Sorry, my hero

In 2020 I along with my family paid a visit to the tomb of Hav Lalik Jan NH. Primary travel was from Phandar to Gilgit but we made a special detour of around 75 km from Gupis. And why not, any soldier must have an inner urge to visit the resting places of the brave souls who are symbols of our Army in the best traditions of our forefathers. Like all serving and retired I saluted our national hero and felt the sense of pride which is aroused when one emotionally connects to such places. Many times my thoughts naturally drift to Captain Karnal Sher Khan (NH), thinking it must be natural to all military officers, or perhaps to those who witnessed Kargil War. I made a promise in my mind to visit the tomb of Captain Karnal Sher Khan (NH) on the next opportunity. Then came Covid and so on, admittedly the urge subsided.

It never occurred to me that I won’t be fortunate to do that in good order of the day; rather I will be one of those hapless ones who would have to bear the site of the most despicable action. I heard about such misdeeds but being not part of social media things, I only happened to see the image last night. My good neighbour who is senior to me and a Retd Major from Armoured Corps shared a picture with me. It was simply unbearable to watch that a renegade was disrespecting the figure of Captain Karnal Sher Khan (NH) and no one was stopping him. How could that happen in a land which takes so much pride in the chivalrous traditions of the past thousands of years? I decided there and then to visit the tomb of Captain Karnal Sher Khan NH tomorrow and say sorry to him in person. I simply couldn’t think of anything else.

I along with my wife Samina drove to his tomb and paid respect to him in person on 17th May.

While saluting him for a very long time, with tears in my eyes I just let my emotions float. Sorry my hero, my pride, I know you are sitting at the highest place in Jana and enjoying the blessings of Almighty God as promised for Shaheed. But I am standing beside your resting place in great pain and shame. I could not save the memorials of your bravery and sacrifice which we erected for ourselves, having no match to what God has granted to you. But I have come here to salute you with my heart full of rage and vengeance and say sorry not once but thousand times. I say sorry to you from my father’s side, who kept your picture pasted on his study table for many years. My father was a veteran from 1965 and 1971 (POW) till September 1973. He praised you like a true hero and passed away in 2016, thankfully, not having to bear the pain of which I am going through along with many who love soldiering.

For those young bloods who wouldn’t have been born in 1999 and a few of the misguided adults and seniors of our society, Captain Karnal Sher Khan NH was not an ordinary soldier. He got shaheed after repeatedly sneaking behind enemy lines and attacking them with only a handful of his comrades. He created so much nuisance among enemy commanders that when eventually he got shaheed his soldierly valour was openheartedly recognized by Indian Commander, in the best traditions of chivalry. He is a true role model of all youngsters who sign up for the Army imbued with a passion for a true soldier’s life. Few will be lucky enough to attain such a soldierly end.

I urge my fellow veterans of all ages to please refocus your attention towards military role models and do whatever in your capacity to restore the pride of your fallen comrades. It’s the military connection with the gallant and fallen comrades which keeps us united more than anything around the globe. It is one of those military-specific traits which separates us from corporate and material organisations. I also urge the military higher-ups to organize solidarity functions at all the tombs of our Nishane Haiders. These must involve the serving, veterans and civilian society. The traitor who had the courage to be disrespectful to Captain Karanal Sher Khan must be made an example for the times to come.

Maj Gen Muhammad Khalil Dar (Retd)

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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