It was 23rd September 2003 in Baraub, North Kashmir. Dusk is falling. The pale yellow glow of the setting sunlights up two soldiers with AK-47s in their hands. Tall, hefty, hook-nosed Subedar Bhim Singh Raizada has a menacing scowl and narrow piercing eyes. His company commander, short, slim, large eyed Captain Sameer Singh Bisht looks gentle and harmless till you notice his smashed boxer nose.
The two of them have been dropped by helicopter on a freezing 18,000 foot high ridge. Along with a team of 42 other paratroopers. Their task is to search and destroy a group of armed terrorists who have crossed over from Pakistan and are on the way into the Kashmir valley.
A burst of gunfire suddenly catches them unawares. It comes from behind a 10 foot high boulder. Raizada shouts an ear scalding hindi swear word and leaps behind a big rock. He looks up and is relieved to find Bisht leaning back against another rock, breathing heavily. With a curt node in Raizada’s direction, gesturing to him to stay put, Bisht slings his rifle on his back and makes a dash for the boulder that is almost as twice as tall as he is.
Using the momentum from his sprint and the adrenaline in his veins, he grabs the slanting rock and pulls himself up. In seconds, he is at the top of the boulder, completely exposed, looking down at three Pakistani terrorists who are crouching behind it and firing at Raizada. They are so engrossed that they don’t see him. Bisht puts his gun on multiple fire mode and presses the trigger. He plans to kill all three with a continuous burst. There is a click of the trigger but nothing happens!
Bisht is horrified to discover that his gun has jammed. In the freezing cold, he fills sweat on his forehead. Looking down in desperation, he finds an empty cartridge stuck in the gun bridge. Removing it quickly with shaking fingers, he points his gun at the terrorists once again. One of them sense something amiss and is turning his head as Bisht’s dark brown eyes meet the Pakistanis light grey green ones, they both lift their guns instinctively. Bisht is a fraction of a second faster. He sends a spray of bullets into the stunned Pakistani’s face.
The same burst reaps across the backs of his two comrades as well. Bisht keeps firing, his armed steady, his face a cold emotionless mask. He stops only after all three have fallen in a pool of blood and he’s sure they won’t rise again. In their think phirans(long woollen robes), eyes open in shock, weapons fallen by their sides, they look like young boys just out of college. Bisht grimaces and with a sad shrug of his shoulders leaps of the boulder and makes his way to where the hawk nosed Raizada is waiting for him with respect in his eyes.
Colonel Sameer Singh Bisht, SM, Para Regiment now serves as a Deputy commander of a Mountain Brigade.
With permission- Excerpted from Shoot. Dive. Fly. authored by Rachna Bisht Rawat, published by Penguin Random House India 2017. MRP: Rs. 199.