It was a tough decision to write this but I have nothing to hide. The more I stare at his name plate stuck neatly on to my notice board, the more angry I get for how easily you have forgotten him. The letters in white engraved onto the black plate say — C B DWIVEDI in capital letters — in English and in Hindi. Every year I come across multiple articles on the 'Heroes of the Kargil war' and not once have I found his name there. Trust me, I've waited with patience for over 16 years. He's the reason I picked up journalism, he's the reason I want to make a difference without expecting anything in return from the world. So his story will be told, today, by me.
Because his life wasn't a waste and you better thank him for the life you're living.
Army is a profession. Actually, it's more than that. It's a way of life. It's like giving a job to somebody worth a million rupees, and telling him that — "Hey you might just die tomorrow". Even for a million bucks, you may not find many takers. It takes a lot to choose 'army' as a profession. Once in the academy, you also get a chance to choose a fighting arm or any other. So it takes a lot to CHOOSE to be on the front and take the bullet for your countrymen. Yes, my father did exactly that. He picked up Artillery.
He served the Indian army for 18 years; today you can become a Col in that much time. I wonder what post he would be at today if he was around. Maj. C.B. Dwivedi, an officer who didn't have time to sleep a wink during war never forgot to write a letter to his family, faking his well-being oh-so-perfectly, even during war. His last letter to my mother went something like this:
A lot of news shown on TV is true but a lot of it is false. So don't believe in it completely, just believe in God.
This was two days before he sacrificed his life for the country. Daddy was a complete family man and our mother was the boss of the house. But it's him who had spoilt her. Even when he would call from Srinagar, he would say "chota baby kahaan hai" and we would call mummy quickly. Doesn't mean he wasn't a doting father. He used to plan his leaves around our exams. We were so dependent upon him that my sister didn't know how to as little as prepare for her exams without him.
I still fail to understand how he sounded so carefree in his letters amidst all that chaos during the Kargil war. I remember him calling us from the Satellite phone and talking about the bad weather in the background. I'm yet to come across a selfless man as him. Seriously. The day I find him, I'll marry him.
Not all units are employed during every war. During the Kargil war, Artillery and Infantry were employed majorly. Gunners belong to artillery. And Maj C.B. Dwivedi was a proud Gunner. He would sit bravely at the top of the artillery gun (a weapon that's big enough to be a tank), fearlessly facing the enemy, throwing reigns of fire at them from dusk till dawn. Yes this is how the Kargil war was fought — at night, when the world was sleeping peacefully, the Indian army was on duty.
Early morning of 14th May 1999, I still remember, was when 315 Field Regiment (Kargil) was deployed to Drass. The Kargil conflict was indeed a shocker for all of us. It was the most unexpected war in Indian history. My mother, my sister and I had just gone to see daddy in our summer vacation and the surprise was — we only got 12 hours with him. He mentioned that in one of his letters to my mom, where he says:
"Even though the meeting was short, only twelve hours, it was really nice seeing you. I'll see you guys soon."
The harsh truth is we never saw him again, had we known those were the last twelve hours we were spending with him, we would've done so much more instead of just eating lunch and dinner with him in the mess. My father was a true romantic, a true comedian, a true chef sometimes, a true father but before all of this, he was a true soldier. His jawans loved him for he was the one motivating factor they had in their life during war. Until he was behind 315, the unit suffered only two casualties during the Kargil war.
315 was the first artillery unit to be inducted into the war zone. Daddy was the officiating Second in Command during that time. Operation Vijay (the Kargil conflict) was a tough war, mainly because of lack of information, the underprepared army and the strategic positioning of the cowards who had intruded into our land disguised as civilians.
The first day the regiment arrived at the base camp in Drass, there was a reign of fire that fell upon them. As my uncle (Col Upadhyay, who spent every second with my father in his last days) recalls, the unit had no idea where the enemies were sitting. He remembers saying the following lines to daddy that night:
"Sir, we're in big trouble."
There was absolutely no information about the positioning of the enemies, the army was sent to the war zone blindly. With Tololing on one side and Tiger Hill and Point 4875 on the other, they had some massive planning to do.
