone Hill. But in the process he lost his life. For displaying raw courage and exemplary valour in the face of enemy Capt Vijyant Thapar was awarded “Vir Chakra”.

Me in front of the IAF Mig-21 in the Memorial

Me in front of the IAF Mig-21 in the Memorial

Vijyant Helipad at the Memorial

Vijyant Helipad at the Memorial

A Pak living bunker captured at Tololing range and a Pak sentry post captured at Tiger Hill are also kept in the open field of the memorial.

Pak Living Bunker captured and kept in the Memorial

Pak Living Bunker captured and kept in the Memorial

Pak Sentry Post captured and kept in the Memorial

Pak Sentry Post captured and kept in the Memorial

 When you go home, tell them of us and say,

 for your tomorrow, we gave our today

We who live quietly on pastures green, we remember you Vir Jawans, and also understand what otherwise it might have been. Realized immediately when we saw vehicles plying on the highway NH-1D safely making all the way to majestic Ladakh. We quietly sit in the car for our onward journey to Ladakh.

Please do visit the Memorial to pay homage to the Martyrs

Please do visit the Memorial to pay homage to the Martyrs

The Route Map to Kargil War Memorial at Drass

The Route Map to Kargil War Memorial at Drass

Places I Covered on the Srinagar-Leh Route: Sonamarg – (24 Km) ZojiLa – (39 Km) Drass – (60 Km) Kargil – (36 Km) Mulbek – (15 Km) NamkiLa – (36 Km) FotuLa – (15 Km) Lamayuru – (57 Km) Alchi – (19 Km) Likir – (25 Km) Sangam (Confluence of Zanskar and Indus River) – (8 Km) Magnetic Hill – (4 Km) Gurudwara Pathar Sahib – (21 Km) Spituk Monestry – (6 Km) Leh.

 Date of my visit to Kargil War Memorial: 12.07.2014

I will come back soon with more stories on in and around Kargil in my coming post. Till then-

JULLEY!

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