Kargil War was one of the fiercest conflicts between India and Pakistan. The war took place between May and July of 1999 in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kargil district which was the part of the Baltistan district of Ladakh before the partition of India 1947 and was separated by the LOC after the First Kashmir War (1947-1948). The conflict began in the winter of early 1999, when Pakistan Army along with the Mujahideen reoccupied the forward positions and strategic peaks of Kargil, Drass and Batalik. “Operation Al-Badar” was the name given to Pakistan’s infiltration.
While a total of 527 Indian soldiers lost their lives in ‘Operation Vijay’, there are some names who managed to survive during the war and instantly come to mind whenever someone mentions the ‘Kargil War’.
One such name is of the brave woman officer Gunjan Saxena.
Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena is the first woman Indian Air Force (IAF) officer to enter a war zone. In 1999, during Kargil War, Gunjan Saxena along with her fellow Lieutenant Srividya Rajan flew a Cheetah helicopter in the combat zone and rescued several soldiers.
Born and brought up in a family with an army background, Gunjan decided to serve the nation after completing her graduation from Delhi University’s Hansraj College.
Women pilots started being admitted in the fighter squadron in 2016, but Gunjan Saxena and Srividya Rajan set the example in 1999 when they were tasked with medical evacuations and supply drops, and even spotting enemy positions in the war zone.
Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena and Flight Lieutenant Srividya Rajan never flew fighter jets. They maneuvered their Cheetah helicopters in and out of the dangerous war zone in Kashmir. The Pakistani army fired a missile at Saxena’s chopper as it was getting ready for take-off. While the rocket crashed into a hill behind, this near-death account is just one of the many, faced by India’s Bravehearts, who, like every other soldier, were prepared to give their lives for their country.
Gunjan Saxena was the first woman to receive the Shaurya Vir Award from the army. Saxena’s tenure as a chopper pilot ended after seven years of service.
Meanwhile, the story of India’s first woman Air Force Officer to enter a warzone, Gunjan Saxena, will be releasing on Netflix soon. The film, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, stars Janhvi Kapoor as Gunjan Saxena and is directed by Sharan Sharma.