Kargil War: From the Eyes of Col. Sonam Wangchuk, The Lion of Ladakh
Colonel Sonam Wangchuk, MVC, the Lion of Ladakh is a personality synonymous with exemplary courage, wonderful decision making, and commendable leadership in India. He is the man who along with his Ladakh Scouts notched India’s first triumph in Kargil by winning Chorbat La. On the platform of I Am Still Human, Colonel Sonam Wangchuk revealed his entire journey from being ambushed by the enemy to counter ambushing and ultimately conquering over it. In his conversation with Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, he talked about his experience behind receiving the second highest gallantry award, Maha Vir Chakra.
Colonel Sonam Wangchuk began by telling that he was told there was a special mission for him. Before this mission, he and his team of scouts had the chance to seek the blessings of his holiness, Dalai Lama who gave them Prasad and blessed their souls. When he proceeded with his mission, he was asked to scout the ridgeline with his men and report if they found anything suspicious. After asking for orders, he moved along with 25 boys and encountered sudden firing from the enemy side. Only 5 men including him were at the head of the column and the remaining were way behind which he found was very fortunate, as more people at front would have caused more casualties. The enemy was stronger at that moment. One of the hawaldars got wounded on the chest which turned the white snow turning red. At this instant, Colonel Sonam Wangchuk decided to observe enemy’s action first and fire only when the enemy is visible. Fighting the enemy was not the only challenge. With sub zero degree temperature and two feet snow, the soldiers had no camouflage uniforms and had to carry 25-30 kilograms of weight of their backs. But the tables turned soon for them. As Colonel Sonam Wangchuk and Hawaldar No. 11 proceeded with their mission courageously, they found that the enemy had exhausted their immediate ammunition. According to Colonel Sonam Wangchuk, it happened due to some divine intervention. Also there were some other incidents which led to the turn of events. At about 3 in the morning, the JCO along with 3 boys climbed the Observation Post. When they reached there at around 5, he found some enemy personnel climbing up. He wanted all those enemy personnel dead and so he decided to wait and fire only when the enemy is in proper range. His patience and wisdom at such a tough time led to those enemy personnel dead, leading to a panic like situation in the Pakistani troops. As it came to the knowledge of Colonel Sonam Wangchuk that the enemy was trying to climb up to dominate the Indian army, he took the decision to leave the place against his orders of staying down. With all the firing, they were thrown down to the base again. When one feels dejected, even one thing in favor feels like a miracle. Around 12 the same day, clouds starting appearing from where the enemy was firing. So they climbed up again and reached on the top at 4. The enemy kept firing down below as they were unaware of the fact that the Indian Army had climbed up. Colonel Sonam Wangchuk taking advantage of the moment took a scout with him and started moving towards the enemy position. At this point, the Indian Army was in a dominating position which created a panic and facilitated in killing 8 more enemy personnel. The victory of Chorbat La was a result of quick decision making, excellent leadership and tremendous courage. Besides Colonel Sonam Wangchuk, 6 of his boys received gallantry awards too. When asked about how he felt on receiving Maha Vir Chakra, Colonel Sonam Wangchuk humbly said that everyone looks forwards to such a moment and so did he. He felt proud for his family and his unit. To him, getting the chance to serve the nation and receiving Maha Vir Chakra was a very great feeling.
Some other incidents besides the Kargil War were discussed during the session. One of them was about his experience as an instructor at Indian Military Academy. Colonel Sonam Wangchuk said that it was a great learning period for him. In fact, he thought that IMA is a great institution and he wouldn’t be able to do justice to it, but that phase was an eye opener for him. They also talked about an ironical incident where Colonel Sonam Wangchuk came back from Kargil unharmed, but lost his finger in a scooter accident. He was on his way back from the military hospital where he went to see the cadets admitted there. It was very dark and so he couldn’t escape from a bus hitting him. This unfortunate incident led to him losing one finger and many other injuries.
Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh describes Colonel Sonam Wangchuk as a very simple, innocent and divinely rich personality. He insisted that everyone should watch the movie “Lion of Ladakh” at least once in their lifetime. Colonel Sonam Wangchuk, MVC is a patriot and keeps himself involved in social work. Besides being a living legend, he is also one of the most respected youth icons of India.