Lalik Jan embraced martyrdom in this very month on the craggy peaks of the Kargil-Dras front, defending what he held most dear i.e his country’s honour. Till that time, the business end of his Light Machine Gun poured its lethal cargo in the direction of charging waves of Indian troops and the post that he gallantly held did not fall to Indians. This is the story of Lalik Jan, the quintessential soldier and a true denizen of the mountains whose rendezvous with martyrdom atop a mountain post which proved William Blake’s dictum i.e “Great deeds are done when men and mountains meet”. A true son of the mountains, he belonged to an ancient Brushishki speaking race inhabiting the ethereally beautiful Yasin valley whose martial élan is regarded with respect by different historians and sociologists.

Lalik Jan’s village, Hondur lies nestled amongst the Hindukush Mountains in the veritably golden valley of Yaseen in the Ghizar district of Gilgit. A trip to the multihued paradise called Yasin valley is a visual delight. The village Handur lies at about six hours’ journey from Gilgit. Lalik Jan was born at Morang, a sleepy little mountain hamlet located just short of Darkut. His birth was heralded by a massive avalanche, accompanied by a thunderstorm still remembered with awe by the village folk. Perhaps it was the harbinger of the stormy soul of Lalik Jan, who in memory of that storm, added “Dohat” in front of his name. (Dohat in Brusheshki means storm). Lalik Jan was a free spirited, bold and irrepressible lad in his childhood.

He mostly held appointments of eminence at regimental level and was serving as Company Havildar Major of his company in a Northern Light Infantry Regiment when the skirmishes broke out on the Line of Control (LoC). He was on an extended leave in his hometown when the news of his battalion’s involvement in armed clashes along the LoC reached him. He rushed back at once, without receiving any call notice forsaking six days of his hard-earned leave. Soon after arrival in the war zone, he volunteered for the hottest sector in the battalion area of responsibility and was transferred to a difficult company. The adventurer in him found his vocation at last, at the most threatened post of the battalion where the enemy had started launching attack after attack with a battalion’s strength.

It was virtually a David versus Goliath match, with Lalik Jan’s post of twenty-two men pitted against a complete battalion of the enemy. He inspired his men with his intrepidity and conducted aggressive defence with great skill. His daring attack ahead of the main defensive positions against an enemy patrolling party resulted in heavy losses to the enemy in terms of men and weapons. His post being the most vulnerable amongst the defences, bore the maximum brunt of enemy’s repeated attacks. After several days of continuous fighting, he was given an option for relief which he declined to accept. He, along with his men, had repulsed seven attacks in two hellish days of fighting.

The enemy artillery, air and direct firing weapons were targeting this post and pulverising the jagged rocks like a giant hammer. There was the smell of cordite everywhere turning even the water deposits in rocky crannies into poison.

The fusillade of the enemy directly firing weapons eventually started taking its toll, as the twenty-two men started becoming targets of its maddening fury. The indomitable Lalik Jan kept moving from trench to trench, egging his wounded colleagues to fight on. Indian fury knew no bounds as they found this small post resisting their implacable pressure with dedication.

After ten continuous days of relentless combat, most of the Jawans embraced martyrdom while others lay seriously wounded. Now Lalik Jan was the sole able-bodied member of the post, along with two semi-mobile, but injured colleagues i.e Sepoy Bakhnal and Lance Naik Bashir. The post was temporarily cut off from the rear and a relief operation was underway. Undeterred, Lalik Jan kept the enemy at bay by flitting from one fire position to another and firing in all directions. The confused enemy troops, now almost within hearing distance, were misled into believing that the defenders were resorting to some sort of a ruse. The eerie silence on Pakistan’s post was broken only when Lalik Jan picked up the weapon of his martyred colleagues to fire.

On July 7, 1999 the enemy launched a battalion attack against his location named Qadir Post. He now had an option to fall back but he declined, reassuring the relief force that he will hold on till their arrival. The unique man that he was, he retained his joie de vivre till the end. He used to shout in jest at the Indians, while lobbing occasional stones at enemy troops remarking that “I am sending you the gift of the Chinese grenade, please acknowledge”. Lalik Jan held on tenaciously to the third trench on his post, while the first two were being run over by leading elements of attacking enemy troops.

In this final gladiatorial struggle, he received bullets in his chest while trying to lob a grenade towards enemy intruders. When finally, the two soldiers of a relief force reached him to render help, they saw him firing at the enemy with three bullet wounds, one of those in the chest. He vociferously refused to be evacuated and sternly ordered the two soldiers i.e Shaheen and Iftikhar to withdraw while he would cover their move. The soldiers moved back with heavy hearts. Amazingly, this brave son of Handur still held on for another four hours of gruelling combat and ably covered the withdrawal of his colleagues. His last stand allowed the relief force to trudge up the serrated crest line to affect a link up with the post. The enemy was beaten back and the post Lalik Jan defended is still a part of Pakistan.

Thus died the phenomenon called Lalik Jan the way he lived, ebulliently and courageously fighting against the injustice. The country conferred the highest gallantry award, the Nishan-e-Haider on him. He was indeed a quintessential soldier, hearty, sporty and plucky; his humour balanced beautifully by a sensitivity of soul and empathy for the poor. A rare breed indeed, whose memory inspires a lambent flame of martyrdom in the young children of his native village studying in a school built by Al Madad Trust, founded by him.

Raashid Wali Janjua

The writer is a PhD scholar and a former brigadier.