Recently I watched the movie Uri – The Surgical Strike. I was thrilled and desperately looking forward to it for two reasons – 1. The events depicted in the movie are close to my heart; 2. Major Iqbal (as I fondly call Vicky Kaushal, the lead protagonist of the film, since his Razi). Heartfelt congratulations to the team Uri for making it very well and bringing those critical, historically important events live to the people of our country.
The surgical strikes hold special importance to me as I was a part of them in a big way. We were posted in Nagaland in 2014. The state is inflicted by insurgency, inter-ethnic conflict and terrorism. However, there was a ceasefire agreement by Naga underground groups for many years. It was all peaceful and we had a normal life. There was no security required for the families to step out of the cantonment to visit the local markets. I had stayed at many of our battalion posts as well as learnt about the various tribes and their cultures.
THE FIRST STRIKE
Few months after we were posted out the situation in the region changed. Its peace and security was struck upon by the local terrorist outfits. On 4 May, 2015 I got the horrific news of militant ambush on 23 Assam Rifles by NSCN(K) in which 8 of its soldiers were killed. I was emotionally shaken up and shattered.
Among the soldiers killed was Rifleman Sanjivan S from Kerala whom I knew personally. He had told me about his family and I remembered his heavy South-Indian accent. The location where the ambush took place was familiar to me as I had stayed there for some days. I knew its roads and the terrain. For many days post the incident I kept picturing in my mind of what would have happened. NSCN(K), the Naga terrorist outfit, had violated the 14-year-old ceasefire agreement with the centre. We keep reading and hearing news of our army soldiers being martyred on the borders fighting terrorism. But for the first time I could emotionally relate with the dear ones of these brave men every time they lose a beloved.
Thereafter, such insurgent attacks by militants became frequent in Nagaland and Manipur especially areas close to the Burma border. One of them was the Chandel (Manipur) ambush in which 18 Army jawans were killed. It was the biggest militant attack in 10 years. On 10 June, 2015 counter-insurgency operation was conducted in India-Myanmar border destroying insurgent camps including those responsible for the attack on Assam Rifles, inflicting causalities as high as 158. This was the FIRST SURGICAL STRIKE by India against militants. It was not covered and talked about by media as much as the second. It came in the lime light when the PoK strike happened. Militancy in North-East is as widespread as it is in Jammu and Kashmir. I’m glad that it is reaching the masses through this film.
THE SECOND STRIKE
Few years ago we were posted in Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir. It is truly a heaven on earth and one of the most exquisite places in our country. I was a teacher at the Army school and hence got an opportunity to interact and learn about the lifestyle of the locals. I was touched by their simplicity and harmony. In the month of July in 2016 there was a widespread uproar in Kashmir valley following the killing of the militant leader Burhan Wani. Srinagar was shutdown which also affected the commodities getting transported to Kargil.
One day, on 18 September, 2016 we got the devastating news of the terrorist attack on the brigade in Uri sector. With this incident there was a red alert in our brigade in Kargil and the security was tightened up. There were talks of sending all the army families back home. Around the same time my parents and in-laws were going to visit us. 29 September, 2016 the day is engraved in my mind since then, my folks arrived in our station and at the same time there was breaking news running across news channels – “Indian Army carries out surgical strikes across the Line of Control in PoK” – were the headlines. I could feel an adrenaline rush, an elevated sense of patriotism within me.
The orders were out for all the family members of army personnels to vacate Kargil by 10th October. My guests and I started for Leh a day after the breaking news. I had travelled on those roads several times before, but that day it was a sight! There was a fleet of vehicles, army men and heavy weaponry heading in the direction opposite to us. I had seen army convoy before but this was different. I was amazed to see trucks after trucks carrying huge machinery. I could recognise one – the artillery weapon Bofors, one of the significant factors of winning the 1999 Kargil War. I had studied about it at the Kargil War Memorial. Suddenly I felt a chill run down my spine. I started praying deep inside my heart for nothing to go wrong.
Once we reached the cantonment in Leh to check in to our guest rooms, the picture of what I had encountered on my journey got clear. The station was deserted. There was no one to help with our guest rooms. The dinning mess was far and there was only one personnel to manage it. He informed us that all the man power and vehicles were sent to Kargil on emergency. This preparation was done to counter any retaliation from the enemy side against our surgical strike. Thankfully my prayers were answered. The arms, ammunition, the man power were not required to be used. Nonetheless, it was quite an adventurous experience for me.
While watching the movie Uri I could recall all these memories from 3 years ago. This is why the surgical strikes are close to my heart. Salute to the brave hearts and their families because of whom we are able to live a safe and normal life.
How’s the Josh?
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