Twenty years after Indian troops recaptured several mountaintops overlooking the strategic Srinagar-Leh highway from intruders, they willagain scale the jagged heights and recreate the victory scenes to mark the anniversaryof the Kargil war on July 26.
People living along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Bataliksector, where the intrusion by neighbouring troops was first detected by someresidents in early May 1999, say they are looking forward to relive the moment whenthe troops unfurled the Indian flag after some of the fiercest battles of theconflict.
The 20th anniversary of "Operation Vijay" will becelebrated with the theme 'Remember, Rejoice and Renew' and troops from threebattalions will undertake expeditions to the peaks where their units had foughtunder impossible conditions to drive out the intruders.
"We 'remember' our fallen heroes by revisiting theirsacrifices which instills pride and respect. We 'rejoice' by celebrating thevictory in Kargil and we 'renew' our resolve to safeguard the honour of thetricolour," an Army official said on Saturday on the theme of this year'scelebration.
Troops from 2 Rajputana Rifles will scale Tololing peak, 13Jammu and Kashmir Rifles will climb Point 4875 (now known as Batra top) and 1/9Gorkha Rifles will ascend Khalubar summit, he said.
Another officer, who fought in Batalik, said, "Everyonetalks of Tololing and Tiger Hill, but the battles of Khalubar, Jubar andKukarthang were far tougher."
Besides the rugged terrain and freezing temperatures,tactically too the Batalik battles were more difficult, he said.
"The enemy had made deeper inroads over a wider area,meaning there were more heights to be won with fewer resources," heexplained.
A treacherous ridgeline in the Batalik sector, Khalubar sawa major battle with 1/11 Gorkha Rifles leading the fight. Lt Manoj Kumar Pandeyled the final assault and was awarded the country's highest gallantry awardParam Vir Chakra.
The terrain of Batalik-Yaldor-Chorbatla sector is the mostrugged after the Siachen Glacier, with heights ranging from 15,000 feet to19,000 feet.
The temperatures in winter range from minus 10-15 degreesCelsius on a sunny day to minus 35-40 degrees Celsius at night. Even in summer,the night temperatures hover around minus 5-10 degrees Celsius.
In the heights of Kargil, the signs of the battles may havelong obliterated, but the locals still vividly recall the Indian Army'sbravery.
"We are proud of our Army which fought a deadly shortwar in these rugged, remote and inhospitable sectors and reclaimed all ourposts," a resident of Garkhon village in Batalik sector, Tsering Dolkar,told PTI.
A shepherd from Garkhon village, Tashi Namgyal, had firstspotted the intruders at Jubar ridgeline in Batalik on May 3, 1999, and alertedthe Army.
He, along with two of his friends, had gone looking for alost yak. While peering through his binoculars, he saw six Pakistani soldiersdressed in black Pathani outfits.
"We are eagerly waiting to take part in the 20thanniversary celebrations of 'Operation Vijay'. We will visit the war memorialat Drass to pay tributes to our slain soldiers," another villager, DNamgyal said.
"We want to witness the Army troops and units recreatethe victory scene," he added.
Recounting the horror that the villagers went through duringthe war, D Namgyal said the mountains shook with the constant heavy artilleryfire.
Like the residents of Garkhon, people in other villages arealso excited about the 20th anniversary of "Operation Vijay".
"We will also take part in the anniversary celebrationsand pay homage to our brave soldiers," a resident of Batalik village,Mohammad Habib, said.
The Kargil war was declared over on July 26, 1999, afterIndian soldiers pushed back the Pakistani troops, a bulk of them drawn from theneighbouring country's Northern Light Infantry, from the captured peaks.
The day is observed as 'Kargil Vijay Diwas' to commemorateIndia's victory.
The celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the war will bespread over three days, from July 25 to July 27.