In Letters from Kargil, Diksha Dwivedi tells the story of the Kargil war through the letters of the soldiers who fought it.
The Indian army’s success in the Battle of Tololing, fought in June 1999, marked a turning point in the war. One of the survivors of this battle was 2 Rajputana Rifles’ Lieutenant Praveen Tomar, then 23 years old, who had been commissioned just five months ago and was known as the baby of the battalion. He wrote this to his friend Gagan, also a soldier.
25 June 1999
It has been over a fortnight since I received your letter. But the nerve-wracking experiences and the hectic pace of events of the past few days forced me to wait for a few days before I could write to you. Anyway, thanks a lot for the letter. Even though your reply was a bit late in coming it could not have come at a more opportune moment.
By now you must have heard the name of Tololing Hill in Dras sector and that one of the Raj Rif Bro’s took it. Well, we took it on night 12/13 June. My coy was the leading coy and I went in with the leading platoon. Before us 18 Grenadier had been tasked to capture and they had lost close to 20 chaps, including their 21C and one Major Adhikari, without success. The task was formidable indeed and our orders were explicit. Tololing had to be taken at any cost. We took the objective but the price my coy paid was a heavy one. My leading section was wiped out, everyone either dead or injured and the rest of my platoon is in tatters. It is a miracle indeed that I have escaped unhurt despite being in the leading party. People behind and even around me got hit while I kept having narrow escapes. I could see muzzle flashes at barely 5 metres but still came out safe. In fact I stepped on a stone that triggered a landmine. I fell down due to the blast but was safe otherwise. Seeing me fall people thought that I had lost my leg. So it came as a surprise for people in the base who received me the next day. Others were not so lucky as I was. My coy lost 8 chaps including my coy cdr Maj. Vivek Gupta, one JW, my CHM, and 5 others. 12 of my men including my senior JCO are in MH.
It is not often that as an individual you write history for the whole army. But that fateful night Lt Tomar wrote history for the Indian Army. Congratulations are pouring in. The COAS has written in personally, Raj Rif centre commandant has written personally to each officer of the bn and I was quite busy talking to reporters and taking them around. I was interviewed by some foreign journalists and we are soon expecting a feature on our action in India Today.
But going to battle was a terrible and frightening experience. To motivate men to give their best, even their lives, while you fight your own inner fears. To put up a brave front in front of the men while inwardly you are yourself not so sure. To command men your father’s age. You know that men will die but hope like hell it wouldn’t be you. But when you fight all your fears are all gone, your doubts vanished. All you can think of is killing that bastard. They say baptism of fire is what makes you a man and it made me a man that night.
One fact that might interest you is that I had carried your letter into battle and that I was without food or water for 24 hours and was urinating blood due to my overexertion. But by God, we did it and we did it in style. Hope you are having a good time while I fight it out here. Please do find some time to write a few lines. It is very lonely out here and I can’t even write home coz I don’t want to trouble them. So please, please write a reply quickly.
Bye. Yours, Praveen.