Sunday, 30 August 2020

Liberation of Goa

The liberation of Goa happened between 18 Dec – 19 Dec 1961. It was a synchronized effort by the Indian army, navy and air force. When Goa was liberated, I was in school and very curious. I heard about this from my father, there was joy and celebration all over India, especially Goa. Then, had heard a few names in the course of this talk, which has remained etched in my mind from a young age – Wing Commander Pinto, sinking of the Portuguese ship Albuquerque and the surrender of the Portuguese. Many of the present generation may have not heard about it or what transpired to free Goa.

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The Portuguese arrived and colonized India in 1510, conquering many parts of the western coast and establishing several colonies in the east. By the end of the 19th century, Portuguese colonies in India were limited to the west coast of India, Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Anjediva Island. The Portuguese were not allowed to rule long in Mangalore because of the stiff resistance there by the people, later Tippu Sultan when he conquered Mangalore, and a courageous queen, Rani Abbakka ruling nearby, who attacked and harassed the Portuguese making their life difficult and hastening their decision to give up Mangalore for good. Maybe the Portuguese realized it was easier to subdue the Goans.

Within Goa and Portugal, periodic demands for autonomy for Portuguese India continued. In July 1946, a public meeting was held which openly petitioned the Salazar administration to grant autonomy to the Estado da India. The meeting was facilitated by José Inácio de Loyola, and inspired the formation of a committee chaired by Uday Bhembre to pursue autonomy. Bhembre's committee failed to provoke a response from the Portuguese administration, and subsequently the last demand for autonomy was made by Purushottam Kakodkar in early 1961.

After India's independence from the British in August 1947, Portugal continued to hold a handful of territories on the Indian subcontinent—the districts of Goa, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli—collectively known as the Estado da Índia. Goa, Daman and Diu covered an area of around 1,540 square miles (4,000 square km) with a population of 637,591 people. The Goan diaspora was estimated at 175,000 (about 100,000 within the Indian Union, mainly in then Bombay). The population then was 61% Hindu, 36.7% Christian (mostly Catholic) and 2.2% Muslim. The economy was primarily based on agriculture, although the 1940s and 1950s saw a boom in mining—principally iron ore and some manganese. And later hotels, resorts and tourism.

Resistance to Portuguese rule in Goa in the 20th century was pioneered by Tristão de Bragança Cunha, a French-educated Goan engineer who founded the Goa Congress Committee in Portuguese India in 1928. Cunha released a booklet called 'Four hundred years of Foreign Rule', and a pamphlet, 'Denationalisation of Goa', intended to sensitize Goans to the oppression of Portuguese rule. Messages of solidarity were received by the Goa Congress Committee from leading figures in the Indian independence movement including Dr Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. On 12 October 1938, Cunha with other members of the Goa Congress Committee met Subhas Chandra Bose, the President of the Indian National Congress, and on his advice, opened a Branch Office of the Goa Congress Committee at 21, Dalal Street, Bombay. The Goa Congress was also made affiliate to the Indian National Congress, and Cunha was selected as its first President.

In June 1946, Ram Manohar Lohia, an Indian Socialist leader, entered Goa on a visit to his friend, Julião Menezes, a nationalist leader, who had founded the Gomantak Praja Mandal in Bombay and edited the weekly newspaper Gomantak. Cunha and other leaders were also with him. Ram Manohar Lohia advocated the use of non-violent Gandhian techniques to oppose the government. On 18 June 1946, the Portuguese government disrupted a protest against the suspension of civil liberties in Panaji (then spelt Panjim) organised by Lohia, Cunha and others including Purushottam Kakodkar and Laxmikant Bhembre in defiance of a ban on public gatherings, and arrested them. There was disquiet among the people, and there were intermittent mass demonstrations from June to November.

Besides the non-violent protests, armed groups such as the Azad Gomantak Dal (The Free Goa Party) and the United Front of Goans conducted violent attacks aimed at weakening Portuguese rule in Goa. The Indian government supported the establishment of armed groups like the Azad Gomantak Dal, giving them full financial, logistic and armament support. The armed groups acted from nearby bases located in Indian territory and under cover of Indian police forces. The Indian government—through these armed groups—attempted to destroy economic targets, telegraph and telephone lines, road, water and rail transport, in order to impede economic activity and create conditions for a general uprising of the population. And in a way the attacks succeeded in disrupting normal life and frustrate the Portuguese.

