By Sahil Mahajan
On Tuesday, the nation paid gratitude and tributes to the warriors who made supreme sacrifice, fought in high range of Himalayas in Ladakh in the summer of 1999 during the Kargil war. Soldiers are soldiers. They are identified by their uniform and their will to lay down lives to save their nation from external and internal threats . No differentiation can be drawn between the soldiers coming from one or the other part of the country. As in the iconic song , “ O, mere watan ke logo… koi Gurkha koi Madrasi, par har koi tha Bharatwasi” ( O my countrymen , soldiers from different parts and of different ethnicities – some Gorkhas and Madrasis but all of them were Indians) , all those who scripted a new history in recapturing the heights occupied by Pakistani army were from the Indian soil.
Jammu ‘s sons and daughters made sacrifices along with the soldiers from the rest of the country . Why mention Jammu? The answer to this question can be understood by those who know where Jammu was placed in that era- 24 years ago . The memorial gates along the border villages, especially in Ranbirsinghpora belt , and the roads renamed after martyrs like Major Ajay Jasrotia in the winter capital bear testimony that this place of warriors had defended the nation with its blood . The martyrdom is innate in Jammu’s soil and blood . The war in Kargil was fought in the plains as well as the hills of Jammu too, as Pakistan had opened fire in several sectors from Kathua to Akhnoor , Nowshera to Krishna Ghati to Poonch . For years after the villagers uprooted from Pallanwalla and other border areas were lodged in migrant camps , including Devipur near Akhnoor .
These may seem distant stories of the distant past, but that is integral to the history of Jammu, during and after Kargil war.. The guns fell silent in the Kargil heights after Indian army cleared these of the Pakistani intruders , but these continued to boom along Jammu borders. Thousands were displaced , they were lodged in schools which were converted into makeshift migrant camps. Jammu was watching and experiencing a war post-Kargil war..
Jammu’s role needs to be focused more than what it has been so far. This place has borne the brunt of all the wars fought between India and Pakistan since 1947 . The region suffered death, destruction and displacement during all the wars. This runs parallel to the valour shown by the soldiers of this soil during all conflicts – 1965, 1971 , 1nd mini-war of Kargil . Jammu deserves better place whenever these wars are recalled and their anniversaries celebrated as victory march of the country against the enemy nations.
This recognition is also needed to inspire the generations elsewhere – for Jammu represents a place where its sons sacrifice their lives in different conflicts , internal or external , it also confronts wars or war-like situations lone before and after the wars are over. Perhaps no other place in the country faces such challenges. Amidst all these backdrops , Jammu needs to be acknowledged as per the role it plays all the time.
On July 24 , there was a commemorative function in which the warriors and their kin were honoured by country’s defence minister Rajnath Singh . This was a function where the Defence Minister laid out a broader vision of the nation’s security and lauded the bravery of the soldiers who made supreme sacrifice during Kargil war of 1999 . This was a good initiative , but these moments should have been of greater inclusion and used to invoke the history of the region and how its place should be determined for posterity . It’s not too late , and still the opportunity can be seized.