Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey: Step by step account of last Battle….

 (Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey)

It was the July of 1999 a pitch dark night had welcomed me into an embrace. But, ironically even as the night made all attempts to make me comfortable, I didn’t expect it to be a smooth sail at all. The moment I had been waiting for, was about to unfold, all my training, discipline and composure would be put to test on this fateful night.

The dark night had its own music, a sort of rhythm to it and the silence was almost palpable. My steely eyed Gurkhas were climbing towards Khalubar top, with me leading the assault. Familiar faces of my men seemed more bright and handsome today with a glow of invisible confidence and the josh to win. Every eye and each ear was in complete attention to pick up the slightest of movements and faintest of sounds.

I was exceptionally composed today, something in there was telling me to be calm. I guess it had been the missions before, which had numbed my senses to pain, anxiety and tardiness. My imagination was on an overdrive and I could see a vision, an almost continuous reel of events to be. I could see/visualize or probably contemplate enemy bunkers firing in my direction and me charging at them with a full blooded cry. This vision would come often while I revised the mission objectives in my head - to the last detail.

My platoon had just finished the treacherous climb up the ridge which was a little more difficult than usual because of the low light and the steep gradient of the ridge. Just as the first steps groped for a firm footing and eyes focused on the first objective, a volley of bullets were fired directly at us. I think, the Pakis had some inkling that an assault was impending. The guns were roaring at their loudest….

Grrr…… Grrr…. Grrr….. Grrr…..Grrr…..Grrr.. machine gun fire broke the eerie silence. The intense fire forced us to take cover.

Ghrrrr……Ghrrr……. Ghrr…….we shot back.

We were communicating with bullets now, our communication to the Pakis was loud and clear – Leave our positions now!! The fire that started with a few bursts was soon turning into a blanket of automatic fire. Me and my men were retaliating but were stalled. The fire came from all surrounding heights.

While I was firing at the enemy, I knew that I had to act fast or else my platoon would be daylighted. I was still firing at the enemy when I thought of a plan, a very basic and simple strategy. One that had its dangers, but also had high chances of success.

Four bunkers were firing at us, the first and the primary objective was to silence the interfering enemy positions. We had to start from somewhere, I decided to take the first bunker by assaulting it from both the right and left flank.

I called out to one of my NCO and explained him the plan sometimes through gestures and sometimes through words. While a section of my platoon would attack the bunker from the right, I would lead another section’s assault from the left.

We ducked, moved, showed, shot, ran, ducked and shot at the enemy intermittently, but we moved forward nevertheless. It was a time that called for desperate measures.

Slowly and gradually the faces in the bunkers were a little more visible, a little time later I could see the horror in their eyes as the burst from our guns lighted their faces.

Suddenly, we heard a thud as one of the guns in the enemy bunker stopped firing. In a while the other soldier in the bunker met with the same fate. We had captured one of the enemy firing positions, but this was not time to rest. Two of my soldiers replaced the position, once held by our adversaries.

The firing continued this time as well, but it was aimed at silencing the Pakis and facilitating our advance. Bunker two also fell in while grenades were lobbed inside and out came the bunker’s occupants. Whatever remained of life in them was exhumed by our guns.

By now the other positions were in clear sight and were firing continuously at us. There grenades too were landing precariously close to us. But we had our goal in sight and charged towards the third bunker, the time from here on was more like a third person event taking place in slow motion. I could see the flashes from my own gun-fire illuminate a distance of a few feet ahead of me.

Now, my head was feeling a little warm and my feet and hands were a lot lighter. Weariness had not affected me and the sounds of gun fire had seized to disturb me, I could now see who my adversaries were. Just then, something stung me on my legs and a short while later I felt a sting on my shoulder that pushed me back a few paces. Drops of sweat seemed to roll down my stinged leg and shoulder.

This time though the profuse perspiration did not cool me it went on to flow over my body and clothes in warm streams of blood. I kept moving but the pain grew, I know if I were to stop now, I would go no further.

I took a deep breath and shouted the war cry of my battalion ‘Jay Maakali Aayo Gurkhaali”. It was met with a synchronous chorus of the same message in a louder tone by my brother gurkhas. We had let the adversary know that we were coming. As i climbed over to the back of the bunker, I pointed my rifle and swept if left to right and then right back with the trigger still pressed. The surprised enemy got no time to react and perished in our blitzkrieg.

By now i was almost swaying, but I knew that my objective was not achieved. I hurried up and collected the last ounce of energy left in me. With my eyes set on the last remaining enemy position i continued to lead the assault on the fourth position.

My men had pulled out their khukris and were charging frantically at the forth enemy position. This was the moment that dwarfed all other, this was the time that was to decide the fate our mission. The pain was getting stronger and so was my spirit, I marched towards the position firing and lobbing grenades.

This time too I shot at and hit the enemy, they fell back or so I felt. I took the route that I had taken the last time but this time the enemy was waiting and he knew me a little too well. The moment I reached the entrance of the bunker a gun crackled from the bunker floor. I ducked and fired my last bullet.

Gosh… I was empty. It was the time to pull out the feared kukri and so I did. With kukri in one hand, i plunged into the bunker. The Paki muzzles aimed at me and fired. As if fell into the air I heard a cling and felt a certain pressure build up on my helmet. Almost immediately the excruciating pain literally blew my head away.

But my hands had been preprogrammed into what I had to do. A sense of De ja vu gripped me the same vision I had seen while climbing up to Khalubar came alive before my eyes. I had gone through the even so many times now (in my thought though) that my Khukri just din’t have to be moved. Hands moved, kukri screamed and with whatever energy I had left the famed combat knife was thrust into the flesh of those wrongfully occupying our posts. The last thing I remembered was a loud thud followed by the death cries of a wriggling Pakistani under me.

I started to loose sight, and my hearing slowed down little by little. My hands and legs could no longer move. I could see dazed images of my Gurkha men trying to talk to me. But I was done with the fight, I smiled at them and showed them a thumbs up.

I started to loose the pain in my body, slowly and gradually I started to feel the comfort of a good sleep I felt the comforts of my mothers lap in those moments. Slowly, the lap got a lot cozier and I drifted away into sleep….

Note: The event is based on the sacrifice of Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey and his last battle (Capture of Khalubar, Kargil War). This is an animation of the battle and certain element of imagination has been used. The fact and figures might not be correct to the last details, but the writer has tried to bring about those last moments of Lieutenant Pandey.
No malice or libel intended.                    

1 comment:

  1. Well-written, bro. We should never forget the sacrifice of those brave men who gave their today for our tomorrow. Vande Mataram!