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Mashkoh: Kargil as I saw it

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Book Cover Mashkoh - Kargil as I saw it

There comes a time when there is an inner voice urging you to write about your experiences of the most effected events of your life, especially during a war, with all its ups and downs. I happened to be a fortunate or an unfortunate person who had participated in the Kargil war as commanding officer of the 17th battalion, of the Jat regiment, in Mashkoh valley. I call it fortunate because we earned the fame of ‘Unit Citation,’ ‘Battle Honour Mashkoh,’ ‘Theatre Honour Kargil,’ and forty-one individual awards, including one MVC, four VrC, and six SM (gallantry) under my command; and unfortunate because we lost our thirty-six comrades during the bloody war and 120 soldiers were injured. A hefty price to pay. As a commanding officer, nothing had prepared me for that monumental burden I must forever carry for not bringing all my soldiers’ home to their families.

The lockdown announced by our PM from 23 March 2020 onwards due to COVID -19 gave me ample free time and increased my resolve to pen down my Kargil war experiences as I saw it before my fading memory gives way. While doing so, I have tried to be as factually correct as possible, with the names, dates, and events.

Many books have already been written by some experienced and well-respected senior military officers on the Kargil war. Why then would I choose to write a book?

Who am I to write such a book? I am not the epitome of what every leader should aspire to be? Tiger Hill, located close to the national highway (NH 1D), had become the household name during the Kargil war, and it hogged the media headlines.

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However, Point 4875 in Mashkoh valley, though tactically more critical than Tiger Hill, did not get the media attention it deserved, as it was located eight km away from NH 1D. Therefore, not much has been written about the Mashkoh valley’s battles by the 17th battalion the Jat regiment.

I write this book as gratitude and tribute to the ‘Mashkoh Warriors’ (17Jat), who fought this battle with grit and determination, and many sacrificed their lives for the country. I felt that their story must be recorded for posterity so that every young budding officer and soldier should be well informed and learn appropriate lessons from our good deeds and mistakes that we made. I write this book to capture those lessons of war for future generations so that as new wars begin and end, such crucial lessons will not have to be relearned- rewritten in more blood.

The book is the first-hand narration of events in war, as they unfolded before me.

This book isn’t meant to be an individual glorified war story, nor is it meant to belittle any leader for the war’s lapses. We know what it means to fail- to lose or simply to be surprised! Those lessons were the hardest, but perhaps the most important. We learned that the mission’s success comes with grit and determination of the leaders and the led to achieving victory, particularly when doubters question whether victory is even possible. Far from being ours alone, the war stories in this book are of my soldiers, comrades, and leaders we served with and fought alongside. What this book contains are my personal views from my perspective.

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I have tried to compile the stories of courage, operations, human interest stories, humour, untold wartime anecdotes and tried to cover all the aspects related to the ‘Mashkoh Warriors’ before the war, during the war, and after the war. I have tried to capture the historical accounts of the ‘Mashkoh Warriors’ in 1999, in extremely challenging high-altitude terrain of Kargil, and pass on the lessons, not from the pedestal or a position of superiority, but from a humble place, where the scars of our failings still show. As a commanding officer in the battle, I learned precious lessons through success and failure. We made mistakes and learned from them.  We are far from being perfect. We continue to learn and grow as leaders every day.

“MASHKOH: Kargil as I Saw it”, is a gripping first-hand authentic account of war stories of ‘Mashkoh Warriors’ by the author, who commanded the unit in war and was awarded Vir Chakra for his gallant actions in Mashkoh valley in 1999. Many questions continue to nag. Why was ingress not detected in real-time? Why the soldiers fight, and why do they not run away? How did we manage to turn the tide in our favour?

To find the answers to these and many such queries read the book “MASHKOH: Kargil as I Saw it”.

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Brig Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM
Brig Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM
Umesh Singh Bawa Vrc, SM a PhD in Public Administration retired from the Indian Army as Brigadier. He is an infantry officer and author of a book called Mashkoh: Kargil as I saw it. He was awarded Vir Chakra during the Kargil conflict in 1999.


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