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  • Parthiv Pillai

The Battle for Aksai Chin - Part II

The night was icy cold and the wind was blowing rapidly. The soldiers at the Indian forward posts were shivering as they sipped their coffee.


Maj. Menon told Capt. Banerjee.“ I don’t think the Chinese will advance anytime soon. We have placed our tanks and artillery strategically near the trenches. One wrong move and it's over for them.” 


Banerjee, however, was still sceptical. He sipped his steaming coffee slowly and contemplated if they really did have the upper hand. He had a hunch about the Chinese troops’ movements. He replied “Sir, I disagree. They are planning something big. Sub. Maj. Pritam thinks so too.”


Suddenly, Maj. Varma burst into the bunker. “Menon! According to the satellites, hordes of PLA troops are advancing toward Aksai Chin. At least five hundred tanks are coming towards us! We only have two hundred with us.”


Antony almost dropped the cup from his shaking hand. “We were not expecting them to come in such hordes. We must ready the soldiers immediately”, he said hurriedly. 


At 0400 hours, Antony met with the other two COs Yadav and Nayar.


“We must recapture Aksai Chin at any cost,” Yadav said firmly. “We shall take help from the Air Force to recapture this piece of land. I think if we place our ballistic missiles over our part of Depsang we should be able to annihilate their troops,” said Antony. 


Sub. Arihant ran into the bunker. “Sir, we have been strictly ordered not to attack the enemy until 1800 hours. The PMO has also ordered that we do not use any ballistic missiles on the border.”

“Oh!”


At 1745 hours, Maj. Gen. Antony addressed his battalion. “Soldiers! The whole nation is relying on us to win this war. We cannot let our people down. We will fight fiercely and make death proud to take us. Jai Hind!”


 “Jai Hind!”


On 12th May 2019, at 1800 hours a force of 12 teams marched towards the Lakstang. A fierce battle broke out between the Chinese and the Indian troops. The Indian tanks blasted the enemy outposts and the Chinese exploded the Indian trenches.


Capt. Banerjee was right. They were definitely planning on barraging our posts”, thought Menon. Varma looked up with his binoculars and spotted a few Chinese jets approaching them. “ The PLAF has reached Laktsang before us! We will have to send half our battalion over there. The remaining will charge ahead along with me. Comrades, come on!


“Jo bole sonihaal!”

“Sat Sriya Kal!”


Menon watched as the Chinese troops infiltrated into the Indian territory. He ordered his division to charge at the enemy with all their might. Aksai Chin has to be recovered at any cost, thought Menon. 


Bofors guns began shelling the enemy territory. Tanks advanced swiftly. The enemy bunkers exploded as both armies charged at each other. Both sides suffered the loss of troops, tanks, and aircraft. 


Suddenly, strange objects began to appear in the air. Maj. Varma squinted, his heart sinking as he recognized the telltale shape of ballistic missiles. To his surprise, they were not directed towards them. They were heading somewhere unknown. “I hope they are not heading towards the civilian areas”, thought Varma. 


The response was swift. Alert sirens wailed loudly. All missile stations were alerted. Five enemy missiles were even neutralised mid-flight. A few tense minutes passed before they heard the distant rumble of explosions. Maj. Deepa wondered where they were coming from. Before she could say anything, the telephone rang, startling them all. 


Menon answered, his eyebrows rising as he listened. “It’s Grp. Capt. Sharma from the IAF station,” he mouthed to the others.

“Officer, our airfields have been hit,” he reported grimly. “Srinagar’s the closest now, but it will take a minimum of half an hour to reach Laktsang. You’re on your own for the next fourteen hours.” Maj. Gen. Antony’s shoulders sagged at the news, but there was no time for despair..

Menon rallied the troops, “Half of the battalion will aim at the enemy air force above and the remaining will advance with me!” 


The soldiers erupted into a chorus of “Badri Vishal Lal ki Jay!” as they surged into action. Menon found himself in the thick of it, his rifle clicking empty at the worst moment. He reloaded with practised speed, taking down two enemy soldiers before switching to his bayonet and jumping out of the trench. 


Major Varma fought his way towards Menon's position, leading a group of machine gunners through the chaos. The tide seemed to be turning, but then disaster struck. A shell exploded near Menon, leaving him critically wounded. He lumbered towards the wall adjacent to him, breathing raggedly. He picked his sniper weakly and shot the gunner of an enemy tank. He then loaded another round and shot the commander of the other enemy battalion. He was severely injured and blood rushed out of his chest and limbs. 


Varma found his friend barely conscious, rushing him to the medical truck. The doctor worked frantically, but Menon's vitals were fading fast. In his final moments, Menon managed a smile for Varma and whispered words of love to his wife, Maj. Ahluwalia, before slipping away.


As dawn broke, the surviving officers gathered to regroup. Maj. Gen. Antony faced the grim reality: "We've lost too many men, too much equipment. But we can't give up. The nation is counting on us."


Maj. Varma quietly entered the room, his eyes brimming with tears. “Sir, Menon..”, he said, choking up. There was a palpable expression of sadness in his words. 

Later that day, in the quiet of his room, Varma unfolded a worn letter, his fingers tracing the familiar handwriting. It was from Menon, penned when he was posted in Siachen. The door creaked open, and Menon’s wife stepped in, clutching a neatly pressed mess uniform tightly to her chest. “I found this,” she whispered, her voice breaking. “But I could not find him in the medical room. I miss him so much, Varma.” 


Varma hugged her, his own grief mingling with hers. "We won't leave Kashmir until we've set things right," he vowed. "For Menon."


The next day, amidst tears and salutes, they laid their fallen comrades to rest in Srinagar. Major Varma somberly placed a garland on Menon's grave, saluting his martyred brother.


After the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Antony was summoned to Lt. Gen Jagjeet Kumar’s office in Srinagar. The atmosphere was tense as Kumar reviewed the casualty reports.


"Antony, the losses in your contingent are staggering," Kumar said, his tone grave. "We've lost too many men, too much equipment. I'm considering reassigning command."


“ Sir, please–” Antony began, but Kumar cut him off.


"We can't afford more casualties. The civilians are counting on us to reclaim Aksai Chin. They need to return home."


Antony leaned forward, his voice steady. "Give us one more chance, sir.”


Kumar studied him for a long moment. "One week," he finally said. "You have one week to turn this around. After that, my decision stands."


Antony straightened, a mix of relief and determination in his voice. "Thank you, sir. We won't let you down."


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