Follow by Email

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa Rao, Kargil hero

The first of the Kargil War Heroes and their tales!

Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa Rao
.....We are proud of you Nachiketa!


Let's begin with a timeless tale, one that has been passed down from generation to generation in the great land of India. The hero of this tale is a young man by the name of Nachiketa. According to Indian history, he is the youth who goes to Yama, the Lord of Death, in order to discover the true meaning of Life. The dialogue between Nachiketa and the Lord of Death is contained in the immortal work, the Katha Upanishad. This work explains the most timeless question of all existence, "What lies beyond Death"? And it was Nachiketa who had the courage to confront even Death in his pursuit of the answer. In India, the mere mention of Nachiketa's name is instantly recognized as synonymous with the feeling of indomitable spirit, spiritual bravery and insurmountable courage in every human being.

It is no coincidence that the brave young soldier who is currently in the clutches of our enemy, holds the same name; Nachiketa. ( Nachiketa was released from Enemy captivity on 4th June 99)

Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa Rao turned 26 today. He had no fatherly blessings, sisterly hugs or sweetmeats to celebrate the event. Nachiketa probably spent his birthday in a dark and dangerous Pakistani prison, mocked by jeers of Jihad and insults. He is probably remembering the moments before he crashed onto Pakistani ground and felt the clammy grip of Pakistani fingers as they held him down.

It was a gloomy day when Nachiketa had set out with his squadron to carry out another air strike against the Islamic terrorists who were holed up in the treacherous snow-clad terrain of India's Kashmir. The landscape is littered with dangerously rocky ridges and shadowy valleys, which greatly hamper maneuverability and ease of flight. The objective was simple; to repulse the attempt by Pakistani troops lurking on the mountains along the Line of Control. For almost a week they had been trying to infiltrate into sovereign India's territory. As he flew over the mountains an ominous mist surrounded his plane and Nachiketa realized that he was right on the edge of the Line of Control. As he began veering his aircraft back towards Indian territory a sudden sputtering clued him to the fact that his engine had died out in a burst of flame as his MiG-27 combat Jet developed mechanical failure. Was it mechanical failure or Pakistani fire that had disrupted the engine? Who knows...

The last words that his colleagues heard before he faded out were: " Nachi - engine flame-out, relighting.... Nachi ejecting now." and then an ominous silence. As Nachiketa parachuted down the dark ragged edges of the snow-clad mountains, the sky was lit a brilliant red by the giant explosion of his hapless aircraft. And then suddenly as he landed on the rocky surface, Nachiketa observed a speck in the sky. It was his fellow pilot, a daredevil Squadron Leader by the name of Ajay Ahuja, hovering over in his MiG-21 straining his eyes to catch sight of the landing area of his colleague.

Suddenly an explosion reverberated across the horizon, as Nachiketa recoiled in horror. A missile from the Afghani Mujahideen stockpile found its mark and hit Ahuja's plane. Ahuja frantically radioed his team leader Hercules One, "missile hit" his voice crackled and then again a deathly silence.

Nachiketa must have watched in anticipation as Ajay parachuted out of his aircraft to escape the flames. There was a resounding crack as Ajay broke his left knee during the fall, and then all of a sudden menacingly dark shadows dressed in Pakistani Army uniforms, were lifting their guns and shooting Ajay at point blank range. They fired not once but twice straight through his head and heart. As Ajay and the rules of the Geneva Convention lay in a pool of blood, Nachiketa raised himself to his feet and put all his strength into a break for escape. When the menacing outlines of the Pakistani soldiers started looming closer in pursuit, he drew out his 9-mm pistol and fired eight straight rounds at them with unfailing accuracy. How the Jehadi blood must have boiled at this intolerable insolence! There were far too many to run from and Nachiketa must have steeled himself to accept his fate with determination as the rough callused hands of the Islamic Jehadis grabbed him.

He was thrown into the dank confines of a Pakistani prison. On Friday, the Pakistanis in a venomous display of cruelty paraded him in front of journalists, including representatives of international news channels like BBC and Voice of America. As the obscene parade continued, he was not allowed to speak to the reporters as Pakistani army personnel kept him at least at a distance of about 30 feet. "There are certain procedures which have to be followed," the Pakistani officials told journalists, who waved at the Indian pilot. He was touted as a "Prisoner of War" regardless of the fact that no war had been declared. Journalists observed a huge large red welt deepening across his forehead as Nachiketa faced them with calm serenity and strength etched into every line of his face. "He is being treated well and taken care of" sneered the Muslims as the journalists' attempts to communicate with Nachiketa were rebuffed by them. Pakistan's Information Minister Mushahid Hussain 's face wore the same sneer as he commented on how Nachiketa was "safe and sound" and being treated according to "Islamic traditions of hospitality". Indeed the same traditions of Islamic hospitality must have been aroused in Pakistani breasts as they shot Ajay Ahuja at point blank range, in an act of utmost cowardice and depravation.

It is these same Islamic traditions of hospitality which translate into cruel extremes of torture and inhuman treatment. Was it not Prophet Mohammed who set the standard for these traditions when he had killed and murdered millions of Jews and Pagans taken prisoner by his terrorist army? But remember it is no coincidence that the young man who is in Islamic custody right now is named Nachiketa in the tradition of that ancient brave soul of India. Just as that Nachiketa walked calmly into the jaws of death and walked out unscathed, so too will this warrior.

The incident is described clearly in the Katha Upanishad. As Nachiketa asks Lord Yama the secret of death, he sees the brilliance inherent in the youth and replies in a voice filled with wisdom.

"The wise, realizing through effort
The Timeless Self beyond all perception,
Hidden in the cave of the heart,
Leave pain and pleasure far behind.
Those who know they are not mere body or mind,
But the infinite Self, the Divine
The essence of existence, they discover the source
of all joy and live in the truth of it forever.
I see the doors of joy are opening
for you, O Nachiketa...."


So too have the doors of joy and fame immemorial been opened for our brave Nachiketa of the Indian Air Force. So too have the doors of joy opened for Ajay Ahuja who gave up his life in the Supreme sacrifice for his motherland. The name Ajay means "undefeatable" and even in his death Squadron Leader Ahuja has shown us the true meaning of this word. He was cremated with full military honors in a cremation ground in village Kili Nihal Singhwala near Bisiana Air Force Station. His brave four year-old-son Ankush helped by his relatives lit the funeral pyre in the presence of his widow Alka and a large number of Air Force personnel and civilians.
His memory will spur us on to punish those cowards who try in vain to usurp our territory!

No comments: