India will never forget the 1999 Kargil war when it kicked out all Pakistani soldiers who had managed to occupy key positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control in Kargil sector.
Among the countless stories of valour and fearlessness of our brave heroes, the story of Captain Kambampati Nichiketa, a Flying Lieutenant back then in 1999, remained mostly unsung.
Captain Kambampati Nichiketa survived the torture of Pakistanis as a Prisoner of War (PoW), returned to India, got the Vayusena medal, and kept on flying planes for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
When asked “how badly did they torture you?” he said there comes a point where you think ‘death is simpler.’ Fortunately for him the third degree part, didn’t start.
Nachiketa was one of the pilots from No. 9 Squadron of IAF which took part in the operation launched in Batalik sector on May 26, 1999. He carried out an attack on enemy camps by flying a MiG-27 armed with 80 mm rockets.
During an attack at 17,000 feet, the engine of his plane “flamed out” and went dead mid-air and headed towards a crash in the mountains. He was forced to eject and within half an hour, he was ambushed by Pakistani soldiers. He fought valiantly by unloading an entire magazine of bullets at them, but was soon caught.
The soldiers of the Pakistani Northern Light Infantry tortured him ruthlessly. However, luck was in his favour as he was rescued by a senior Pakistani official who asked the soldiers to back off and behaved like a gentleman.
After eight days of gruelling, he was repatriated to India after intense backdoor efforts made by the government of India on June 3, 1999. He was greeted by President KR Narayanan and Prime Minister Vajpayee as a hero.
Though he was not able to fly fighter jets due to an injury on his back, he continued flying IAF’s transport fleet.