A Portuguese army officer stationed with the army in Goa, Captain Carlos Azaredo, stated in 2001 in the Portuguese newspaper Expresso: "To the contrary to what is being said, the most evolved guerilla warfare which our Armed Forces encountered was in Goa. I know what I'm talking about, because I also fought in Angola and in Guinea. In 1961 alone, until December, around 80 policemen died. The major part of the freedom fighters of Azad Gomantak Dal, were not locals or Goans. Many of them had fought in the British Army, under General Montgomery, against the Germans."

According to the Portuguese, the Annexation of Goa was the process in which the Republic of India annexed the former Portuguese Indian territories of Goa, Daman and Diu, starting with the armed action carried out by the Indian Armed Forces in December 1961. In India, this action is justified and referred to as the Liberation of Goa.

Though the liberation of Goa was the process in which the Republic of India merged the former Portuguese Indian territories of Goa, Daman and Diu into the Indian Union, starting with the armed action carried out by the Indian Armed Forces in December 1961. In Portugal, it is referred to as the "Invasion of Goa". Following the end of Portuguese rule in 1961, Goa was placed under military administration headed by Kunhiraman Palat Candeth as Lieutenant Governor. On 8 June 1962, military rule was replaced by civilian government when the Lieutenant Governor nominated an informal Consultative Council of 29 nominated members to assist him in the administration of the territory.

The armed action was code named Operation Vijay (meaning Victory) by the Indian Armed Forces. It involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, and was a decisive victory for India, ending 451 years of Portugal rule over its remaining Portuguese territories in India. The engagement lasted two days, and twenty-two Indians and thirty Portuguese were killed in the fighting. The brief conflict drew a mixture of worldwide praise and condemnation. In India, the action was seen as liberation of historically Indian territories while Portugal viewed it as an aggression against its national soil and citizens.

The Goan question came alive when Portugal paid no heed to a UN resolution of December 1960 asking it to indicate when it would grant independence to its colonies in Asia and Africa. In December 1961, Portuguese soldiers in Goa fired at the villagers. Finding that his policy of patience and adherence to international ethics had not yielded results, Nehru decided to free Goa by force. Though advised by American President John F. Kennedy, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and UN Secretary-General U Thant to postpone action, Nehru made up his mind. On December 18, after a brief fight against the Indian troops, the Portuguese gave up resistance. The Governor General of Goa, Vassalo e Silva, signed a document of unconditional surrender.

Indian troops reclaimed the Goan territory with little to no resistance and forced General Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva to sign the certificate of surrender, thus ending 451 years of the exploitative rule of the Portuguese over the territory on December 18. However this military action drew international reaction.

The Western media assailed the action as a display of “Indian hypocrisy”, which represented a breach of international law by a nation that professed non-violence. Though the liberation of Goa by force raised the prestige of the government in India, it adversely affected Nehru’s international image, but only briefly. Kennedy told B.K. Nehru, India’s ambassador to the U.S., that after taking military action in Goa, Nehru may not be able to talk of non-violence as he did before. But Kennedy came to India’s rescue in India’s 1962 conflict with China. The merger of Goa was at a time when India after Independence was settling down as a nation and trying to get a foothold in international affairs and understanding. In hindsight, it was a correct decision by the government.

Also read:  The Queen whom Portuguese feared

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Atal Rohtang Tunnel

The Rohtang Tunnel is being constructed in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himachal Pradesh, since the Manali-Sarchu-Leh road remains closed for nearly six months in a year due to the Rohtang Pass being completely snow clad between November and April. Work on the long-delayed strategic all-weather Atal Rohtang Tunnel that will connect Manali to Lahaul and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh throughout the year has been completed and will be ready for inauguration in two weeks. The tunnel is scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.

