The Aul family originally from Nasrali, Ludhiana district, has a unique record. Both father Lt Gen Amar Aul and son Amit, then a Captain, were decorated while serving in the Dras sub-sector during Kargil War. Brig Aul commanding 56 Mountain Brigade in a counter-insurgency role in north-west Kashmir moved to Dras and deployed along the National Highway 1A on May 10, 1999.
His instructions were to prevent any further enemy ingress and prepare to launch an offensive to evict enemy intrusions. There was, however, no information about enemy strength or even composition.
There was pressure on Aul from his superiors to attack and recapture the key Tololing feature overlooking the Indian lines of communication between Kashmir and Ladakh in mid-May. The Brigadier, a determined infantryman from the 3rd Gorkha Rifles (he had commanded the regiment's 3rd Battalion where his son was serving too) held his ground asking for time to prepare.
Accordingly, he remained in contact with the enemy, made purposeful recconnaissances and probed the enemy's defences while planning his attack. Blessed with a deliberate bent of mind and with experience of Siachen, where he had been senior operations staff officer, during the successful defence against the Pakistani offensive in 1987, Aul recognised the importance of an initial victory to spur on our forces and that consequently preparations for the capture of Tololing must leave nothing to chance.
Troops who had been in the battle for a long period were brought back for rest, a tremendous amount of artillery and logistical support was tied up. Information about enemy dispositions, strength and support was built up. Firm bases for the attack were identified and reconnoitred. Significantly, our own troops were adequately rehearsed for the attack besides being properly acclimatised. A fully prepared 2nd Rajputana Rifles launched the final assault on Saturday, June 13, achieving success after a hand-to-hand battle against 6 Northern Light Infantry. The next night 18th Grenadiers extended the gains by capturing the Hump Complex dominating Tololing.
56 Brigade were to win many more spectacular victories, but none was more morale-boosting than the capture of Tololing for which the credit goes to Brig Aul for his purposeful planning and execution. He was rewarded with the Uttam Yudh Seva Medal. Meanwhile, young Amit Aul led his troops wielding the assault rifle and Khukri with equal felicity in the capture of Tri Junction and Zulu Top, driving the Pakistanis across the LoC. His services were recognised with a Sena Medal.
Bina Aul with both her husband and son at the front conquering her fears gave strength to other families. As long as this country has families like the Auls to defend it, India will always remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.
An organisation for disabled veterans
War causes horrific injuries often leading to loss of limbs and severe disability. Disabled soldiers do not often get their due because of lack of awareness, archaic rules or simply, general apathy. Disabled War Veterans (India) has been formed with the aim of helping all such veterans whether serving or invalided out of service and their dependants. One learns from the organisation's website www.diwave.org that the defence ministry would recognise disabled veterans as a separate category, show them accordingly on it's own site as well as in all official documentation in addition to writing to all other ministries and state governments to do so too.
We also learn that the entire pension, that is, service element (service pension) and disability element of disability pensioners is exempted from the purview of income tax. Disability Pension comprises of two elements, service element that is granted in terms of the length of service (subject to a minimum amount in cases where service rendered is less than pensionable service), and disability element which is granted in terms of the percentage of disability.
There is no minimum qualifying service prescribed for service element or disability element, hence even if a person has a single day of service, he or she is entitled to disability pension. For individuals who have completed their minimum qualifying service for pension, their service pension becomes the service element for the purpose of disability pension. Both elements are exempted from income tax and so are the arrears of both elements. The same has been clarified by the finance ministry.
The passing away of an old sailor
Vice Admiral MK Roy, who passed away recently as director of Naval Intelligence, during the 1971 War used Mukti Bahini frogmen to sink Pakistani shipping in East Pakistan using limpet mines. Later, he laid the foundations of India's indigenous nuclear propulsion programme as it's first head. May his spirit forever inspire our sailors.