20 years of Kargil: How India took back Tiger Hill from the enemy

The Tiger Hill was declared to be reclaimed on the morning of July 8 as the tricolor was unfurled.

Mumbai: At 5,307 metres high, the majestic Tiger Hill overlooks all other mountains and acts as the watchman of Drass, a place in Kargil. During the 1999 Kargil War, when the Pakistani troops had infiltrated India and occupied the territory of Tiger Hill, General Officer Commanding, 8 Mountain Division gave the responsibility of recapturing the hill to 18 Grenadiers.

To aid the 18 Grenadiers, the battalion of 8 Sikh had been exceptionally brilliant as it had isolated the enemy from three sides. The battalion was asked to simulate attacks from the Southern and Northern directions. The battalion was also tasked to capture the western gateway leading to the hill to prevent Pakistani Army from sending reinforcement.

Commanding Officer of 18 Grenadiers, Colonel Khushal Thakur moved the infantry to a forward location from where the enemy bases could be easily attacked. The attack was executed in the dark. 18 Grenadiers sub-divided themselves into Alpha, Charlie and Ghatak companies.

8 Sikh launched the attack from the northern and southern end. This diverted the enemy’s attention. Meanwhile, Ghatak Platoon climbed a steep cliff to reach the top. Captain Sachin Nimbalkar and Lieutenant Balwan Singh were entrusted with the responsibility of conquering the territory, while Havildar Madan Lal engaged the intruders from another direction.

The enemy was not prepared for the situation and started to withdraw. Nimbalkar’s men suffered casualties but eventually managed to regain control of Tiger Hill.

Tiger Hill was made a mini fortress by the Pakistani side as a huge stock of arms, ammunition and ration were recovered from their bunkers.

The enemy, however, retaliated numerous times but was vehemently answered by the Indian troops.

Recapturing Tiger Hill was an unfinished battle as the adjoining Area Reverse Slope, Collar, Rocky Knob and V Cut were still under the control of Pakistan. Tiger Hill was used as the strategic ground and guns were positioned on top to attack these bases.

Under the command of Major Y S Tomar of Artillery Brigade, the attack was launched at 0030 hours on July 8 at Area Reverse Slope from the eastern side. Grenadiers persevered and reclaimed the territories of Area Reverse Slope and V Cut. Anticipating favourable circumstances, India pushed for Collar and got hold of the same before dawn.

The Tiger Hill was declared to be reclaimed on the morning of July 8 as the tricolor was unfurled.

Havildar Madan Lal who fought with valour and pride was awarded the Vir Chakra posthumously.

Subedar Major (then Grenadier) Yogendra Singh Yadav became the youngest person to be awarded the Param Vir Chakra. His presence of mind and bravery helped the men to climb the cliff as he was the first to reach the top and killed four enemy soldiers. Yadav further engaged four other enemy soldiers with two of his fellow soldiers and killed them in hand-to-hand combat. Yadav was wounded with 14 bullets piercing him but he survived well to narrate his story.

The battalion was awarded two Maha Vir Chakras and six Vir Chakras in the Tiger Hill battle. The then Chief of Army Staff General Ved Prakash Malik awarded the Unit Citation to 18 Grenadiers and honoured them with the title ‘Bravest of the Brave’.

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