The strategic tunnel which is nearing completion, is a step in the direction of providing all weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, which otherwise remained cut off from the rest of the country for about six months during winters. The tunnel is also significant from a military logistics point of view and will provide better connectivity to the armed forces in reaching Ladakh.

On completion, it is set to become the world’s longest road tunnel at an altitude above 3,000 metres. Upon completion, the all-weather tunnel will connect Manali to Lahaul and Spiti valley throughout the year and will reduce the road length of the Manali-Rohtang Pass-Sarchu-Leh road by 46 km. The Rohtang Tunnel was rechristened Atal Tunnel by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December last year. The decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000.

In 2002, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared the construction of Rohtang Tunnel and laid the foundation of the approach road to the tunnel. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) engaged RITES in March 2002 to undertake feasibility studies. The 8.8-kilometre long tunnel is the world’s longest tunnel above an altitude of 3,000 metres. It will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 kilometres and reduce travel time by 4.5 hours. It is a 10.5-metre wide single tube bi-lane tunnel with a fire proof emergency ‘escape tunnel’ built into the main tunnel itself.

On September 24, 2009, a contract was awarded to Strabag-Afcons Joint Venture (SAJV) for the tunnel’s construction. Construction for the project finally began in 2010, in the presence of then UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The long-delayed tunnel has, however, gone through tough challenges for construction owing to the geographical location and difficult topographic profile of the region. The delays due to tough weather conditions also escalated the cost of the project from Rs 1,458 crore to around Rs 2,500 crore.

It has been the most challenging project in terms of construction due to geographic conditions, weather and multiple hazards faced during the construction. We have faced multiple avalanches. In 2013, the tunnel collapsed at the north portal. In 2014, we had to evacuate the site in a hurry due to sudden harsh weather conditions. Army helicopters had to be used to rescue nearly 100-150 workers. Full credit goes to Strabag-Afcons and the Border Road Organisation for their strict safety regulations and hawk-like vigil in the tunnel construction that was able to ensure the tunnel was constructed without any fatality in the project,” Satish Paretkar, Director, Hydro and Underground division, Afcons said. The bi-lane tunnel will be a boon to the locals, tourists and army in times of emergencies and otherwise to transport material to forward areas.

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Mangeshi Temple in Goa, India
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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Operation Cactus -1988 Maldives coup d'état

The 1988 Maldives coup d'état was a attempt by a group of Maldivians led by businessman Abdullah Luthufi and assisted by armed mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist organization from Sri Lanka, the People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam, to overthrow the government in the island republic of Maldives. The coup d'état failed after the Indian Special Forces eliminated the terrorist leaders of PLOTE. At the realization of the attacks failure, the terrorist group hijacked a Maldivian freighter named MV Progress Light and attempted to escape to Sri Lanka. After the terrorists escaped, the Indian Navy was called for help. They intercepted and captured the mercenaries and they were brought into custody in an operation code named Operation Cactus. Operation Cactus was hailed internationally as proof of India’s military prowess.

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The 1980 and 1983 coup d'état attempts against Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s presidency were not considered serious, the third coup d'état attempt in November 1988 alarmed the international community.

About 80 armed PLOTE mercenaries, backed by Maldivian businessman Luthufi, landed in the capital Malé before dawn aboard speedboats from a hijacked Sri Lankan freighter. Disguised as tourists, a similar number had already infiltrated Malé earlier. The mercenaries quickly gained control of the capital, including the major government buildings, port, television and radio stations. The mercenaries then marched towards the Presidential Palace where President Gayoom was residing with his family. But before they reached the Presidential Palace, President Gayoom was escorted by Maldivian National Security Advisor to the Defence Minister's home. The Defence Minister then escorted the President to a safe house. Meanwhile, the mercenaries had seized the Presidential Palace and managed to take the Maldivian Education Minister as hostage.

