The roar of the motorcycles would have reverberated through the mountains and the familiar voices of the fallen giants would have been very audible as the Northern Command top gun General Joshi led the charge of the Dhruva Motorcycle knights to Dras!
‘Waking up, back on the street, did my time, took my chances went the distance, now I’m back on my feet, just a man and his will to survive, so many times it happens too fast, you trade your passion for glory, don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past you must fight just to keep them alive’
(Eye of the Tiger Survivor (a musical group of eighties)
‘1,800 Kilometers of arduous journey, 75 motorcycles and 91 participants, an ode to the gallant heroes of Indian Army. The Dhruva Bike Ride that commenced on 22 July 2021 reached Dras yesterday. Led by the Army Commander, Northern Command Lieutenant General YK Joshi himself, the rally was in honor of the fallen heroes of the Kargil War, 1999. It was a massive tribute by the Dhruva’s as they moved on the two wheels to reach the place where one of the biggest mountain warfare wars was fought in recent eras. We all have read about the Russian resolute defense against the menacing German Army at Stalingrad and Leningrad. Thereafter it was all about Zukhov’s exploits’. But this one was an absolutely magical offensive up the slopes and some dangerous and on the edge face off with bullets, grenades and bayonets and fists of fury’! Obviously there had to be only one winner! Everyone knew that and thus India celebrated the 22nd Vijay Divas one of the greatest ever in mountains in the history of warfare’
‘In Dras’ was something unique with the general leading the motorcycle march to Dras. It was a unique and a special tribute which signified the spirit of a soldier who starts with an unknown tag but then is known to everyone. Warfare is all about soldiers and their countrymen and that is why they say that, I knew that when the great guiding spirit cleaves humanity into two antagonistic halves, I will be with my and my people. And I now know, by an almost fatalistic conformity with the facts, that my destiny is to travel. Mountains are just another destiny. Kargil was perhaps the last before the journey to heavens bid good bye to their bodies and let their souls travel to heavens with a smile on the face and perhaps telling with closed eyes still faced with lips not moving and the beat of the heart silent, I finally felt myself lifted definitively away on the winds of adventure toward worlds I envisaged would be stranger than they were, into situations I imagined would be much more normal than they turned out to be.’ They were indeed in 1999! Remember the year!’
Before I start with the event let me tell readers as to what mountain warfare is exactly. It refers to warfare in the mountains or similarly rough terrain. This type of warfare is also called Alpine warfare. Mountain warfare is one of the most dangerous types of combat as it involves surviving not only combat with the enemy but also the extreme weather and dangerous terrain. In Kargil it was that way. Mountain ranges are of strategic importance since they often act as a natural border, and may also be the origin of a water source (e.g. Golan Heights – water conflict). Attacking a prepared enemy position in mountain terrain requires a greater ratio of attacking soldiers to defending soldiers than a war conducted on level ground. Mountains at any time of year are dangerous – lightning, strong gusts of wind, rock falls, avalanche, snow pack, ice, extreme cold, glaciers with their crevasses and the general uneven terrain and the slow pace of troop and material movement are all additional threats to combatants. Movement, reinforcements, and medical evacuation up and down steep slopes and areas where even pack animals cannot reach involves an enormous exertion of energy. Forget Golan Heights this one was a maneuver by the Pak maverick Pervez Musharraf. In all totality a misadventure which resulted in a bloodied nose for Pakistan though they never admitted. The warfare as a history. The term mountain warfare is said to have come about in the Middle Ages after the monarchies of Europe found it difficult to fight the Swiss armies in the Alps because the Swiss were able to fight in smaller units and took vantage points against a huge un-maneuverable army. Similar styles of attack and defense were later employed by guerrillas, partisans and irregulars