Story Of Kashmir’s ‘True Hero’ Reveals Life Of An Indian Army Man

The Quint presents an excerpt from ‘The Real Wani — Kashmir’s True Hero’ by Sonal Chaturvedi.

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(The following has been excerpted with permission from ‘The Real Wani — Kashmir’s True Hero’ by Sonal Chaturvedi, and published by Bloomsbury. The subheadings are not part of the book, and have been added by The Quint. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

Mid-November in 2018 marked the beginning of chilly Kashmir winters. The weather was seemingly calm, but clouds were looming in the sky. Similar was Nazir’s state of mind as he walked through the lane to reach the office of his junior commissioned officer (JCO), Subedar Major Dilip Singh. Nazir wanted to discuss the seniors’ dissatisfaction with the work of the soldiers. He vented his heart out to Singh who had known Nazir since his recruitment days.

He was well aware that Nazir had and would go to any lengths to protect the country. He tried to calm his colleague down: “Don’t worry,” he said, “there are highs and lows in every sphere, be it work or personal life. Just focus on your work and give your best as you always do.”

Nazir was still worried; he was never one to shy away from his responsibilities. “Sir, I will show you the results in the next two months. You and everyone else will see our efforts.” He saluted JCO Subedar Major Dilip Singh and left. Little did he know that in a matter of just ten days, proof of his bravery would be visible to everyone. “I am going home tomorrow, my leave has been approved!” Ajaz told Nazir on call.

Dreaming of Home

It was 23 November 2018. “It will be a long road ahead after vacations. Wait for one day, I got the approval only today, I will come along with you. Then we will take our families to some picnic or we can go out somewhere too,” Nazir said. Ajaz agreed on the condition that he be delayed no more than a day. The next day, Nazir was busy packing his things for the trip home. They were supposed to go on an operation, but in the evening, it got cancelled. Mahajabeena was at her mother’s place as she was not feeling very well and was down with fever. With no one at home to take care of her —Athar was in Srinagar at a friend’s place and Shahid in Kota for his coaching — Nazir had suggested Mahajabeena stay at her parental home.

“You switch off your phone and sleep now. The operation has been aborted. I will meet you day after tomorrow.”

Nazir had not visited home in a few months but was going to on 26 November. “Okay, it is good in a way that you don’t have to go on an operation tonight. You too take rest. We will meet day after tomorrow,” Mahajabeena said. “Yes we will, and listen, mai che tchain maaye (I love you).” “Tsche chuk myon zuw, tche chakh me dil azzez (You are my life, you are close to my heart),” Mahajabeena said, disconnecting the call. She switched off her mobile phone and went off to sleep.

Nazir & Mushtaq Set Out On a Counter-Terrorism Operation

One militant had died a few days back. Nazir and Mushtaq had information that a few other militants would be visiting their home on choutha to meet their parents. The army had planned to ambush them near the area around 10:30 PM. But soon, the police told them that the militants wouldn’t be going there that night. They had decided to return to the company headquarters. The operation was called off, and Mushtaq and Nazir decided to take some rest.

“You eat a little at least. You have to take medicine,” Mushtaq said. Nazir nodded and ate some bread. “It has been a rough day today.” They closed their eyes, only to wake up again when there was a knock on their doors. Nazir asked, “Vakhet kyah av (What time is it)?” “Kah (Eleven),” Mushtaq said as he opened the door. There was a policeman standing outside. “Kyah chu (What happened)?” Mushtaq asked.

“Let’s go, we got information while tracing a call. We have to arrest a few people.”

Nazir closed the door and went to the courtyard. He tried to call Mahajabeena as was his ritual before going on any operation, only this time, she had switched off her phone after their previous conversation. He called Ajaz who was serving elsewhere, “I am going on an operation.” “Where?” Ajaz asked. “Will tell you when we reach.” They bid each other goodbye over the phone. At around 11:15 PM, they left the company headquarters in a Casspir.

