Kargil War hero recounts tales of valour

"If someone says he is not afraid of death, it implies two things — either he is lying or he is a Gorkha" — Sam Maneckshaw.

The story of "Operation Vijay" of the 1999 Kargil war held the audience spellbound at the 25th anniversary of FICCI Ladies Organisation.

Told by the man who knew it best — Vir Chakra recipient Colonel Lalit Rai who commanded the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles — the tale was riveting, especially for the schoolchildren, who were on attendance at the function at Kala Mandir.

Rai, the chief of the Maratha troops of 17 Rashtriya Rifles, engaged in combating insurgency and militancy in Doda,

J&K, was felicitated on the occasion. But for him, the proudest moment was in Kargil, where the Gorkha Rifles fought pitched battles in the perilous terrains of Khalubar —which provided the Indian Army the vital turning point.

Located at 18,000 feet above the sea level, where temperature freezes to minus 32 degree Celsius, Khalubar was one of the toughest for the Army, said Rai.

From medical problems to a rough topography — marked by crevasses, jagged rocks and ice — he and his 600-strong light brigade faced it all. To cap it, the enemy, well-equipped with stinger missiles, had captured a strategic position.

"The Khalubar point had to be conquered at all costs, as it was of utmost strategic importance for India," Rai said. And he volunteered to take the risk.

Finally, after four days and nights without food, under constant fire, they succeeded in raising the Tricolour atop the 18,000 feet Khalubar point.

At the time, he was left with barely eight of his men.

Rai himself received splinter injuries and had a close shave as a bullet pierced a binocular hanging from his chest.

"Let them come a thousand times... we will send them back a thousand times with a bleeding nose," he said, summing up the spirit of the Army.

... contd.

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