Reliving Kargil war with Capt Akhilesh Saxena
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Reliving Kargil war with Capt Akhilesh Saxena

He describes the situation when he went to fight in Kargil war to be very disfavourable for India

Reliving Kargil war with Capt Akhilesh Saxena

Dwarka: Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated to commemorate India's victory over Pakistan in Kargil war, 1999.

Many of us were not even born when Kargil war was fought and won in the year 1999. That is why it is important to sit and listen to Kargil War heroes such as Captain Akhilesh Saxena. He has a story to tell about ultimate sacrifices made on the battlefield, about young officers who led in the face of hostile fire, braving the odds and the sweetest taste of victory.

Captain Akhilesh Saxena, a resident of Kargil Apartments, Sector 18A Dwarka is a Kargil war veteran. At the young age of 24, he fought in the Kargil War, which he calls "a once-in-a-lifetime experience" that changed his life forever. For him, Kargil Diwas celebrated on July 26 every year, is nothing less than a festival.

The victory of Kargil War has achieved a legendary status today. Many movies and stories have been told about that war fought in the highest reaches of the Himalayas. Captain Saxena, being a part of that war, comes with a lot of stories to tell and lots of experiences to share. He says that even though it's been 23 years, every conversation about the war takes him back to 1999 because of his vivid memories of the war.

Back in 1999, Captain Saxena was a young army officer and was newly married. It was roughly around two weeks after his wedding when he was out shopping with his wife that he got a call to go serve in the Kargil War. Captain Saxena, who had always dreamt of fighting for the nation, was nervous and happy at the same time. He considered himself to be lucky to be selected to fight in such an important war. He tells us that even though he was newly married, his wife was very supportive of him going for the duty. He says, "For me, my duty and my nation came first, before anything. What came next were those who'd fight alongside me in the battle. After them came my personal life."

He describes the situation when he went to fight in the Kargil war to be very disfavourable for India. He tells us that because Pakistan was planning the war for a long time, they had occupied the major peaks in Kargil and the Indian army had to conquer those at any cost. On a trip down memory lane, he says, "We were completely unprepared for that attack. We didn't have enough equipment, we didn't even have boots. In mountains, those who sit at the top are more likely to win. The enemy had already occupied the peak. It was a very difficult task to achieve to conquer those peaks."

After several unsuccessful attempts to win the Tololing peak, the task was finally given to Rajputana Rifles, a part of which was Captain Akhilesh Saxena. He was an artillery officer attached Rajputana Rifles and was tasked to lead the battalion to conquer the Tololing peak. While there were very lean chances of winning, Captain Saxena describes it as a 'suicide mission'. Because no one knew if they'll make it alive or not from that attack, Captain Saxena and everyone else wrote their 'last letters' to their family. "A soldier is also a brother, a father, a son. We write this letter in case we die fighting for our country. We ask our family members to not mourn but to celebrate our death, for we have died for something bigger than this life. I wrote a letter to my wife and my parents. However, if we win, we come back and tear that letter into pieces. Fortunately, it was me who came back to my home and not that letter," says Captain Saxena.

Taking us with him to that battlefield, Captain Saxena tells us that while going to fight and conquer Tololing, they didn't carry any food so that they could carry enough ammunition in their bags. After many shellings and firings which happened throughout the night, they started the attack. As the dawn came up the Indian tricolour was atop the Tololing peak. Although it was a victory worth celebrating, Captain Saxena also remembers seeing his jawans and contemporaries dying in that ruthless battle. He also describes that victory as a 'turning point' in the Kargil war and remains his 'biggest achievement' to date.

One of the most telling aspects of the Kargil War was that it was a war led and won by young officers. Captain Saxena, who himself was just 24 at the time, remembers fighting alongside celebrated officers and war heroes such as Capt Vikram Batra, Vijayan Thapar and Manoj Pandey, who he says were even younger than him at the time. He says that it was their young blood that even in -15 degree temperature, without food and water, they were not just keeping themselves alive, but were fully determined to fight for the nation. He also mentions an episode wherein, while struggling to get food, they went inside a kitchen of the enemy which was between the conquered peak and another peak still under the enemy's control. "We went there at night and saw that there was halwa, biryani and dry fruits. We packed all the food we could and made our way back to our camp, all the while dodging the bullets that were coming our way."

Captain Saxena also talks about his conversations with Capt Vikram Batra. He says that in a conversation with him, Vikram once said that there was no bullet in Pakistan that had his name written on it. "He also told me that he is about to get engaged and what kind of life he plans to have. It was a very heart-to-heart conversation," says Capt Saxena.

On their next mission, which was to conquer the Three Pimples peak, the Rajputana Rifles were again leading. Capt Saxena describes that there was lots of shelling and firing. It was during this attack that Capt Saxena's left hand got badly injured by shrapnel. However, even that couldn't crush his spirits as he kept fighting for his country.  He also says that a lot of people lost their lives in that battle because there was little or no medical assistance.

While Capt Saxena wanted to serve his country more, he couldn't join the army back because of the war wound protocol. It was again a turning point in his life. While he got a lot of offers being a Kargil War hero, he decided to do something on his own. He was in a hospital bed when he started preparing for his MBA. He didn't just crack his exam, but got into one of the best MBA colleges in India and emerged as a gold medalist. Today, Capt Akhilesh Saxena works in the corporate world but still credits his success to his years of training in the Indian army. He then signs off our conversation with a Jai Hind.

There are many heroes such as Captain Akhilesh Saxena who served the country in the Kargil war. July 26, Kargil Diwas is the day we celebrate, remember, and acknowledge their sacrifices.