Kargil Vijay Divas: Naga regiment, the head hunters

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 27, 2017 12:03 hrs
Naga regiment

The Naga Regiment was Deployed in 'Operation Vijay' and captured Black Rock during the Kargil War. Image: Twitter

'Sahab, suna hai ye sar kaat ke le jaate hai aur insan bhi kha lete hai' (Sir, we heard that they cut off the head of their enemies and are cannibals) - This was not a terrified Pakistani soldier but a terrified soldier of 17 Jat battalion who asked the question Srinjoy Chowdhury - author of the book Despatches from Kargil.

Traditionally, Naga tribals would keep skulls for two reasons – (i) of their dead ancestors as a mark of respect or (ii) of their dead enemy as a mark of victory, hence the name Head hunters. It appeared that their reputation walked ahead of the unit. For the enemy, equally frightening was the Naga’s reputation of not taking any prisoner. Hell, they lived up to this reputation.

Like their Pakistani counterparts, the Jats soldiers had heard a lot about Gorkha soldiers and had seen them enough (there are seven Gorkha Regiments in the Indian Army with 6-7 battalions in each regiment) but the Naga soldiers were not so familiar to them. There are just three Naga Battalions and 1 TA (Territorial Army) Naga Battalion.

During the 1960s, the government was keen to bring the Naga youth in the forefront of the national development. There was no better way than to give them a chance to earn the honour of becoming defenders of the motherland. Hence, 1 Naga was raised on 1 Nov 1970 at the Kumaon Regimental Centre, Ranikhet, under the command of Lt. Col. R.N. Mahajan, VSM. Even 69 Naga rebels were enrolled in 1 Naga directly from the rehabilitation camps.

Two Naga battalions took part in Kargil war – 1 Naga under 56 Mountain Division and 2 Naga under 79 Mountain Brigade.

2 Naga played a very crucial part in capturing the famous Tiger Hill during the night of third-fourth July 1999 and then the strategic Pt 4875 complex. During the attack on the Tiger Hill, 2 Naga held the left flank while 8 Sikh held right flank. 18 Grenadiers captured the Tiger hill. On that single night, 2 Naga lost 30 men and over 80 were injured.

During the operation to capture Pt 4875, 2 Naga captured Twin bumps feature by 1200 on 6th July. Then there was a Heavy Mortar position, which had 82mm and 120mm mortars and it was threatening the National highway and Dras town.

After capturing Twin Bumps, on 8th July 2 Naga launched a raid on the enemy mortar position.

Leading assaulting party moved stealthily and 23 years old Sepoy Imliakum Ao surprised and killed the sentry guard of the outer perimeter of the Mortar position. Then they stormed the Mortar position, killed 4 enemy soldiers and captured 3x82mm and 4x120mm Mortars. For his bravery and devotion to duty, Sepoy Imliakum Ao was awarded Mahavir Chakra. His award citation reads “His determination, grit, cool confidence and raw courage in the face of the enemy was exemplary in the true spirit and traditions of the Indian Army and the Regiment which was a factor in eliminating the enemy from the almost indomitable mortar position”.

Enthusiastic and victorious Nagas did not stop there and Launched attacks on Rocky Nob, Hump and Tip featured and captured them all by 10th July. Their valour and `reputation` left an unfading impression on both enemy soldiers as well their brothers-in-arms.

A snippet from the Kargil war

And then there was a Sikh soldier who gave a series of shocks to a tough RMO. The doctor got his first shock when he saw the Sikh soldier coming in with his one arm in the other hand. The soldier was walking down so normally that doctor assumed that soldier was in a state of shock and his mind is not registering the pain. But the doctor was grossly incorrect and he understood the fact in next few minutes.

While treating the soldier, to put him at ease, the doctor started asking regular question like his name, number, unit, fighting, the cause of wound etc. But the soldier was giving all the answers in a normal tone– like nothing has happened to him. Now the puzzled doctor was in a state of shock. He ran out of questions and in that shock or confusion or anxiety he uttered, `Time kya hua hai`.

The Sikh soldier said in a dead cold voice 'Jihra hath kataya hoya hai, us pe gadhi lagi hoyee hai, time vekh lao' (There is a watch on that cut off arm, you may check the time on that). The doctor stopped for a moment, looked up in dis-belief and did not ask any more questions.

The Kargil war officially ended on 26 July 1999 and Indian Army celebrates it as Vijay Diwas. Please light a candle for those 527 soldiers who made supreme sacrifice for our country. It would just take a minute of your time but would mean a lot to every man/woman in uniform and their families.

Sumit Walia is an IT Specialist, based in Germany. He is also a military history buff who continues to explore & research various facets of the Indian Military history in his spare time.

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