not taken the fight out of them
Till a few days ago
they were fighting a war. A landmine or a fusillade of bullets
has reduced them to narrators of the drama that is being enacted on the
snowy terrain yonder. Kargil has claimed many lives and many more limbs
Every day, the two army hospitals in Delhi, the Base Hospital and the
Research and Referral Hospital, get soldiers on stretcher wheels. Some
have limbs missing, some have bullets lodged in their brains, and all of
them suffer from complications due to lack of prompt medical care.
Singh, 24 from 18 Grenadiers
It took 36 hours for Dalip Singh,
24, to be evacuated. This soldier from 18 Grenadiers was injured on May
27. He was stealthily advancing towards a Batalik sangar (bunker made of
rocks) at 5 a.m. in sub-zero temperatures when enemy fire blew up his right
hand and left eye. He arrived, crawling, at the base 24 hours later, on
May 29. He was flown to Srinagar and then to Delhi.
Wounded he may be but broken he is
not. Like his bandaged colleagues, he is only concerned about dushman ko
khadedna hai (routing the enemy). A few beds away, Jeevan Chetri, 20, stoically
narrates how he lost a leg to a landmine, but talk about the enemy, and
his face hardens, in a hoarse voice he says, "They have to be driven out."
Lying in a corner bed in the R&R
Hospital, Ravinder Singh, 20, has only one grouse. "I am quite comfortable
here, but I would have been happier in the other room with soldiers my
age," he says sheepishly. The two others in the room are in their 40s and
they crib about his poor tastes (Govinda's films) and the three are constantly
fighting for the TV remote.
A sports enthusiast, Ravinder, was
a reluctant recruit, but the battlefield changed all that. "My only concern
is to fight for my country," he says. His nose flattened by a gunshot (he
breathes through a pipe), this rifleman trekked three kilometres after
being hit. When he paused near a trench, he was shot in the thigh.
Hawaldar Ram Chandra Singh's problem
is the never ending visits by his relatives from Haryana. This soldier
of 9 Rajputana Rifles was hit by a Pakistani shell when he was gathering
stones to build a bunker in the Uri sector. His family charged to Delhi
on receiving a telegram from the Army Headquarters. "They have been sending
the same telegram at regular intervals and, each time, someone rushes in.
Now, I have told them to ring before setting out."
Jeevan Chatri proudly nurse their injuries
His arms and legs swathed in heavy
bandages, Rajinder Singh of 315 Field Regiment is tired of being strapped
to a bed for over 24 days. "I tell the doctors to get me back on my feet
soon." One leg has been operated upon four times, while the pus in the
other makes it difficult for an operation. Yet he hopes that his 16-year-old
son joins the Army.
Those who don't fight, but only stand
and support have also been hit. Lance Naik Janbir Singh, who is in the
Ordnance in Dras hid in a trench for two days when the attack began on
May 7. "Since we are not fighters we did not have any ammunition. We were
on our way to Kargil when our vehicle was hit," he says.
Sanam Chorgial of Ladakh, too, was
hit in the eye while carrying goods for the army.
Some of the wounded soldiers have
not informed their families. Maybe they need time to come to terms with
Coming to terms is not easy. There
are bouts of irritation, anger and frustration. Occasionally, insensitive
media hounds aggrevate them.
The war has taken its toll on their
career and the future of their families. They all know the road ahead is
tough. But there is a sense of pride. Says Hawaldar Vishnu Prasad of 18
Grenadiers: "We may have lost our limbs, but we have gained respect. Till
yesterday, the army was considered just another employment option by most
Indians. The letters of support from all over and the ambition of the youth
to fight for the country are our reward."
Meanwhile, these soldiers in their
beds are still fighting, for the TV remote, the young guns want Zee movies,
the older bunch news bulletins.
Courtesy: THE WEEK