Who Was Major Sudhir Walia?
Wartime is the test of bravery, while peacetime tests your calmness. After the Kargil war, Pakistan had ensured its intention on Jammu and Kashmir. And even after its defeat, it continued disturbing the peace in the valley of Kashmir. The Indian government made sure to put its best men on the field. It was a hard-earned peace and had to be protected at all costs. And what better men than those who had already seen the Kargil war?
Sudhir Walia joined the Indian Army in 1988 after graduating from the Indian National Academy. He joined the Jat regiment as the second Lieutenant. It was a time when India was fighting the Srilankan terrorist group named LTTE. Sudhir was positioned in Srilanka as a part of India’s peacekeeping forces. The LTTE fought through Gorilla warfare, hence Indian army along with the Srilankan army safeguarded the places under the government regime.
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Though he loved his work in the peacekeeping force, he opted for something more challenging. He opted to join the Para Sf regiment of the Indian army. The Para SF troops are allrounders of the Indian army. They specialize in warfare of every terrain including urban warfare. They are some of the most feared military units across the world. Only the best of the best are able to make it through its selection process. Sudhir proved his prowess as a soldier by earning that marron barret of Para SF.
Sudhir’s effort in Srilanka gained him the rank of Captain. He was also selected to be part of a team visiting the USA, for combined training in the specialization of mountain warfare. After this training, he was positioned in Jammu and Kashmir region to test his newly gained mountain warfare tactics. He serviced there for five years from 1993 to 1998. He was nominated for the gallantry award after being shot on the shoulders during an anti-terrorism mission.
After this, he was positioned in the capital Delhi for more relaxed duties. But then the war of 1999 started. And Jammu and Kashmir became the battlefield. Sudhir Walia opted to go to Kasmir bases having previous experience there. His officers denied him stating that he would need a period of acclimatization. He replied by only saying that he was a ‘pahadi’ and got their approval.
Ten days after his arrival in Jammu and Kashmir, he led his team to the top of the Zulu base at 5200 meters. This base too was under the capture of Pakistani troops. Sudhir and his men attacked Pakistani bunkers at the break of the dawn and recaptured the Zulu Top.
After the Kargil war, came the process of protecting the hard-earned peace. Sudhir Walia who had already earned himself a reputation was chosen to lead the anti-terrorism task force in the Kashmir valley. On 29 August 1999, he received a piece of information on terrorists hiding. He prepared a strike force and marched into the hideout in the middle of Haphruda forest. The information was right and they located 20 terrorists hiding inside a cave.
Sudhir positioned most of his men circling the cave, ensuring none of them escaped. And then with some of his finest shooters went inside the cave. Nine out of twenty were killed by Sudhir alone but he also took a few bullets. He was dragged outside the cave from where he kept giving orders till the mission was accomplished. Only then did he call for his own rescue. He was airlifted to the nearest hospital but was a bit too late. He succumbed to his injuries. He was awarded Ashoka Chakra, the highest military award India gives during peacetime.
Sudhir Walia had a drive that is seen rarely nowadays. Rarely do we find people constantly moving upward in their journey of excellence. And for this, he made some hard decisions. It was his decision to leave the comforts of peacekeeping and explore the dangers of Para SF. It was his decision to delay his own rescue and complete the mission. Though the bullets that pierced his body were fired from the guns of terrorists, Sudhir lived and died on his own terms.