Daddy's unit, 315 field regiment, was responsible for supporting operations for 1 Naga, 8 Sikh, 17 Jat and 16 Grenadiers that went on to finally capture Tololing, Point 5140, Black Tooth, Tiger Hill, Point 4875 (Gun Hill), Mahar Ridge and Sando Top in Drass — Mushkoh Valley. My father as Second in Command was responsible for complete survey for artillery units to come in, he used to take off every morning to look for empty spaces around highways in order to park the vehicles and artillery units coming in. He was also responsible for proper communication to bring in ammunition, coordination for firing, and war survey and dumping plans. The time between 14th-31st May were the toughest days for the unit, they had to fire at one place and quickly move on to another location, this was an ongoing process in those days.
The only free time daddy had was spent on staring at the map and devising plans for their next move. But he still wrote letters. He never forgot doing that.
With the responsibility of infantry units over their shoulders, 315 often faced two choices at night — either you stop firing and wait till morning in your bunkers/tents or keep firing and protect the infantry units. My father mostly chose the latter. The artillery didn't even have bunkers, they were staying in tents. And Gunners don't have much choice to hide when they are firing because they are sitting right at the top of their artillery guns facing the enemy, looking at them eye-to-eye. That's where my daddy sat. Right at the top. Fearlessly.
Even Indian aircrafts were shot down during this time, this is when Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja lost his life on May 27th 1999, which was the biggest blow to Indian army. But what had to be done had to be done.
I remember we — my sister and I — had seen daddy commanding an Operation in Udi once (I don't remember the year) — and we couldn't stop laughing. He was far far away and had allowed us to sit on top of a hill and look at him at work. He was walking around with his hands crossed backwards, like a true soldier with his back straight commanding the soldiers. We kept giggling saying, "Daddy is just taking a walk ordering people around."
We were too young to understand what a terrific leader he was. That day, he came back because the enemy had waved the white flag (to declare peace). He was always a winner.
It was the evening of July 2nd 1999, when 315 was hit by yet another dilemma — to continue firing or to stop firing but the infantry units (18 Grenadier and 8 Sikh) would've been in serious danger had they stopped. Daddy again chose the former, he rushed out of his tent and motivated his boys to keep firing, to keep at it. He knew how difficult it would be to get through this but he had to make the tough choice. It was either protecting himself or protecting a whole unit — he chose the latter. It's the madness in a soldier's blood that most of us will never understand. He was mad.
He sat at the gunner's position and continued firing facing the enemies, just when a shell landed right next to him. He was hit on his arm. He realised that. But, what he didn’t realize was that some of them had pierced his arm and entered his body from the sides. In the heat of war, a soldier doesn’t feel his pain. Maybe, that was the reason. As a result, he suffered a lot of internal bleeding but kept thinking it's just his arm.
In this shelling, he and four of the other gunners suffered fatal injuries while the Gun Position officer and the Troop leader suffered from non-fatal ones.
Daddy was the only 2 IC in that time who was single-handedly overlooking so many operations in that terrifying war zone. The day used to start at 2.30 am for 315, when they moved around in the hills on their vehicles with the headlights switched off. Such was the danger they were exposed to. The heroes of 315 brought home the victory and received an honorary title as well but could never get the well-deserved appreciation from the country, from the people who were probably sleeping quietly in their homes because they were risking their life at that point. They were the backbone of the war and so were never remembered again.
Tiger Hill was the last stop for the Indian army, my father could not see the tri-colour flag flying high but I'm sure he could sense the victory from wherever he was at the time. He was a huge part of it and no media can take that away from him.
Our world came shattering down with the news on the 2nd of July 1999, we were a young bunch of kids to him, including my mother, she was only 34 then. But, his spirit in some way picked us up every time we fell. It's been 16 years to that day.
As my mother, my sister and I continue fighting the sense of loss every year on Kargil Vijay Diwas, I want to salute every one of them because of who India is alive today.
My father, my hero, I salute you.