Post Mortem

Actions of the 1st Battalion of the Naga Regiment during Operation Vijay (Kargil)

Dimapur Oct 11 | Publish Date: 10/12/2020 10:57:12 AM IST

 In my previous article ‘Naga Regiment baptized with fire’ I had recounted the valour and the achievements of the newly raised 1 NAGA Regiment during the Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. The battalion had fought shoulder to shoulder with the other senior regiments of the Indian Army and in recognition of its contributions, it was presented with the colours by the President of India on 06 May 78 at Dehradun.

In 1985there was an addition in the Naga Regiment family when 2nd Battalion of the NAGA Regiment was raised on 11 Feb 1985, at Haldwani(Uttarakhand) by Lt Col(Later Brig)PS Sejwan. After its raising was complete it moved to Palampur(Himachal Pradesh). During this peace tenure,it was also operationally deployed during OP ALERT and OP TRIDENT in Akhnoor(J&K) and its role washighly appreciated. The Battalion celebrated its 4th Raising day in Feb 1988 at Palampur which was attended by Lt Gen RN Mahajan,Colonel of the Naga Regiment. In the ensuing the battalions were deployed in the challenging high altitude and insurgency areas where their performance was praiseworthy.In peace areas they honed their skills through intensive training and also earned accolades in various competitions. The Regimentsgrew from strength to strength and gradually carved a niche for themselvesin the Indian Army.
In the spring of 1999, there were reports that Pakistani based Terrorists had occupied mountain heights in DRAS -KARGIL - BATALIK Sectors of Western Ladakh threatening the Srinagar - Leh highway.Army Headquarters immediately responded by mobilizing the formations andlaunched OP VIJAY to evict the intruders. 1 NAGA and 2 NAGA toowere destined to beinducted toDRAS sector for employment in eviction of the Pakistani intruders.
After celebrating its Silver Jubilee in 1996 at Almora, 1 NAGA had moved to J&K in Jul 1998 for deployment in counter insurgency operations in Ganderbal - Manasbal and later Kangan areas of the Valley.In the short period of less than a year it eliminated number of dreaded terrorists and thereby achieved complete domination of the area of responsibility and its personnel were awarded three Sena Medals and four COAS Commendation Cards for their acts of valour.
Colonel DA Patil, SM (Retd)was the Commanding Officer of 1NAGAin the valley whenthe unitreceived orders on 08 May to move to Kargil Sector and accordingly itreached Dras on 11 May. In a conversation with him, he shared that 1 NAGA was the first battalion of the Indian Army to be inducted in Kargil when information regarding the Infiltrators was scanty and the situation still unfolding. The battalion however quickly shed its counter insurgency psycheand geareditself for the dauntingrole ahead in the rugged High Altitude Area of Ladakh.
I NAGA on arrivalwas tasked to evict the infiltrators and patrolswere launched to probe  the snow-clad upper reaches. Their moves were contested by coordinated and effective fire of intruders. Thus it came to light that the infiltrators were regulars of Northern Light Infantry of Pakistani Army and not Terrorists.It then dawned that the threat was formidable and accordingly8 Mountain Divisionwas inducted and both the Naga Battalions which had arrived were placed under its Brigade at Dras. The units which had arrived early had suffered casualties in the skirmishes with the Intruders so they were given time to recoup, train, familiarize&acclimatize and prepare for the impendingtasks. 
In Jun 99 in the attack on Tololing, 1 NAGA was tasked to provide firm base to 2 Rajputana Rifles and also to preventthe enemy from inducting reinforcements.They also provided invaluable assistance to 2 Rajputana Rifles in replenishment of ammunition and other warlike storesup to the objective as the terrain was rugged and movement excruciating but the Nagas  adept in mountain climbing accomplished the task with ease.
After capture of Tololing 1 NAGA was assigned to capture BLACK TOOTH a neighbouring hillfeature. Assaulting platoon of Alfa Company under the leadership of Subedar Heni Mao,an ace mountaineer was assigned the task. Sepoy Asuli Mao the leading Scout of the company fearlessly eliminated the Enemy Sentry which resulted in the successful capture of BLACK TOOTH enemy position. Sepoy Asuli Mao was conferred the Vir Chakra and Subedar Heni Mao was awarded the Sena Medal for their acts of valour in this operation.  (Sepoy Asuli Mao was later fatally wounded in another operation in OP VIJAY)
By mid Jul 99 the Pakistanis had probably decided to withdraw. However I NAGA secured PIMPLE (renamed Naga HILL) with great determination and fortitude. However Pt 5060 still had enemy presence and I NAGA volunteered to capture the same. A daring daylight attack was launched on Point 5060 by Charlie Company led by Capt(now Brig) Deepak Sajjanhar.With this operation the Area was finally cleared of all Pakistani intruders.
In OP VIJAY 1 NAGA suffered 10 fatal casualties and 52 Non-fatal casualties.Naik(later Nb Sub) Khusi Man Gurung and Sepoy Asuli Mao were conferred the gallantry award of Vir Chakra.Subedar(later Hony Capt) Heni Mao, Havaldar Tam Bahadur and Capt Vijay Kumar(RMO) were awarded the Sena Medal and Capt S Ashok was Mentioned-in-Dispatches. In recognition of the achievements of the Battalion,it was awarded the Northern Command Unit Appreciation,Battle Honour ‘DRAS’ and Theatre Honour ‘KARGIL’. After accomplishments of all tasksand cessation of operations, in August 99the battalion moved to Siachen Base Camp for deployment in OP MEGHDOOT(Siachen) the highest battle field in the World, where it performed admirably.
After completion of a challenging tenure in the Siachen Glacier,in Aug 2000 the battalion relocated to Eastern Ladakh under its parent brigade (where the author was posted as the Deputy Brigade Commander).Naga’s dream of a well-deserved ‘Rest and Recuperation’ was short lived, as two of its companies were immediately tasked for management and security of the vital Rohtang Axis to Ladakh. In Oct 2000, the ‘Never say Die’ Nagas,finally de-inducted after an eventful and a successful tenure in Ladakh,forits well-deserved peace tenurein Dehradun.  (Account of operations of 2 NAGA in OP VIJAY(Kargil) will be covered in the next article).
Col Prakash Bhatt (Retd)
(The Author is a recipient of Gallantry Award of Mention-in- Dispatches during IPKF. He is a former Deputy Commandant of Kumaon Regimental Centre, Ranikhet and former Additional DIG Assam Rifles (Nagaland) and has served extensively in Nagaland. The views expressed in this account are in his personal capacity)

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