President Gayoom’s Foreign Minister requested military intervention from Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but both denied any help, citing a lack of military capabilities. The president then requested Singapore’s intervention, but declined, citing the same reasons. After that, he contacted the United States, but was told that it will take them 2–3 days to reach the Maldives from their nearest military base in Diego Garcia, 1000 km away. The president then contacted the United Kingdom, which advised them to seek assistance from India. Following this, President Gayoom contacted the Indian government for assistance. India swiftly accepted their request and an emergency meeting arranged at the Secretariat Building in New Delhi. Within 16 hours of the SOS, India was ready to commence their operation.

Under the guidance of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, India responded with an overwhelming speed and efficiency. At 1530 hours on 3 November 1988, India approved the dispatch of troops to the Maldives, said an excerpt from India’s Ocean: The Story of India’s Bid for Regional Leadership by David Brewster.

Troops were deployed in one swift motion. Less than 16 hours since President Gayoom’s SOS call, Indian paratroopers were en route, leaving from the Agra Air Force Station on an Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft.

The operation started on the night of 3 November 1988, when Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft of the Indian Air Force airlifted the men and material of the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Farukh Bulsara, the 6th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and, the 17th Parachute Field Regiment from Agra Air Force Station. After a non-stop journey covering over 2,500 kilometres, the aircraft of the 44 Squadron of the Indian Air Force landed at Hulhule Airport in nine hours after the request. Barely a kilometre from the besieged capital, the troops quickly began their advance into the capital.

The Indian paratroopers immediately secured the airfield, crossed over to Malé using commandeered boats and rescued President Gayoom. The paratroopers restored control of the capital to President Gayoom's government within hours. Some of the mercenaries fled toward Sri Lanka in a hijacked freighter, MV Progress Light. Those unable to reach the ship in time were quickly rounded up and handed over to the Maldives government. Nineteen people reportedly died in the fighting, most of them mercenaries. The dead included two hostages killed by the mercenaries. . The INS Godavari and INS Betwa of the Indian Navy intercepted the freighter off the Sri Lanka coast. Two Sea-King Mk.42 choppers of the fleet dropped depth charges, blocking the mercenaries attempt to escape. While the vessel evaded arrest that day, it was boarded the next day by commandos of the Indian Marine Strike Force (now known as the Marcos), and taken over with no incident.

The swift intervention by the Indian military and accurate intelligence successfully quelled the attempted coup d'état in the island nation. It was a very well planned mission and everything went as per plan. The Indian army, air force and navy played an effective role in a foreign land.

The militants’ made a fatal mistake that helped the Indians landing easy in Maldives. While the PLOTE militants seized many key points across the city, the one area they had forgotten to keep an eye on was Hulhule Airport. With no one keeping watch over this point of entry, Indian troops landed, and quickly took control of the airport. They then made their way into the capital using commandeered boats and rescued President Gayoom, driving out the militants.

The mission was concluded with no casualties to the Indian side, save for one soldier who reportedly shot himself in the foot. Operation Cactus was testimony to the fact that India could play a role in ensuring security in Asia. India’s swift, decisive action was hailed by the international community, ranging from US President Ronald Reagan to Margaret Thatcher. India received international praise for the operation. United States President Ronald Reagan expressed his appreciation for India's action, calling it "a valuable contribution to regional stability". British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reportedly commented, ‘"Thank God for India: President Gayoom's government has been saved". But the intervention nevertheless caused some disquiet among India's neighbours in South Asia.

According to Rejaul Karim Laskar, a scholar of Indian foreign policy, India's intervention in the attempted coup became necessary as in the absence of Indian intervention, external powers would have been tempted to intervene or even to establish bases in Maldives, which being in India’s backyard would have been detrimental to India's national interest. India, therefore, intervened with "Operation Cactus".

In July 1989, India repatriated the mercenaries captured on board the hijacked freighter to Maldives to stand trial. President Gayoom commuted the death sentences passed against them to life imprisonment.

The 1988 coup d'état had been headed by a prominent Maldivian businessman named Abdullah Luthufi, who was operating a farm in Sri Lanka. Former Maldivian President Ibrahim Nasir was also accused, but denied any involvement in the coup d'état. In fact, in July 1990, President Gayoom officially pardoned Nasir in absentia in recognition of his role in obtaining Maldives' independence. The operation also strengthened Indo-Maldivian relations as a result of the successful restoration of the Gayoom government.

