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‘Dhumal Ji, We Should Go to Srinagar…’ The Words That Led to PM Modi’s Special Bond With Kargil

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Kargil on Monday morning to celebrate Diwali with soldiers, keeping up the tradition of celebrating the festival of lights with jawans at different military facilities since coming to power in 2014.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has landed in Kargil, where he will celebrate Diwali with our brave soldiers,” the PMO said in a tweet.

Kargil, the battleground of the India-Pakistan war in 1999, is known to hold a very special place for PM Modi. When the Kargil war broke, PM Modi was working for the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. He had then pitched in actively in Kargil with providing relief and showing solidarity with the soldiers. He had said that the trip to Kargil had given him the experience of a pilgrimage.

According to former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, PM Modi had then said: “Dhumalji we should go to Srinagar.” After this, they took an Mi-17 helicopter, loaded food, clothing and other necessities in substantial quantities and left for Srinagar to help the soldiers.

“When we arrived in Srinagar, heavy shelling was still on. Narendra ji and I decided to hand over the relief material to be taken to the soldiers fighting the Pakistanis on the frontlines,” Dhumal had said. PM Modi had reportedly further insisted on meeting the injured soldiers who were undergoing treatment in Srinagar.

Recalling the experience of meeting the injured soldiers in the hospital, Dhumal said: “We visited the injured in the hospital and went on giving relief material to soldiers who would take the stuff and keep it beside their beds. But one jawan didn’t take out his hands to receive the material. We thought he was displeased, so we kept his things on his bed. And as we were walking towards the next, the doctor came running and told us ‘yesterday this soldier lost both his hands and legs in a mine explosion’.”

Dhumal further said: “We came back to him, Modi ji lovingly placed his hands on his head and said ‘you must be in lot of pain’. The soldier replied ‘since last evening, I have been fine’. Modiji said ‘is it because of the painkiller or an injection’. The soldier then said ‘sir, last evening, we won Tiger Hill back from Pakistan and after that I am fine and have not been sensing any pain’. After listening to this, PM Modi and I got very emotional.”

PM Modi has a deep connect with Kargil and has expressed his emotions on Vijay Divas every year. On July 26, 2013, as the Kargil Vijay Diwas completed its 14th year, Modi, then the CM of Gujarat, paid tributes to the brave soldiers who fought in the Kargil war. He also dedicated the legendary song Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, which marked its golden jubilee that year, to the sacrifices of the brave soldiers.

In 2019, PM Modi attended and addressed a commemorative event to mark Kargil Vijay Diwas at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. His emotional connect with Kargil was reflected in his speech when he said that he had visited Kargil 20 years ago when the entire country stood together with the soldiers, youth were donating blood, and even children were donating their pocket money for the soldiers.

He further said that it was the entire nation that won freedom in 1947; it was the entire nation for which the Constitution was written in 1950; and it was for the entire country, that more than 500 brave soldiers laid down their lives in the snowy heights of Kargil.

In July 2020, in his Mann Ki Baat address, he said: “I’m fortunate to have visited Kargil and witnessed the valour of our jawans. That day will be etched in my memory forever.”

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