Tololing was won back, and so was Tiger Hill. The stories of Lt Col. Vishwanathan, Maj. Rajesh Adhikari, Capt. Manoj Kumar Pandey, Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav were now ringing across the Kashmir Valley and the hearts of raging soldiers. On 3 July, Col. Bawa received orders to mount their attack. Both Tiger Hill and Jubar Top had been reclaimed that day. Tiger Hill had the tactical advantage of crushing any attack from the Indian side on the Pimple Complex. It was, therefore, necessary to get there before the assault on the Pimples.
The attack strategy for 17 Jat was already in place. The attack would be executed in two phases, and Anuj’s team had pivotal roles to play in each. In the first phase, the Delta Company led by Maj. Rampal and Lt Shamsher Singh would mount an attack on Whaleback, which was the first enemy post en route the Pimple Complex. A simultaneous attack by the Alpha Company, under the leadership of Maj. R.K. Singh and Capt. Venugopal, would target the Pimple 1 peak.
In an earlier incident, while returning fire to the Pakistani troops somewhere between the Pimple Complex firebase and Pimple 1, Maj. Janghu was hit by a mortar shell splinter. This forced his transfer to the base medical facility. While Anuj was second in command of the Charlie Company, Maj. Ritesh Sharma was put in charge of leading the Charlie men as reserve force. Anuj and his men backed Maj. Rampal, while Maj. R.K. Singh took on Pimple 1.
As per plan, Pimple 1 and Whaleback were taken by both leading companies in the early hours of 5 July. Maj. R.K. Singh had initiated the dual attack on the night of 3 July. Before the enemy could hit back, Maj. Singh and his men neutralized two infiltrators and recaptured Pimple 1 under the cover of the night. The following night, at around 2100 hours, Col. Bawa received a situation report that Thumb Cliff had been captured. The Alpha Company kept moving through the night to reach Pimple 1. By 0200 hours the next morning, Maj. Singh and his men were at Pimple 1.
Capt. Venugopal and Subedar Om Prakash took separate attack platoons to bottleneck the enemy escape and attacked from either side of Pimple 1. By 0500 hours on 5 July, Maj. R.K. Singh had secured his position at Pimple 1 and eliminated most of the infiltrators. Some of them were able to manage a quick slip as they fled back to Pimple 2. The stealth and thorough elimination of enemy posts on Pimple 1 and Whaleback allowed the battalion to employ an element of surprise for the attack on Pimple 2. It was not until Pimple 2 was directly attacked that the enemy realized Pimple 1 had been taken. The Alpha Company went on record to establish that the firebase set up by the Charlie Company, led by Maj. Janghu and Capt. Anuj Nayyar, had proved a valuable asset in the Pimple 1 assault. Their accuracy in calibrating the mortar shelling posts at the firebase helped to deliver crucial hits as the Alpha Company led the attack.
Maj. Rampal had it a bit rough on Whaleback. By the morning of 5 July, the men of Delta and Alpha companies had taken their respective posts for the counter-attacks. The first wave of counterattacks on Whaleback led to a considerable loss of ammunition for Maj. Rampal. His team was also crippled by the injuries of seven soldiers. Whaleback was won after a great firefight and it took more time than the stealth attack of Pimple 1. Because it was open from all sides, Whaleback suffered counter-attacks in the morning. ‘Maj. Rampal kept sending me emergency messages, requesting more ammunition,’ says Brig. Bawa. ‘Anuj was there by my side when I got those messages, and I could see him getting uncomfortable with the delay in sending reinforcements.’ Anuj and Maj. Rampal were like brothers in the battalion. So it was natural for him to feel anxious about the safety of the man he looked up to.
Anuj was packing his bags for the attack even before he was asked. After reporting to the brigade command and high command, Brig. Bawa walked towards the arms sentry to find Anuj readying his ‘Pack 08’ (a full-service marching order, or FSMO) for battle load.
Brig. Bawa continues, ‘There was a common INSAS-SLR (main weapon), a 9-mm automatic standard issued pistol (secondary weapon), MRE ration and some magazines for both sidearm and main rifle. But then I saw something else – Anuj started to clean GP-25 UBGLs (under barrel grenade launcher) and kept one on top of his bag. He then started counting the standard 36-mm hand grenades. He somehow knew that it was time to start preparing. I must have stood watching him for a while before he realized that I was there. He just looked at me and said, “Aaya sir, bas thoda sa aur,” (I’ll be right there, sir, just a little bit more) pointing at the remaining grenades and bullet cans.’
At the same time, another bag was being prepared in New Delhi. Mani was packing sweets, woollen clothes, music CDs and a sacred thread for her soldier son. ‘Anuj being Anuj tried to keep the severity of the situation from the family. In his last letter to his father, Anuj sympathized with Prof. Nayyar by saying, “I know you must be getting solid kicks from Mani for letting me join the army.” It was from Maj. Ritesh Sharma that we got to know about his exact position in Kargil,’ she says. Maj. Sharma, who was in Delhi before he was called back to Kargil for the Pimple Complex attack, asked if the Nayyars would like to send anything for their son. That was the last time Mani packed a bag for her son Anuj.
Timmie loaded chocolates in the goody bag at the Nayyar residence, while Anuj loaded his backpack at the camp with more bullets. The last time Timmie and Anuj got on a call was on 2 July. Anuj told her that an important mission might be underway and he may get another chance to perform well. He ended the call by asking Timmie to think of honeymoon destinations. It seemed Anuj was also gearing up for marriage but only after sending the insurgents to their right place – ‘not back to their holes but straight to hell’.
This excerpt from ‘The Tiger of Drass’ by Meena Nayyar and Himmat Singh Shekhawat has been published with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India.