M A I N   N E W S

Kargil heroes denied promotion
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 17
A few weeks ago, the commanding officer of one of the battalions which was awarded Battle Honour for its sterling performance in Batalik during Operation Vijay eight years ago, put in his papers. Apparently disillusioned over not being promoted despite showing good results in battle, Col Lalit Rai, who had commanded 1/11 Gorkha Rifles and was decorated with the Vir Chakra, opted for premature retirement.

He is among a number of officers who, despite having delivered in war, have apparently been given a raw deal. Of the 17 infantry battalions awarded battle honours and honour tittles for exceptional performance during the Kargil conflict, the commanding officers of most of these units have opted for premature retirement, as they have been mainly overlooked for promotion. “Eight years down the line, these officers should have been touching the rank of Major-General, but just three of them have made it to Brigadier and that, too, with difficulty,” a senior officer at Army Headquarters said.

Col O.P.Yadav, who commanded 1 Bihar and Col J.S.Bawa, of 17 Jat, were approved for promotion in review boards in May. CO 18 Grenadiers, Col K.Thakur picked up his rank last year. A couple of officers in this group are yet to be empanelled for promotion.

“The figures imply that the Army found less than 20 per cent of commanders who did well in battle fit for promotion,” an officer remarked. Commanding officers of a number of other units who performed well in battle have also been superseded.

Some in the Army hierarchy say that battle performance is not the only criterion for promotion, and there are other factors to consider. According to sources, the conduct in the battlefield is said to have not matched the profile of officers in certain cases. Others feel that more weightage ought to have been given to battle performance, as war is the ultimate test for a soldier.

The Kargil war was fought in June and July 1999 in hostile terrain and weather to evict Pakistani troops who had occupied large chunks of territory on the Indian side of the LoC.

The battalions awarded battle and theatre honours included units like 2 Raj Rif, 8 Sikh, 17 Jat, 1 Bihar, 18 Garhwal, 1/11 GR, and 12 J&K LI, accredited with having captured peaks like Tiger Hill, Tololing, Jubar and Khalubar. Though the conflict ended in 1999, the honours were announced only in 2005. Gallantry and other awards, however, were announced soon after the conflict ended.

All Generals associated with the planning and conduct of operations, either at headquarters or in the battle zone walked away with one award or the other. The present Army chief, Gen J.J.Singh, who was then the Additional Director General Military Operations, is the only serving general left among the top brass who were at the helm of affairs.

Among the seven Brigade commanders involved in operations, four have moved up the ladder. Commander 121 (I) Brigade in Kaksar, Surinder Singh was moved out and his successor, O.P.Nandrajog who took over at the fag end of the conflict, is now the GOC-in-C Central Command, while Commander 102 Brigade in Sub-Sector Haneef, P.C.Katoch, is the GOC 1 Corps. Commander of the Para Brigade, P.Bhardwaj is GOC 14 Corps. None of the battalions under their command got a battle honour.

Along Dras-Mushkoh, 79 Brigade commander, R.N.Kakar, tasked with capturing Point 4875 became Major-General, while Brig Amar Aul, commander of 56 Brigade that captured Tololing, has become Lieutenant-General. Three and two units under their respective command got battle honours. Commander 192 Brigade, M.P.S.Bajwa, who captured Tiger Hill, perhaps the most celebrated feature of the conflict, retired in the same rank.

Brig Devinder Singh, commander of 70 Brigade in Batalik, which saw some of the most decisive battles and was accredited with maximum successes in the conflict, has moved court, claiming certain fabrications in the after-action reports which diluted his span of command and control. 70 Brigade was awarded the highest number of battle honours in the conflict.



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