“I will return only after teaching a lesson to the enemy” were the last words Major Manoj Talwar said to his mother on June 1, 1999, before leaving for Siachin during the Kargil War.
The Kargil War which was fought between Pakistani soldiers disguised as Non-state Intruders and Indian Armed Forces was the finest example of high altitude warfare in modern history. The war gave India many brave heroes who sacrificed their lives for our country. One such hero was Major Manoj Talwar.
Early Life of Major Manoj Talwar
Major Manoj Talwar was born to Captain PL Talwar and Mrs Usha Talwar on 29th August 1969. Captain PL Talwar also served as a Civil Engineer in the Engineering Core of the Indian Army. Major Manoj Talwar spent his childhood in Kanpur where his father was posted and his family stayed near the army cantonment area which developed his interest in the armed forces.
“As a young boy, he would don our father’s army fatigues and enact battle scenes with his friends“ remembers Navneet, his younger brother.
From a very young age, Manoj was quite interested in the Army. He would also go to the nearby parade ground and watch the soldiers practice their drills for hours. He often used to sing the song ‘Nanna Munna Rahi Hun’ with his friends.
Young Manoj was quite fond of Cricket and was a State Level Player. He would also go the nearby parade ground and watch the soldiers practice their drills.
“(he) wore kurta pyjama, slept on the ground and never watched films or TV except for a game of cricket“ was how his father Captain PL Talwar described his son’s simplistic lifestyle.
Achieving his Goal
Major Manoj Talwar was brilliant at academics and after completing his schooling, he turned his passion into reality. Manoj was selected to join Armed Forces Medical College, Pune to become an Army Doctor. Manoj however was more interested in becoming an ‘Infantry Officer’ and wanted an ‘Active Combat Role’ in the Indian Army and so he decided to not join AFMC and instead join National Defence Academy.
Life In The Army
As 3rd generation Army Officer, he was commissioned in 1991 into the 3rd battalion, Mahar Regiment. After passing out from the Academy, he served in various challenging areas with extremely high temperatures in Jammu and Kashmir and also in the Northeast. He also underwent the “Para Commando Training” which is known to be the most tenacious and gruesome training process in the Army.
In 1998 Major Manoj Talwar walked up to his father’s room and told him that he wanted to willingly serve in Siachin Glacier region of Ladakh. Upon hearing this, his father was shocked as this region is known to be the highest battleground on earth having extreme temperatures which dip below sub-zero level with constant threat of frostbites, hypoxia and hypothermia to the soldiers posted there but Capt PL Talwar could not stop his son from taking such a brave decision as he knew his son’s devotion and love for the country and finally he gave him permission.
With his father’s blessings, Manoj moved forward and willingly requested to be transferred to the 9th Battalion, Mahar Regiment.
“He probable sensed his short life. He kept refusing several marriage proposals that came our way“says Usha Talwar, his mother.
On June 1, 1999, during the middle of the Kargil War, he was transferred and joined the 9th Mahar Regiment. As he was serving in the Siachen Glacier region, the enemy activity increased in the area putting pressure on the Indian Forces to thwart any attempt by the enemy to intrude the area. Though he was stationed in a peaceful area, he volunteered to take part in Operation Vijay.
His Final Operation
Major Manoj Talwar was then assigned the extremely challenging operational task to evict the Pakistani intruders and establish a post at 19000 feet (5765 metres) high Hill Top, (which is now known as ‘Major Manoj Talwar’ peak) on the line of control in Turtuk Sub Sector. Though the team was supposed to be led by a Junior Officer, Major Manoj to lead the mission.
Major Manoj lead his men and as he moved forward to take the peak braving the extreme sub-zero temperature, low oxygen levels , enemy shelling of mortars, machine-gun fire, treacherous terrain with sheer vertical snow walls. The patrol had to traverse through barren and rugged terrain while negotiating icy slopes and dangerous crevices. Even in these extreme conditions he did not lose his determination and directed his troops to retaliate and they put up an ave fight.
The Pakistani army was firing from above and so his team decided to go around the hill and flank the entrenched enemy from behind though this new route was far more dangerous exposing the team to heavy Pakistani Mortar Fire.
During their advance, he suffered from several splinter injuries by enemy mortars and grenades but despite all the difficulties, he displayed rare determination, exemplary sense of courage and kept pushing forward.
Moments after he and his fellow men had finally captured the peak at midnight of 13th June , a splinter from a mortar shelling hit his eye and he was gravely injured. He fell down from the peak into the valley below and the search for his body went for hours till the early morning of 14th June 1999.
At the young age of 29 he gave the supreme sacrifice for the Motherland and became immortal and made the Country, his Hometown Meerut and his parents proud.
Legacy of Major Manoj Talwar
He was named ‘Hero of the Kargil War’ and the peak he had captured was named ‘Major Manoj Talwar Peak’ after him.
His body wrapped in tricolour was brought to his residence in Meerut. His parents and family heartbroken but proud did his last rights in the presence of thousands of people, politicians and people who came to pay him homage.
On 14th of June, as his body was being cremated with teary eyes and broken hearts, his parents received his last letter which he had written on 10th of June before proceeding for the War. On that day the entire city of Meerut was in mourning. All the markets, cinema halls and other public places were closed. The women in the houses did not cook food that day. He was respected and loved as the ‘Son Of Meerut.’
Later in the year 2003, a statue was built in Meerut in his honour and that area was named as ‘Commissionary Chowk. A road was also named after him which connected his house in Defence Colony till the Comissionary Chowk’.
A park was built in his honour and named after him in Kanpur, where he has spent his childhood.