India’s then-Cabinet Secretary, BG Deshmukh had this to say about Operation Cactus:

Operation Cactus enhanced India’s prestige enormously and showed our efficiency and capability to mount a successful operation at short notice. There was universal acknowledgement of our role as a police force in the area.

Also read:  India China diplomatic row in 1967

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(Another touching story)

Four walls don’t make a home!

India was partitioned in 1947 into India and Pakistan. Overnight people became refugees. People from both sides were crossing over to the other side. People were being massacred on either side, with over 10 million people lost their lives. This was the darkest chapter in Indian history. And Chopra and family was one of them. An affluent Punjabi family with a big house, property and business, had to leave it all overnight and cross over to the Indian side as refugees.

Most of the Hindu refugees mainly from Punjab, Sind and other places were given refuge by the Indian government in different towns and cities. Some were put in barracks, government housing buildings and other places. Some of the affluent refugees were offered small plots of land to construct houses and live with their own people in some of the suburbs of then Bombay. Chopra and family too got a plot of land to construct a house and live with their community.

Chopra’s family consisted of his aged mother, wife and young children, two sons and a daughter. Being a professional was able to get some assignments and manage his home. He managed to construct a small house in the plot of land given by the Indian authorities and have a safe roof over his head. Slowly they were able to come to grips with their fate. But they were happy that all were safe and together. Days passed by, and were trying to settle down in the new city, new environment and among new people.

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Children were attending school, Chopra was busy with his profession and doing well. Next he added a floor to the house. Since Chopra’s aged mother and his wife were not comfortable living in the same house, the family shifted to the top floor, while his aged mother lived on the ground floor. Chopra shared his free time with his mother on the ground floor and his family on the first floor. Now things were going smooth and they were settling down in the new place.

Years passed by, Chopra and his family was living a happy and peaceful life. After a couple of years, his aged mother expired peacefully. Children grew up, the elder son got admission in IIT, daughter and the other son would be finishing school in a few years. Time went by and life was kind to Chopra. They were settled and comfortable in the new city. Slowly they were re-building their life from scratch.

As years went by, everything was falling in place. The elder son passed out from IIT. The other son managed to get admission in an Engineering college and the daughter passed the entrance and got admission in a Medical College in Mumbai. However as things were going good, his wife fell ill and after some months, she too expired. Chopra was devastated. Now he was left with his children. The only solace was that he was living in a colony with houses and people  who too were refugees like him, some were his old friends. He would share his thoughts and memories with his contemporaries, of his native place in Punjab, now in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, his daughter and elder son were married. The younger son went abroad to USA. He lived with his elder son and wife. Slowly he retired from active life and was happy and healthy. Every morning on getting up, he would go down and join his old friends for a chat. Later again in the evening, he would sit with his friends in the colony and talk about various things, including life in their native place, before crossing over to India as refugees. And how they re-started their life all over again from nothing.These meetings was like oxygen to him to energize life being among his own people. He was enjoying his retired life and was happy that his son had taken over charge of the house.

Age was catching up with Chopra, but he was fit and healthy. His son who was in to business, established himself and was was doing well. He had two children, a girl and boy, who were schooling. With success comes ambition. With residential towers coming up nearby, his son and wife were keen to move into one of the modern towers. They booked a flat in the one of the top floors in a nearby tower. Chopra was not keen to shift since coming to Mumbai with his mother, wife and children had lived in this house he had constructed, for years. Besides people who too like him had crossed over  to India, were staying here as neighbours for decades. And they were the support system for each other in times of need.

But his son and his wife had made up their mind to shift to the new flat. Finally convincing his father, they shifted to the new flat in a tower on the ninth floor with all modern amenities. Chopra felt isolated and lonely. He couldn’t come down freely to go and meet his old friends, some distance away. In the earlier house, on getting up, he would walk down and chat with his old friends. Here it was all quiet, and the loneliness affected his health. Within a couple of months, he fell sick. He started to sink. Lying on the bed, just staring at the fan and the ceiling, was thinking about his old house, his friends from Punjab, the chats he had with them. Though his son got a reputed doctor and best of treatment for him, there was no improvement; without realizing that his heart was in the old house, among his old friends, which was like oxygen to him to energize and  to keep him fit and healthy. And almost after a year of shifting, his falling sick and struggling to get back to health, he expired a lonely man.

