Death, not heroism is truth of life

Death, not heroism is truth of life

Death, not heroism is truth of life

After a war is over, every soldier who is part of the victory is called a hero. Kargil turned out to be no different. But very few men and officers think or refer to their actions during the war as ‘heroism’. At the time, the single-minded focus was to win. Nothing else counted.

Maj Gen A K Sinha* recalls his experience, “We were fighting for the country. At that point of time, nothing but victory was paramount in every jawan’s mind. Those who survived are still hounded by the haunting memories of the war. I myself, am reminded of corpses of my jawans lying in pools of blood. Till today, I have nightmares and I wake up suddenly. Its hard to get sleep after that,” he shares.

“We have been through something that a common man would die at the sight of. Knowing the fact that you might lose every man who is onboard (sic) with you and then watching that thought come true, when you watch them die in front of your eyes, can hardly be labelled heroism. It’s just sheer madness,” says Col Sampath Kala* who was part of the team that captured Tololing top.

Heroism or not, 13 years on, some of the families of these men and officers are still coming to terms with the struggle of life, having lost their loved ones in the ‘battle for victory’. “We fought and came back alive but there were others who could not make it.
It’s the families of these brave men who are left grieving and coping with the biggest loss of their lives. One such example is that of Major Padam­pani Acharya,” says Col Kala.

On 28 June 1999, in the battalion attack on the Tololing feature by 2nd Rajputana Rifles,
Major Padmapani Acharya, 30, as Company Commander (CO) was assigned the formidable task of capturing an enemy position which was heavily fortified and strongly held with minefields and sweeping machine gun and artillery fire. Even as his men died at the hands of the enemy fire, he continued to encourage jawans and charged at the enemy with the reserve platoon up the steep rock face.

“Ignoring the hail of bullets from the enemy’s bunker, Acharya crawled up to the bunker and lobbed grenades. Though severely injured and unable to move, he ordered his men to leave him and charge at the enemy while he continued to fire. The bunker was finally overrun and the objective of capturing the peak achieved. Acharya succumbed to his injuries after the mission was accompli­s­hed. Such was his determination to fight,” says Col Kala describing the incident.

Major Acharya, awarded Maha Vir  Chakra, the second highest gallantry award for his efforts, was survived by a wife who was seven months pregnant at the time.

Needless to say, the tragedy shook her and their families completely. But her in-laws gave her all the support she needed to see her through her nightmare. The government did offer her a job but she refused and opted to take care of Aparajita, her daughter, instead. Explains Col Kala, “Since death is the only truth of life, she has accepted this today.”

Maj Gen Adhir Ahuja* says, “Hero is a ‘name’ given to us by society. Whatever happens on the war front is very uncommon for the common man so they picture it as heroic but as far as we are concerned we are not heroes. We go through a feeling of ‘dying every second’ but we are used to it, so it is not heroic for us.”

*names changed on request