Colonel Narendra 'Bull' Kumar |
Colonel Narendra 'Bull' Kumar |
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New Delhi: Colonel Narendra ‘Bull’ Kumar, an iconic mountaineer and the man who helped secure the Siachen Glacier for India, passed away Thursday at the Army Research and Referral (R&R) hospital in Delhi.

Kumar, 87, was suffering from age-related ailments.

He was responsible for the success of Operation Meghdoot in 1984, a high-altitude operation to pre-empt Pakistan from occupying the Saltoro Ridge and the Siachen Glacier.

“It was his inadvertent friendship with a German and his bull-like approach that saved the Siachen for us,” Lt Gen. Sanjay Kulkarni (Retd), first officer to have landed with his troops on the glacier on 13 April 1984, told ThePrint.

Lt Gen. Kulkarni explained that, in 1977, a German national had shown Colonel Kumar an American map of northern Kashmir that marked the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan much further to the east. According to the map, the entire Siachen Glacier would lie in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

If Pakistan had taken control of the Siachen Glacier, the Sub-Sector North — an area of contention with China — would have been sandwiched between Pakistani and Chinese forces

Realising that the US made a cartographic error, Col. Kumar immediately brought it to the notice of seniors and the then Director-General of Military Operations.

“He was asked what he wants to do. He said he would like to do a recce and he was allowed to do so,” Kulkarni said.

In 1978, Col. Kumar formed a team from the High Altitude Warfare School — a training and research establishment of the Indian Army — in Gulmarg, and started his trek, which was the first such trek by India to Siachen. During his trek, he planted the tricolour on the way to establish Indian authority.

Later, in 1981-82, he undertook a trip to the Siachen again, and mapped the entire area.

In a rare move, the Colonel wrote about his exploration of the glacier in The Illustrated Weekly of India in 1983, with pictures, which was seen as India staking claim to the area.

“It was those very same maps made by Col Kumar that helped us in 1984. We took the same route,” Lt Gen Kukarni said, adding that he was the saviour of the Siachen.

Also read: ‘Siachen-like’ logistics planning key to ensure Indian soldiers at LAC get all they require

Several successful mountaineering expeditions by Col. Kumar

Born in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, Col. Kumar was commissioned into the Kumaon regiment of the Army.

He has the rare distinction of being decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) at the rank of a colonel. He was also bestowed with Kirti Chakra and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.

Kumar also has a post in the Siachen Glacier named after him.

Interestingly, Kumar has skied all the passes on the Siachen Glacier such as the Bila-Fondla, Saltoro Pass, Sia-La, Turkistan-La, Indira-Col and Pass Italia. He also successfully led expeditions to Saltoro Kangri (which is 25,400 feet above sea level), the highest peak in the Eastern Karakoram range.

His other achievements include successfully leading mountaineering expeditions to the highest peaks of Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Garhwal, Kashmir and Eastern Karakorams.

According to Bharat Rakshaka website curated by military enthusiasts, of the 13 peaks, with a height above 24,000 feet, climbed by Indians, nine have been climbed under his leadership.

“In 1960, he was amongst the first eight in the world who had crossed the high altitude barrier of 28,000 feet. In 1965, he was the Deputy Leader of the Indian Mount Everest Expedition which put nine people on the top — a world record,” the article noted.

Also read: India stocks up missile arsenal as it prepares for another tense summer in Ladakh


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