As I stood straight after laying a wreath on the mortal remains of Capt Neikezhakuo Kenguruse, there were tears in my eyes. With a blurred vision, I saluted the coffin of Capt Kenguruse of the 2nd Battalion, Rajputana Rifles, at the Srinagar airport.
I first met Capt Kenguruse in the first week of April 1999. As I was walking past the divisional field cash officer's office, I noticed a short, slim, smart officer.
Being an officer from a Gorkha unit myself, I took him to be a Gorkha. I spoke to him in Nepali and asked him to join me for a cup of tea in my office. The blank look on his face made me realise my error. With a shy smile, he replied that he was a Naga, awaiting collection of cash for his unit. As requested (more of an order) by me, he agreed to join me for tea.
During our conversation, I learnt that Kenguruse was an Army Service Corps (ASC) officer on attachment with 2 Rajputana Rifles. I pulled his leg by wondering what a Naga boy like him was doing in the ASC, as he ought to be following the tradition of his warrior ancestors.
Kenguruse replied that he was in the Kashmir valley right now to display the Nagas' martial traits. I told him that he would soon fall in love with 2 Rajputana Rifles, and suggested that he should apply for a change of arm from the ASC to the infantry.
A few days before the induction of 2 Rajputana Rifles from the valley to Dras (Kargil) for Operation Vijay, the CO (commanding officer), along with Capt Kenguruse, had visited the divisional headquarters. Col Ravindernath, the CO, and young Kenguruse joined the divisional staff for lunch. Over a glass of beer, I told Kenguruse that he was lucky to get an opportunity at a young age to emulate the glorious tradition of bravery of his Naga forefathers. He replied that his forefathers as well as the Naga people would not find him wanting in any manner.
Around 5am on June 29, 1999, I got a report about Capt Kenguruse's martyrdom. Later, as the colonel administration of 8 Mountain Division, while processing his citation for a gallantry award, I realised that the officer had lived up to the warrior instinct of his Naga ancestors.
Kenguruse had volunteered to undertake a daring mission of assaulting a tactically well-sited enemy bunker on a cliff face, which effectively interfered with all approaches to the assigned objective.
While closing in on the objective, his platoon came under heavy automatic and artillery fire. Kenguruse, unmindful of a splinter injury in his abdomen and bleeding profusely, kept moving closer to the bunker.
On reaching the cliff face, the assault party got held up due to the vertical climb. Despite the sub-zero temperature on the ice-clad slopes, Kenguruse took off his shoes to obtain a firmer grip and scaled the cliff face with a rocket launcher slung on his back. After firing a rocket at the bunker, he charged daringly and killed a few enemy soldiers with his weapon and two others with a commando knife in hand-to-hand combat, before succumbing to his injuries. This daredevil act on 'Black Rock' by the Ghatak platoon under Capt Kenguruse did every Naga, or rather every Indian, proud.
The grateful nation honoured Capt Kenguruse's sacrifice by posthumously conferring Maha Vir Chakra on him.
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