India struck terrorist camps across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir exactly a year ago, taking the enemy forces by complete surprise. The stealthily executed ‘surgical strike was led by an Major of the Indian Army who remembers that after hitting the terrorist camps, that return was the most difficult part of the mission as heavy firing from the enemy camps was so intense that it appeared to be whistling past our ears.
It is in ‘India’s Most Fearless: True Stories of Modern Military Heroes’, a book published by Penguin India that Major Mike Tango (a pseudonym to protest the real identity) for the first time reveals the surgical strike action across the LoC as it happened.
The surgical strike was India’s response to a terrorist attack in Uri, Kashmir with the Indian Army deciding to go on the offensive and use soldiers from the same battalion to plot an elaborate revenge.
Major Tango recounts that a Ghatak platoon was formed and soldiers from the two units that had lost men in the Uri attack were given responsibility to man border posts to gather crucial terrain intelligence and provide support to the mission that had been planned out.
An excerpt from the book:
Tactically, this was a smart move – few knew the lay of the frontier land better than they did. But there was another astute reason.
Involving them in the mission would at least begin to lay the ghosts of Uri to rest.
Picking up the targets, team, leader and in obtaining the go ahead, the book mentions:
The target list was scrutinised along a top-secret chain of command that numbered barely a handful of people, with ‘need to know’ rules applicable throughout.
The options were vetted by designated officers from the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing, before a final recommended brief was presented to the government.
As team Leader, Major Tango had chosen every man himself, including the officers and men who would play a supporting role. He was also acutely aware of the fact that the lives of 19 men were, quite literally, in his hands.
Major Tango was undoubtedly the best person to lead the strike but what needed careful planning was the safe return of the mission. The book quotes Major Tango:
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That’s where I knew I could lose guys….Even the actual attack was not something that flustered the commandos. It was the return, an uphill trek to the LoC that was the truly daunting part.
Their backs would be facing a blaze of fire from Pakistan Army posts, belatedly roused from their slumber. And the dominant position held by the posts would make the escaping warriors easy targets to spot and kill.
As targets for the surgical strikes, the Army had chosen four terror launch pads operated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and protected by the Pakistan Army. In planning the strike, the true story narrates:
Through a series of masked communications over mobile, Major Tango’s men contacted four ‘assets’- two local villagers in PoK and two Pakistani nationals operating in the area – both moles in the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group, men who had been turned by Indian agencies a few years before.
All the four assets separately confirmed the target information that was placed before them. In terms of intelligence, there was nothing further for the team to do on this side of the LoC.
Talking about the return, Major Tango’s decision to avoid the route through PoC and take a different but safer one, though much longer and more circuitous, proved to be credible. As the Indian soldiers began their retreat, Pakistan Army posts opened fire with everything they had, enraged by the cross-border strike.
Major Tango recalls:
At one point, the bullets were so close, they were whistling past our ears. There’s a familiar put-put sound when rounds fly very close to your head.
If I were a foot taller, I would have been hit many times over.
Published by Penguin Books and co-authored by Rahul Singh and Shiv Aroor, the book tells 14 real-life tales of extraordinary courage and fearlessness. The collection provides a glimpse into the kind of heroism India’s soldiers display in extremely hostile conditions and under grave provocation.