Shifting or displacing of the elderly during their twilight years from old and familiar surrounding and people does more harm to their psyche and their well being, affecting their health and loneliness creeps in.

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Sri Krishna Temple, Udupi, Karnataka, India
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Monday, 17 August 2020

Attack On Muntho Dhalo was the turning point of war in Kargil

The Kargil War took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir The Indian soldiers had secured this victory after a three-month conflict that led to a loss of lives from both sides with the Indian side losing nearly 527 officers, soldiers, and jawans. In order to commemorate India's win in the war, the Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year on July 26.Very few people are are aware that the pin point attack on Muntho Dhalo by the brave pilots of the IAF turned the tide of the war and made it a bit easy for the Indian army to attack the enemy.

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In the Kargil war, the army played the all important role of  taking back all our posts occupied by Pakistan, vacated during the winter months as was  always being done by the Indian army to re-occupy after the severe winter months. Same with Pakistan. This was being followed for years by both India and Pakistan. But in 1999, the Pakistanishas per plan moved much earlier to re-occupy their posts and along with that, they occupied all the vacant Indian posts quietly without the knowledge of the Indian side.

The Kargil War, also known as the Kargil conflict, was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control. The Indian side was caught unawares about the whole plan by Pakistan side. And the Pakistanis announced, that the occupiers are not Pakistan army but Kashmiri militants and freedom fighters. This later proved to be costly for Pakistan and they couldn’t do anything openly to support these people. And even refused to take back the bodies of those killed in action.  Though actually they were Pakistan army regulars from Pak Northern Light Infantry. Their lies came in to the open infront of the international community.

The Indian Army, with the help of the Indian Air Force (IAF), wrested back the glaciated heights of Kargil, in the Ladakh sector, from the Pakistan army. The Kargil War, which lasted a little over two months and ended on July 26, 1999, led to 527 deaths on India's side. In order to commemorate India's win in the war, the Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year on July 26. The Pakistanis casuality was more than 3,500 to 4000 men.

Apart the gallant men of the Indian army who fought the enemy taking casualities, killing the enemy and driving the Pakistanis from the Indian posts on this side of the Line of control, the Indian Air Force too played a major role in making it a bit easy for the army to strike back at the enemy.

Twenty years ago, at the peak of the Kargil operations, the Indian Air Force notched up a major success when it destroyed the main Pakistani logistics base at Muntho Dhalo that was set up on encroached Indian territory in Ladakh. As Air Marshal R Nambiar, who was a Wing Commander then, told Bharat Shakti’s Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale, that was for the first time an IAF aircraft (Mirage 2000) did surveillance of the area, detected the enemy’s presence, attacked it with and also did bomb damage assessment.

The effective application of air power indisputably saved further Indian casualties. It mainly deprived the intruders of essential supplies, including drinking water, fuel and ammunition. The air operations and artillery bombardment cast a demoralizing spell on the enemy commanders and troops, affecting their will to fight. As a result of this moral capitulation the time frame for the ground operations was considerably reduced.  The best example of how the air force assisted in the conduct of the land battle.

The bravehearts - Pilots Ahuja & Nachiketa
The bravehearts -
Pilots Ahuja & Nachiketa

Air strikes on Pak Northern Light Infantry battalion headquarters at Muntho Dhalo and the administrative base in the Batalik sub-sector were a spectacular success. About 100-150 casualties to personnel and considerable damage to equipment and stores was inflicted. Some sources say, it was about 300 casualties. This attack almost hit their morale very badly. In addition to the above air strike, repeated bombing of Muntho Dhalo strangulated the Jubbar and Dog Hill complex of defences in the Batalik.




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(This is an amazing and touching story).

50th anniversary!

