The bombarding continued until late night. Out of my battalion of twelve, only three of were surviving.
Early that morning, the barracks was a haven for 12 happy soldiers. Located in the one of the remotest corners of the North East part of the country, this was an area of peace and tranquility. By around 9AM, we started getting hints of some suspicious movements in our vicinity. An emergency call from the headquarters warned us of an impending terrorist attack. The team was put on high alert.
It was around 10:20AM that we had already taken our positions. The first gun shot was heard at 10:27AM. It came from the South-West side. This made it clear; they must have crossed the Noldia river to reach the Baithang village. Then across the dense Luthra jungles, they must have made their way to the barracks.
The team had already been given an emergency briefing and had been mentally prepared for the worst. I ordered them to take their positions. We waited with full apprehension for their next move. A series of gunshots followed. “FIRE”, I ordered before it was too late. Team1 was leading from the forefront and Team2 was with me, guarding the barracks. A shriek and it was Rustom on the Walkie-Talkie, “Sir, Rohit has been shot dead”.
A chill went down my spine, my youngest and most cheerful boy…..I gave him a salute and we stuck to our positions. It was followed by few Walkie-Talkie signals and already I had lost six of my team. Nevertheless, “Panic” and “Surrender” are not part of our dictionary, so we still stuck to our fort. I dreaded to hear another beep, but it did buzz. Rustam again blurted out, “Sir, We have wiped out their EastPack, their WestPack might target you now”.
I signaled the team of the impending attack and we waited with bated breath. It was bomb blast couple of meters away from me and I saw three shattered bodies lying in a pool of blood. My two bravest Subedars did not lose hope and sprang into action. What followed was a volley of gunshots followed by deafening silence. We looked at each other and the only sound that was heard, was our pounding heart beats. We waited motionless for an hour and then I motioned to move out.
Engulfed with fatigue, our legs had given away. But we had to move on. Being cognizant of the Luthra jungles, we knew the short cut to Noldia river. It must have been midnight when we reached there and hid in the camouflaged tent made of bushes and shrubs. Early next morning, we were awakened by a loud horn. The Army Steamer had arrived to with a new batch of soldiers.
The Steam set sail towards the headquarters leaving behind an unforgettable saga of courage, hope, determination and above all patriotism. As we departed, my proud eyes couldn’t stop the tears as I saluted my brave team.
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