who hid in the mountains after an attack, making it challenging for an army of regulars to fight back. In Bonaparte’s Italian campaign, and the 1809 rebellion in Tyrol, mountain warfare played a large role. Another example of mountain warfare was the Crossing of the Andes carried out by the Argentinean Army of the Andes commanded by General Jose de San Martín in 1817. One of the divisions surpassed 5000 m in height. But the history is older. In 218 BC the Carthaginian army commander Hannibal marched troops, cavalry and African elephants across the Alps in an effort to conquer Rome by approaching it from north of the Italian peninsula. The Roman government was complacent because the Alps were apparently a secure natural obstacle to would-be invaders. In December 218 BC the Carthaginian forces defeated Roman troops, in the north, with the use of elephants. Many elephants did not survive the cold weather and disease that was typical of the European climate. Hannibal’s army fought Roman troops in Italy for 15 years but failed to conquer Rome. Carthage was ultimately defeated by Roman general Scipio Africanus at Zama in north Africa in 202 BC (DLII a.u.c.). In World War-I mountain warfare came to the fore once again during World War I, when some of the nations involved in the war had mountain divisions that had hitherto not been tested. The Austro-Hungarian defence repelled Italian attacks as they took advantage of the mostly mountainous terrain in the Julian Alps and the Dolomites, where frostbite and avalanches proved deadlier than bullets. During the summer of 1918, the Battle of San Matteo took place on the Italian front; this battle was fought at the highest elevation of any in the war. In December 1914, another offensive was launched by the Turkish supreme commander Enver Pasha with 95,000–190,000 troops against the Russians in the Caucasus. Insisting on a frontal attack against Russian positions in the mountains in the heart of winter, the end result was devastating and Enver lost 86% of his forces. The German campaign, the Italian campaign Siachen conflict, and Kargil are more recent example!
The first commandment for every good explorer is that an expedition has two points: the point of departure and the point of arrival. The Dhruva Bike riders had that uppermost in their minds. They from the start knew as to why they were undertaking this journey and they also knew as to where it would finish. They also know that It is there, where in the final moments, for people whose farthest horizon had always been for another tomorrow. Because the future belonged to the people! Their wives and would- be ones had spotted the danger in their resolutely bohemian ways. They spend moments on the blade’s edge with a hope they got pleasant news to hear. Some did get that and some did not. They all took it in a spirit that for the country and the people anything life is just another small matter of fact. But these explorers on the wheels were on a different mission. What exactly was it I would describe:
I The events of 22nd July:
Dhruva Kargil Ride, comprising 75 bikes, was flagged off from Dhruva War Memorial by Subedar Sanjay Kumar, PVC under the aegis of Headquarter Northern Command to mark 22nd Kargil Vijay Diwas and 75 years of independence and to immortalize the supreme sacrifice made by the soldiers. The Date chosen was 22nd July 2021!
PRO Defence Udhampur said, comprising four segments sponsored by JAWA Classics Motorcycle Company the ride was organized and the main segment of the ride comprising of 25 Jawa Classic Legend riders were launched from Udhampur led by none other but Lieutenant General YK Joshi, GOC-in-C, Northern Command.
Alongside this main ride, there were subsidiary rides launched from Naushera, Srinagar and Karakoram Pass making it to a total of 75 bikes marking 75 years of India’s Independence.
The segment covering the icy heights of Karakoram traversed through Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) Darbuk Leh and Kargil to converging with the main segment at Kargil War Memorial, Drass on July 23 (Friday) where the entire ride culminated to further participate in the Kargil Vijay Diwas 2021.
The Northern Command Army Commander who himself is a Kargil war veteran had said, ‘despite and in spite of challenges the soldier will always stand steadfast in his vigil to protect the nation and will go beyond the duty to make the supreme sacrifice without batting an eyelid.’