An old well-dressed couple got down from the auto in front of a small hotel on the roadside at Pune. And looked at the closed shop. They were wondering, being a week day and at that hour, the old hotel famous for it's misal and tea should have been crowded with people.

As they looked around, a person came out of the building. They enquired with the person about the misal joint. He said, it's closed since a month now. They checked if the owner still lived on the top floor. The man said, yes and went away.

The old couple climbed the stairs and knocked on the hotel-owner's door. After a few moments, the elderly man opened the door. He was surprised to see the old couple, remembering them as his regular customers over the years. The owner welcomed them in, dusted the chairs and asked them to sit.

The old couple enquired regarding the closing of the hotel. The owner, offering them water replied, I am old now, can't manage the day to day hassels. Wanted to close the hotel last year but due the customers demand pulled on till last month. Now I can't manage it. One son is employed in Mumbai and the other son is employed in Nasik. Both are settled in the cities with their families. They are not interested to continue this misal joint. After my wife expired, I am alone in this big house.

The owner asked the couple about their well-being and the reason for not visiting his hotel for sometime. They said, just as your son's are in different cities in India, my son is in America with his family. He insisted since we are old, to come and stay with him in America. So most of the time we are in America and come here for two months and return.

They continued, we landed yesterday and came straight here to have your misal and chai. Unfortunately it's closed now. The owner said, I can't offer you misal, but can offer you hot tea. The couple agreed. Looking at them, the owner asked, you just came here or have anything else in particular. They looked at each other and smiled.

The owner offered them tea in the two old cup saucers with the name of the hotel printed on it.

While having tea, the couple told the owner, our first date was at your hotel with misal and chai. Then after few years, we got married. And today is the 50th anniversary of our first date and we wanted to celebrate it with your misal and chai.

Tears of joy trickled down the hotel-owners eyes. Before he could say anything, the couple requested if they could keep the two cup and saucers. He immediately told them, keep it, only two of these were left. Maybe it was for you. The old couple bid farewell and left with the precious gift!

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Panjim, Goa, India
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Thursday, 13 August 2020

Mata Vaishno Devi Temple

The Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu attracts lakhs of devotees from across the country and the world over every year. Vaishno Devi Mandir is a sacred Hindu temple located in Katra at the Trikuta hills in Jammu & Kashmir. It is said, till you are not called by the diety, however much you try, one will not be able to visit the shrine. And many devotees after visiting once, visit regularly.

New Domains

Vaishno Devi is located in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and is accessible from Jammu. It’s located in Trikuta  hills about 13 km from Katra. It is also known as Mata Rani, Trikuta, Ambe and Vaishnavi, the embodiment of Mother Goddess. The words Maa, Amma and Mata are commonly used in India for mother. Hence she is called Mata Vaishno Devi. It is believed that Goddess Vaishnovi was formed from the combined energies of Goddess Parvati/Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. She is considered to be the warrior form of Mahalaxmi.

According to Hindu beliefs, in the Treta Yuga, when the earth was overburdened by evil, sin and tyrannical rule of the demons, Goddess Vaishno Devi was created, when Gauri, Lakshmi and Saraswati decided to combine their energies to rid the earth of impending doom. From the collective energy of the three Goddesses, appeared the eight armed Goddess Vaishno Devi and she was requested to reside on Earth, so that the evil is kept at bay. She chose to incarnate as a human, a woman, as Vaishnovi.

As a child, Vaishnovi devoted herself in the service of Lord Vishnu, and continued to do the same as she grew up in to adulthood. On reaching a marriageable age, she left home to perform service and devotion to please and win over Lord Vishnu as her husband. Years passed by, and as an answer to her prayers, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Lord Rama. She learned from him that he was already married and was searching for his wife, Sita, who was abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. However seeing his ardent devotee distraught, Rama promised her that he would return to her one day. And if she recognized him, then she could marry him.

