More than 150 disabled military personnel who either got injured in a war or war-like situation got together at the Chandimandir military station on Wednesday to relive their memories at a function by a non-government organisation, the War Wounded Foundation (WWF).
Lance Naik Ashok Kumar of Bhiwani was just 23-year-old when during 1999 a bomb blast and a bullet he took in his stomach left him 60% disabled.
Kumar was at Chandimandir Military Station on Wednesday during a War Wounded Foundation (WWF) rally of specially challenged personnel.
Recalling the incident, Kumar said, “It was July 24, 1999. The 16 Grenadier mounted the attack on point no. 5063 hill near LoC with about 30 soldiers. But the next day we realised that it was surrounded by Pakistan on three sides who countered heavily to stop reinforcement from the fourth side. One bullet hit my helmet, but I survived. A bomb exploded near me in which my leg suffered serious injur. A bullet also pierced through my stomach.”
He added, “I didn’t want to get caught by Pakistanis. I continued the attack. We thought the post was in Pakistan’s hands while they thought it was with us. No reinforcements came. I was left with 2 hand grenades. I took out their pin and thought that I would throw them. But my hands were not working.” Finally, the fighting ceased on July 26, 1999. “I got first treatment on July 27. After that I remained under treatment for 2 years. I was told that I was paralysed and couldn’t walk. But yoga helped me.” Kumar was boarded out in 2001. He appeared for interviews for post of messenger, canteen salesman and jail warden. “Due to corruption in Haryana I couldn’t get any job,” he said. Land mafia also encroached upon my land but no one helped me. I was hopeless but then I met WWF people.” Now I help other disable soldiers and have been associated with Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar’s organisation and doing social work,” he said. He is still fighting for his land.
COLONEL WIPED OUT TERRORISTS
68-year-old Col SS Pathania (retd) is 100% disable now and moves on wheel chair. But his memory is razor sharp as he remembers the details of action point by point.
“It was January 16 of 1993 in border area of Punjab. Panchayat elections were going on. Around noon, we got the information that terrorists and police were engaged in a battle and one SHO had been killed. We reached the spot. We got over the roof of the house where the terrorists were holding up. We threw grenades and fired. Two out of three terrorists were killed in around 2 hours of fighting, but then a police party of 12 jawans arrived with a SSP,” he said. He added, “They wanted to show something as we were about to complete the operation. They put the house on fire. One of the head constables fell down from the roof. The lone terrorist started firing but the police party along with SSP fled. We rescued the head constable and killed the third terrorist.”
In the operation Col Pathania got injured as bullets hit his stomach. His spine got injured. Hailing from Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh (HP), he now runs a petrol pump at Sector 34, Chandigarh. “The lesson we learnt from it was that paramilitary and police shouldn’t be deployed when Army is engaging,” he said. He retired in 1997.
INJURED, MAJOR GEN CUT OFF HIS FOOT
Maj Gen Ian Cardozo (retd) was the first officer with an artificial limb to command a battalion and later a brigade. Settled in Delhi, Cardozo is vicepresident of WWF. Recalling the incident, in which he got injured during the 1971 war, he said, “We were given the task to capture Sylhet, now in Bangladesh. By the time we received our orders, we had already lost 30 officers and many had got injured. It was the first heli-borne operation of the Indian Army. ”
Cardozo was a Major at that time. “They had a strength of about 4,000. We were just 684. We were to be linked up with the Army in 48 hours. We did not take food, blankets but were carrying extra ammunition. The link up with the Army did not take place for 10 days. We went without food and water. For food, we did get some help from abandoned huts and drank muddy water by filtering it through handkerchiefs.”
“They had artillery, mortars and MMGs, whereas we were short of ammunition. We used our Khukris. BBC helped us by running a story that a brigade of Gurkhas had landed at Sylhet.” From Pakistan’s artillery fire, medical inspection room got destroyed. “There was no medicine, no surgery could be carried out.” Maj Gen Cardozo stepped on a mine and injured his leg. “I was in a bad state. There was no medication. I asked my batman for Khukri. I told him to cut off my foot. He said he couldn’t do it. Then I took the Khukri and cut the foot on my own. I asked my batman to bury it off.” Cardozo said. Dhaka had fallen. “I asked my CO to call a chopper so that I could be evacuated. But no chopper was available as they were ferrying VIPs for surrender ceremony.”
‘SPLINTERS ARE STILL IN MY BODY’
Havildar Sajan Singh was 35-year-old in 1988 when as part of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka he came under missile attack. “It was on January 4, 1988. I got injured in a missile attack. The splinters are still in my body. I became paraplegic,” said Singh. He was soon boarded out of the Army in 1990. “I used to get just `900 as pension. I wasn’t getting help from anyone, but then WWF guided me,” Singh, who hails from Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan said.
VETERAN WORRIED ABOUT MENTALLY CHALLENGED SON
Havildar Prahlad Singh, 63, got injured while leaving for Op Pawan in Sri Lanka. He hails from Rajasthan and is 100% disabled. He had spent 12 years in Paraplegic Rehabilitation Home, Mohali. But now he is living with his family in Jaipur. He is worried about his mentally challenged son Dileep Singh, 30. “Who would take care of him,” he said.
LEFT FENDING ON THEIR OWN
Mangal Singh, 65, is also from Rajasthan and is 100% disabled. He got injured in a mine blast. “My father is not getting the attendant’s allowance. We are clueless where to go,” said his son Nandu Singh.