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Kargil war: Chaiwallah who risked his life in battle of Tololing
7/23/2019 7:17:04 PM

Kargil July 23,

Battle of Tololing was one of the turning points of the Kargil war of 1999. Tololing peak is dominant position overlooking the strategic Srinagar-Leh highway. Pakistani infiltrators had occupied this peak, reclaiming which was one of the toughest challenges for the Indian Army due to rugged terrain of the hills.

Major Rajesh Adhikari (posthumously) and Digendra Kumar were awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, India's second highest military honour for their role in securing Tololing peak. Colonel Ravindranath was awarded Vir Chakra for his role in the battle.

However, there was an unsung hero in the battle of Tololing who had the option of leaving the hills and go away from the dangers of Kargil war to safety of his home in Uttarakhand. But Naseem Ahmad stayed in Drass near the battlefield of Tololing.

Naseem Ahmad, now 61, sells tea like 20 years ago. Hailing from Dehradun, Naseem Ahmad was in Jammu and Kashmir when the Kargil war broke out. Most of the people - local and outsiders alike -- fled the conflict zone but he stayed in Drass and served tea to the Indian soldiers engaged in a pitched battle with the Pakistani soldiers for securing Tololing.

"I got many chances to leave Drass but my heart didn't allow me to leave. Even helpers at my shops fled. There were only a few tea shops in the area. All had closed during Kargil war. Normal life had come to a halt. I decided to stay in Drass to serve the Indian Army," said Naseem Ahmad.

He said, "Army convoys would cross through the Drass town and stopped at my tea stall. I would serve them tea and meals. I knew it was risky but I thought this was the least I could contribute to my nation -- by serving army in this fashion."

"There was an army officer from my native place Dehradun who also encouraged me to stay here. I got ration from the army depot and I prepared tea and food for jawans. It gave me satisfaction. I will never forget that period of life. How tough it was to live here back then," recalls Naseem Ahmad.

He says, "I pray to God and hope it wouldn't be repeated again. Drass has now totally changed. It is much more developed now and people know Drass across globe because of the war."

Pakistani soldiers had infiltrated the Indian territory of Kargil region in the early months of 1999. They took control of the peaks in Drass town. Among the peaks that Pakistani infiltrators took control of were Tololing peak, which is 4 km from Drass. Drass was directly targeted with artillery fire by Pakistani soldiers.

By July 26, with the support of locals, Indian Army forced the Pakistani intruders to retreat. They cleared Tololing and Tiger hill peaks in the region, and reclaimed them. Indian control was reestablished. Naseem Ahmad feels happy that he also made a contribution, with a kettle in his hand.

July 26 is celebrated as Kargil Vijay Diwas to commemorate India's victory over Pakistan in this limited war.
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