Captain Nongrum: Meghalaya’s highest Decorated Soldier
The Kargil War of 1999 was yet another backstab for India; as Pakistani soldiers climbed the heights between Zojila and Siachen, to target the Leh-Srinagar Highway. Each of the sectors of Drass, Batalik, Kargil, Mushkoh Valley had some of the critical peaks taken up by the Pakistan Army. It was during this time that innumerable Indian soldiers gave the supreme sacrifice without any concern for personal safety, showing raw courage and unshakable determination to remove the intruders. One of them was Mahavir Chakra Awardee (posthumous) Captain Keishing Clifford Nongrum.
As a child, Captain Nongrum wanted to join the army. He was the captain of the school football team and used to play regularly to keep himself fit. After graduating from Political Science, he joined the 64th SSC course at Officer Training Academy in 1996. It was here, where he met his good friend Lt.Col. Sandeep Ahlawat, who has written a wonderful article, and a first hand account about his brother in arms. Captain Nongrum got commissioned into the 12th battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK Light Infantry). In the Kargil War, this battalion was posted in the Batalik Sector.
He was given the responsibility of securing Point 4812, whose capture was of the utmost importance for the country. He was supposed to climb the peak from the South-Eastern direction. The 24 year old captain led his troops through the steep slopes at 70 degree inclination to reach the top of the peak and initiate his assault. As the image below shows, the South Easterly direction of Point 4812 has very steep slopes.
Himalayan Battlefield and Air Targets in the Kargil War
Apart from steep slopes, the height of the peak is 4812 metres. To put this into perspective, Leh, the capital of Ladakh is approx. 3500 metres. At this height, tourists are supposed to acclimatize themselves for a couple of days to get used to low oxygen levels and then venture out. Troops at 4812 meters height had to not just acclimatize but fight while facing a volley of bullets from a well entrenched enemy and survive with limited food and water.
In addition, the enemy had been innovative in their approach. They had made bunkers out of boulders and strongly entrenched themselves. So, artillery fire was not having the required effect on them. Captain Nongrum’s task became a lot harder. In spite of having artillery support, he could not use them.
Captain Nongrum, with his entire platoon, was pinned down by the heavy and accurate machine gun firing. It had become increasingly risky to maneuver. Such entrenched positions and firing by the enemy shows the importance of Point 4812.
Batalik Sector. Kargil (1999)
The map above shows the area occupied by the enemy. As the plan of the enemy was to target the National Highway 1A, connecting Srinagar to Leh, they had carried out their operation of occupying the heights, so that they had the advantage to direct artillery fire on the highway. Point 4812 sits comfortably overlooking the highway. Hence, it was very important to remove the enemy positions. Captain Nongrum knew of the importance of the objective on his shoulders. Therefore, despite being pinned down, he had to take tough action soon.
It was now time to turn the tables on the enemy. Without any concern for personal safety, Captain Nongrum charged through the firing zone, hurling grenades upon grenades at the enemy and firing continuously. During this charge, he was hit by several bullets which failed to stop him. He managed to take out 6 enemy soldiers with his grenades and pounced upon the remaining with hand to hand fight to snatch away the machine gun. Even after being severely injured, he remembered his boxing skills to give a tough fight to the enemy. He chose to fight till the last breath, instead of choosing to be rescued.
This action by Captain Nongrum attracted the enemy fire towards him and released the pressure from his troops. His troops, in the meantime, got valuable time to close in on the enemy and clear out the well-entrenched bunkers.
Lt.Col. Ahlawat mentions that his body “had more bullets than flesh”. It is hard to imagine the condition of his family. For his determination, unmatched courage and utter disregard for personal safety, Captain Keishing Clifford Nongrum was awarded the Mahavir Chakra on the 15th of August, 1999.
In 2011, Captain Nongrum’s father visited the site where his son single handedly took out 6 enemy soldiers. In 2015, Captain Nongrum’s bust was unveiled at the Rhino museum of Shillong.
Due to the ultimate sacrifices of Kargil martyrs, today the Indian positions at the entire section is being well monitored with continuous supply lines. The number of soldiers guarding this section of the L.O.C. has increased to more than double than pre-Kargil era. If conquering and maintaining stranglehold over the Kargil peaks was hard for the enemy in 1999, today it has become next to impossible. The memorial of Captain Nongrum on the Point 4812 is an insignia of Indian Army’s raw courage and unshakable determination.
Kargil war: What happened 20 years ago and why it may not happen again. (2019, July 26). Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/kargil-war-what-happened-20-years-ago-and-why-it-may-not-happen-again/articleshow/70371791.cms
Pal, S. (2019, July 26). This Unsung Hero's Act of Extraordinary Courage Led the Indian Army to Victory in the Kargil War. Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://www.thebetterindia.com/62701/kargil-hero-keishing-clifford-nongrum/
Unnithan, S. (2018, August 11). Requiem for a Kargil hero. Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/requiem-for-a-kargil-hero-1312166-2018-08-12