Nazir Takes Charge

“How many militants are we expecting?” “At least five to six.” The militants were holed up in Basher Ahmad Ganai’s new home. His old home was located right beside the new one. As they reached the location, Nazir himself took charge and placed the cordon around the house with the help of the police and the CRPF. They had tightly sealed the exit and entry points into the village. The village was accessible from Kulgam and Shopian, and both the tracks were completely sealed off.

The army was moving quickly, and in good numbers to the site of the incident. This was aimed at strengthening the cordon so that none of the trapped militants could escape.

Till that time, there was no firing from inside the house and the army waited patiently at the location.

They had called for one extra delta company for support. As the Casspir reached near the village, its sound alerted the militants and they jumped outside the house in a bid to escape. The army men opened fire and as the car containing the delta company reached the location, four militants were already dead within thirty seconds. It was 4 AM, and the parties took position again. There were two more militants inside the house. One militant was assumed to be in the courtyard and the others inside the house. Nazir and Mushtaq climbed up the stairs to the first floor of the adjacent house. Nazir was covering Mushtaq from behind.

Night Vision & Killings

“This will give us a better view,” he said. The house had an outer boundary of aluminium sheets. It was still early morning, and due to the darkness, very little was visible. Nazir and Mushtaq decided to break the window. The glass shattered with a blow and as they peeked inside the tabela it seemed that something was moving in the courtyard.

“I think there is some movement, but I can’t tell clearly,” Mushtaq told Nazir. “I have night vision goggles. Let’s confirm.” Nazir looked through them: “There is one militant.”

The whispering led the militant to look upwards, but before he could aim his gun, Nazir aimed his rifle and fired. The militant dropped dead in a moment.

The house was set ablaze, and in that light, the militant whom Nazir had shot was clearly visible. As the house burned, the last remaining militant ran from the kitchen to the last room. Nazir took the bulletproof shield from Mushtaq, but he pondered for a moment and said, “I don’t need this.” “Okay, I will go downstairs now,” Mushtaq said, leaving Nazir on the first floor. Downstairs, he asked two civilians to take out the body of the slain militant as he guided them. Nazir, meanwhile, was keeping an eye on everything.

A Bullet Pierced Through Nazir’s Head

It was 7 AM now. The militant in hiding saw the movement in the tabela and in the hopes of causing casualties, fired thirty rounds. But Nazir didn’t lose a moment to react, and combated the militant’s firing from above. He came downstairs, and Mushtaq changed his position to the other side of the house. From 7:30 AM till 8:00 AM, the army fired five hundred rounds, but there was no retaliation from the room. It was still not clear if the militant had died.

They decided to call the house owner. “You check through the window,” Nazir asked the house owner. He went and peeked through the window mesh. On returning, he told Nazir, “One under the blanket.” Nazir decided to go ahead and shoot the remaining militant. As they started moving towards the room through the gallery, Nazir asked CC Captain Mahesh, to cover him from the back. When they reached near the window, seven rounds were fired. Nazir aimed his rifle. As he peeked inside, the militant opened fire.

A bullet pierced through his head. Nazir dropped to the ground. Before giving up his life, he fired a few last shots that seriously injured the terrorist.

The firing ceased. Mushtaq was on the other side and had no idea about this.

“The Operation Was Closed”

Captain Mahesh came and announced, “Nazir has been shot.”

Mushtaq couldn’t believe this: “He left only five minutes back; it can’t be true.” But then he saw Captain Mahesh’s tear-filled eyes. He asked where his friend had been shot. “In the head,” Captain Mahesh told him. After seven to eight minutes, the militant threw a grenade through which he aimed to cause more casualties to the army. But that grenade fell on Nazir’s rifle. The rifle was shattered to pieces. The army men then retaliated and threw two grenades inside. Within five minutes, the militant was done for. The operation was closed.

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