Indian Army since its formation has shown numerous examples of valour and bravery and this one happened in the icy peaks and extremely rough terrain of Siachen. In September 1987, Pakistani commandos attacked on Indian posts at Siachen, which were known as Operation Rajiv named after Second Lt. Rajiv Pandey, where the Indian army soldiers repulsed the Pakistani army’s try to capture Siachen after Operation Meghdoot in 1984.
It was 23rd September, 1987, a day one should never forget. Pakistan’s No. 1 & No. 3 Commando Battalions of the Special Service Group(SSG) attacked with along with No 2 Northern Light Infantry (NLI) Battalion of the FCNA, on a Bilafond La pass post guarded by just 8 Indian army soldiers. The post is located at 19,000 ft and the weather is such that it can not be imagined.
At 19000 ft, the soldiers have to face many complications. One of them is Hypoxia or the lack of oxygen in the tissues, frost bites extremities, mountain sickness, and constant breathlessness. There are avalanches, blizzards, crevasses, and long term exposure of such weather can lead to ill effects on lungs. With such hostilities, it becomes a completely impossible task to stay up there. The temperature is below minus thirty degrees.
With the Pakistanis attacking the Bilafond La post, they were as big as a brigade, and Indian army with just 8 soldiers repulsed attack after attack from 23rd to 25th September. It was at 5.55 a.m. on 23rd September when the Pakistan’s elite SSG, launced their attack on the Indian posts of Ashok and U-Cut, which they referred to as Rana and Akbar Posts.
Nb Sub Lekh Raj along with his seven gallant men kept fighting till they could. After some time, a TOW missile fired from the Pakistani army hit at the bunker and killed the JCO and his men instantaneously. The left five men were fighting and the situation was precarious. As these five soldiers faced all odds and fought valiantly, the enemy wisely retraced back to Rahber and Tabish Posts(Pakistani posts) in the rear on that particular day.
They suffered heavy casualties and their medico was called back up to reduce the casualties. But as we can expect from Pakistan, next day, they tried to attack again at 3 am with darkness all around. The radio conversations of the Pakistanis were tracked and heard by the Indian army and all their moves were known prior.
The message which was intercepted from the Pakistani side was, “We are waiting for two hours and the ropes have not fetched up yet, we will be day lighted. Cheema is dead and many are injured badly, please send reinforcements.”
It said what the Indian army wanted to hear. The Pakistani army was demotivated and had no reinforcements that meant the war was delayed for one more day as the Pakistani army will be stupid to try to come at the top with no reinforcements in the night. The complete night Major Chaterjee of JAK LI motivated his men to keep fighting. The hitting on the Pakistani army was so accurate that too in darkness.
Next day,at early morning hours of 25th September, the Pakistani army had understood that Indian army had tapped their frequencies and watching every move. The commanders and reinforcements hadn’t come which made the Pakistani army frustrated.
At such conditions, frustration is fatal. The message which was intercepted was, “Wherever I move the enemy fires at me” and prompt came the reply “The kafirs have got hold of our radio frequencies and are monitoring them, all troops switch to alternate frequencies.” There was a pause and then Rashid resumes his conversation, “Sir, we are not carrying our alternate frequencies and all are teams have left the base.”
After a while there was another conversation intercepted “Rashid has been killed and the reinforcements have not reached, tell these seniors to come forward and see for them selves. They are safe in their bunkers and care little for us.” That was a good indicator, and it was the message that the Indian army has won.” At that moment, that was an indication that the battle is won. When the Intel was received, it was known that 300 Pakistani soldiers died.
Naib Subedar Lekh Raj sacrificed his life and was awarded Veer Chakra for coming under extreme pressure and winning the battle with all the nerves. Since 1984, 846 soldiers of the Indian army has made supreme sacrifice to keep the glacier safe and never let any enemy put foot on Indian soil.
We can not wonder what all the Indian soldiers have to go through while we sit safe at our home and moved on with our lives. As they say in Siachen, “Quartered in snow, silent to remain. When the bugle calls, they shall rise and march again.“