The Battle of Tololing was the Indian Army’s most crucial campaign in the initial phase of the 1999 Kargil War. The task of capturing this point was given to 18 Grenadiers. Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari, who would later be honoured with the Maha Vir Chakra, was among those whose gallantry ensured success in this campaign.
Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari was born in Tallital in Nainital, a scenic hill spot in the state of Uttarakhand. He did his schooling from St. Joseph’s College, Nainital in the year 1987, and degree from Kumaon University in 1992.
Major Adhikari always wanted to be an army officer and his dream came true when he got selected to join the Indian Military Academy. On 11 December 1993, Major Rajesh at the age of 23 years got commissioned into 2 Mech Infantry also known as 1 Jat(LI).
After serving for 5 years in various operational areas Major Adhikari got married in 1998 to Kiran Negi, and was to celebrate his first wedding anniversary on June 9, 1999.
During the Kargil war, Maj Adhikari’s unit was deployed in J & K and played a vital role in the initial phase of the war capturing Tololing.
Tololing overlooked the strategic National Highway 1-A, the only supply route to Kargil, as it passed through Drass. It was imperative to prevent the enemy from cutting off this route.
On a rocky ride at 16,000 ft, Major Rajesh Adhikari had just received a letter from his wife Kiran. With a map in one hand, an AK-47 assault rifle in the other and a mission to lead an assault on a vital position called the Tololing heights, Adhikari stuffed the letter in his pocket. “He said, ‘I want to read it in peace tomorrow after the operation is over’,” recalls a fellow officer.
But he never got a chance.
On 30 May 1999, Major Adhikari and his men began their mission to get a foothold in the area, by capturing Tololing’s forward spur.
The enemy position was located in treacherous and snow-clad mountainous terrain, about 15,000 feet above sea level. The Major Adhikari and his team made their way up gradually, using picks and axes.
Getting there was not going to be easy, and the Indian Army personnel discovered this soon enough. While the Major was leading his company towards the objective, he was fired at from two enemy positions with Universal Machine Guns (UMGs).
Heavy Gunfire, Fierce Combat ensued.
In retaliation, the officer directed the rocket launcher detachment to engage the enemy position and killed two enemy soldiers in close combat, says the citation for the Maha Vir Chakra, India’s second highest military honour, awarded to him.
Major Rajesh Singh Adhikari then ordered his medium machine gun detachment to take position behind a rocky feature in order to engage the enemy. He was able to execute this manoeuvre despite being under heavy fire. This also allowed the assault company to move upwards.
While advancing, Major Adhikari suffered grievous bullet injuries, despite which he carried forward while directing his sub-unit. He refused evacuation and instead charged at the second enemy position and seized control of the second position at Tololing.
The officer’s actions facilitated the capture of Point 4590. However, Major Adhikari succumbed to his injuries. He was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his actions.
In the hills of Garhwal, where they say every third home is a soldier’s home, Nainital joined the family in the long wait for the mortal remains of their fallen hero. It had been 15vdays since the family had received the heartbreaking news. his mother hoping if there was no body, maybe her son wasn’t dead, maybe he would one day walk in, with that eternal smile on his face which she had seen all through his school and college years and during his visits home. She kept recounting his river rafting exploits, and his playing of old Hindi favourites on his guitar.
In the end she accepted reality, and bade her martyr son farewell on his last journey. Silence was what left with her and her daughter, Major Adhikari’s sister Mamatha when stood in front of his funeral pyre beside the Gola river.
Major Adhikari’s sacrifice ensured initial success in the Kargil war and the victory was sealed by the heroic sacrifices of many brave hearts like Major Adhikari.