Memories: What were ordinary people doing when India was fighting Pakistan in 1999 Kargil war?

18 years ago when the Kargil war broke out I was living in a Boarding school and recall like only yesterday that the whole universe including myself was infuriated. The feeling of being an Indian and to die for India was never felt so strongly by me and others around me ever before. And I can still feel the same.

Each one of us at the school wanted to join Indian Army and fight in Kargil but at the same time we were hearing from military sources that they would not need manpower but would appreciate getting funds for the injured and martyrs families. A contribution lot more than what the usual compensation from the government was.

In those days each of us were getting Rs 40 as pocket money for the entire month. And we used to get two Sundays as offs, when we used to go out of our campus to watch movies or eat lunch at nearby restaurants. Each one of decided to contribute towards this cause for months. We decided NOT to claim any holidays or outings. We saved whatever we could and contributed. That was one of the proudest moments when as a child you know you have contributed for a cause close to your heart and you feel you are responsible enough.

And it didn’t just end there. Indian Army detected the first intrusion on 3rd of May. Almost for a few days, no one realized the massive scale of intrusion. By mid May, India started moving troops from valley to Kargil sector for a big operation.

Around 24th of May, all the three Chiefs met the then PM Vajpayee to seek his permission for using Indian Air Force to drove the enemy out. As soon as the PM gave go ahead, IAF began its bombing.

Turning point: Every one became aware on 27th of May when two IAF Fighter Aircrafts had crashed. After that, public in India came to know that war has begun.

There was tremendous support and feeling of patriotism in Indian Public. Once the news of the death of Sqn Ldr Ajay Ahuja due to torture by enemy soldiers came, the public was enraged to no end. If they has allowed us then, we would have captured Pakistan with our bare hands! :)

There was a massive wave of patriotism. It was the first war after the introduction of TV & Internet and it was the first war after both nations acquired nuclear weapons. It was thus very tense. But we had no access to Internet then neither we knew how to operate a computer then. Our only source of information was News paper and TV.

  1. In the morning when we used to go for the PT class, every one was putting extra efforts. A visible change from earlier times, when most people would bunk PT classes but now they wanted to join the Indian Army. Hence.
  2. Before classes, we used to have a prayer session every day. Special news reading session was organized every day to update us on the Kargil war.
  3. Most of the time we used to discuss war updates or war strategies etc.
  4. In the evening during our TV time, it was only NEWS. We didn't had Satellite TV then but only DD News and DD Metro.
  5. All the students were fired up to go to Kargil and fight war.

Before Kargil war, though I had an understanding of what war was but mostly it was filmy. Bollywood driven. The seriousness of things and true understanding of patriotism was probably not there in me at that time. But as it progressed, true meaning of patriotism got deep into my subconscious. I had decided that Indian Army is my only calling and there is nothing but Indian Army. The ‘Junoon’ had caught me. It is different matter that, this remained one of the wish that I couldn’t fulfill. Till date I feel upset when I see the men in uniform. This is exacerbated when most of your school mates and friends are now serving in the armed forces!

And the most epic picture of Kargil war was the capture of the Tiger hills that captured public imagination across the nation.

Kargil war gave us many heroes. The tale of bravery, sacrifice and heroics that inspires me even today.

Read this remarkable stories of gallantry. Link

Just to give a perspective of heroism, read one of the many tale of bravery:

Kargil Vijay Diwas, named after the success of Operation Vijay. On this day, 26 July 1999. I feel the same elation that I felt almost 18 years ago! Goosebumps.