“Operation Vijay may have ended 22 yrs back but the battle here in Jammu & Kashmir still rages on, he said, adding, “there is no gratification in violence and the life of a terrorist from the day he picks up a weapon to the day he is neutralized is not more than two months. I would exhort the parents to ensure that their children are not misguided and lured as cannon fodder by the deep state and nexus who sit in comfort and decadence to see your children act at their behest. He also mentioned, Operation Vijay is testimony to the fact that there has never been and there will never be a compromise on the territorial integrity of the nation and any such farfetched idea will remain a pipe dream. Indian Armed Forces will defeat any nefarious design of the adversary with resolve, courage and bravery unparalleled in history. He at the flagging off had also said that in the last two years we made steady progress and the violence parameters have ebbed considerably indicating a paradigm shift in the common Kashmiri mindset which today is driven to seek peace and prosperity for the future generations. Let me assure each one that Indian Army shall walk with you in step towards a prosperous and better future. Be it Ladakh or J&K our commitment to the local population is complete and comprehensive where we shall share their burden with equanimity and cheer.
At 60 years of age, the Northern Army Commander gave a unique message to the youth that age is just a number and is no bar for adventure. Challenges of Weather, High Altitude and long distances can be overcome with grit and determination.
I never knew that sixty years pass off in just sixty seconds. They do without us realizing it. And when leading the tigers they pass off in no time if it’s a game of war where there are no referees! The Army Commander Northern Command was joined by another bunch of diehards, Lieutenant General PGK Menon, Lieutenant General DP Pandey, Lieutenant General MV Suchindra Kumar, that is the three Corps Commanders of 14, 15 and 16 Corps respectively. In addition, two Major Generals, Four Brigadiers, Sixty two officers, six ladies, four wards, three civilians, one JCO and fifteen other Ranks will also formed part of the ride.
II. The then Army Chief Gen Malik Narrates Kargil War:
The psychological effects of the sun are strange: it had not yet appeared over the horizon and we already felt comforted, just imagining the heat it would bring. What happened later was a stab in the back by Pakistan with Pervez Musharraf carried like Publius Servilius Casca Longus who was one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. He and several other senators conspired to kill him, a plan which they carried out on 15 March, 44 BC. Despite his being initially a supporter of Caesar, Casca and his brother (whose name is unknown) joined in the assassination. Casca struck the first blow, attacking Caesar from behind and hitting his neck, after Tillius Cimber had distracted the dictator by grabbing his toga (Toga is a distinctive garment of ancient Rome, was a roughly semicircular cloth). Caesar replied Casca, what are you doing!?’ and tussled with him for several seconds. Publius shouted to his brother in Greek, ‘Brother, help me!’. The other assassins then joined in. The last one had to be Brutus when Caesar in a sorrowful but morose tone said you too Brutus’!
The Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan thought that now that we have become nuclear nations, we should bring about peace, and get over all our differences through talks”, he said, pointing out that it was what led to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore, where he signed the Lahore Declaration along with Nawaz Sharif towards the end of February 1999.
Pakistan cannot be trusted, the general said l The Pakistani army, through the areas where we were holding it very thinly, and our posts were far apart took the initiative of infiltrating their men making the best use of the winter months when there was heavy snowfall. The initial perception was that they were Mujahideens, but they were Pakistani soldiers.
It took us some time to establish the facts, General VP Malik underlined, adding that once that happened the forces were all mobilized, and there began the process of recapturing our heights. I think the first height that was recaptured was the Tolo Link and then our boys really did well and kept recapturing heights one after the other.
Pakistan, as per the then Army chief, got under a lot of pressure by then- both because of the forces, as well as the international opinion. He first visited China, then went to the USA for help, and ultimately, he approached India and both the Prime Ministers agreed for a ceasefire.
What was it all the way? I can only summarize the same one way, some give the impression they go on living only because it’s a habit they cannot shake. The Pak generals believe that strongly and staunchly. But ours are different all the way. They know what fighting wars are all about. They have grown up fighting different types of wars. The history is huge and the legacy supreme and thus they come out as invincible. Less discussions, more action and a purposeful one is their aim and each and every time they achieve that. Needless to mention with panache. They did it in Kargil as they drove through the ninety degree rock faces and cliff hangers to devour the enemy sitting as if in a fortress! What steered our men was sheer muscle power, brute strength, never say die spirit and the daring to take the lead into their body frames which came at a fierce pace down the slopes! I mean muzzle velocity and that is a screamer!