Rama went on to rescue Sita and become the king of Ayodhya. All the while Vaishnavi waited for his return. One day, she was approached by an old, haggard man who asked the beautiful Vaishnavi to be his wife. She however, refused his proposal, thinking of him as undesirable for his age and looks. She failed to recognize the old man who was none other than Lord Rama, who had come to keep his end of the promise. However, the harsh penance of the Goddess can't go unfulfilled, so Lord Rama granted her the boon that in his tenth incarnation of Lord Kalki during Kaliyuga, he would marry her and asked her to wait for him till his tenth incarnation on the Trikuta hills. He even gave her a bow and two quivers of arrows and a troop of his monkey army for her protection.

Rama left, and Vaishnavi continued to spend years in meditation, moving from place to place, solving the problems of all who asked for her help, with her Siddhis. Her help to locals threatened the popularity of a local tantrik who sent his disciple Bhairon Nath to find out more about her. But Bhairav Nath was stunned by her beauty and lustfully stalked her wherever she went.

In order to escape his unwanted attention, Vaishnavi entered a cave and continued her meditation there, for nine months, as a child rests in its mother's womb. When  later Bhairon Nath discovered her place of hiding, he attempted to hunt her down again, with an intention of forcing himself upon her, Vaishnavi suddenly appeared as Goddess Mahakali, and severed Bhairav Nath’s head with her sword.

After she severed his head, Bhairav Nath realized his grave mistake and begged her for forgiveness. His head had fallen far from his body, but the merciful Goddess Vaishno Devi promised him that he would forever be enshrined there and that he would be her guardian from then on. Vaishno Devi abandoned her rage and returned to the form of Vaishnavi, and re-entered the cave, where she assumed the form of three rocks and resides there to date. Each rock is representative of Saraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali. This shrine is lovingly called ‘Vaishno Devi’, where millions of devotees go every year, to seek the blessings of the Mother Goddess.

Vaishno Devi is known by many names. Devotees address her with reverence by different names. Her most popular  names are as follows:

Pahadawali - The Goddess who lives upon a mountain.

Jyotawali - The Goddess who shines like an oil lamp and spreads light everywhere.

Sherawali - The Goddess who rides upon a lion or tiger.

Latawali - The Goddess with long locks of hair.

Meherawali - The Goddess who is always merciful.

Ever since the inception of the Shrine Board in1986, the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi has witnessed an ever-increasing number of devotees. The yatra that stood at 13.96 lakh devotees in the year 1986 has increased to 104.95 lakh (10.4 million) devotees in the year 2012, 93.24 lakh in the year 2013, 78.03 lakh in the year 2014, 77.76 lakh devotees in the year 2015, 77.23 lakh devotees in the year 2016 and 85.87 lakh in the year 2018.

 Now devotees can take a helicopter ride to the shrine. Vaishno Devi helicopter price:

When you book through the official site, helicopter tickets are priced at INR 1045 per person per side from Katra to Sanjhichhat. So, if you book for both the sides, it will cost you INR 2090 per person.

 Vaishno Devi Ropeway To Cover 1 Hour Journey in 5 Minutes and 100 Rupees. The ropeway can carry 800 people every hour and will be operational one way only. ... According to statistical data, only 30 per cent of pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi temple go forward to the Bhairon Baba Mandir which is due to the steep climb. Plan a visit and seek the Goddess’s blessing.

Also read: The Mookambika Devi Temple     Dharmashtala

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MyPost


(This is an amazing and touching story!)

Footprint

A young boy around 22-23 years, fairly decently dressed, wearing shoes entered the shoe shop. The shoe shop owner asked, how can I help you.

The boy replied - I need a pair of good slippers for my mother.

As the shopkeeper showed him a few varieties and suggested one of them. And asked whether his mother is out, call her in.

The boy said, my mother isn't here and proceeded to take out a folded paper from his purse. He opened it, and there was an outline of both her feet.

The shopkeeper said - had you got her size, it would have been sufficient.

The boy narrated - She lives in the village. And after my father died, she would work to bring me up, toil barefoot in the fields and construction sites and save every penny for food and to send me to school. She has never worn a slipper for decades, so how could I get the size, so drew the outline of her feet.

With great difficulty I finished school and later junior college. And luckily I got this job in the city.

And I had decided, the first salary I get, I will gift my mother a pair of slippers. This weekend I plan to go home and return on Monday.

The shopkeeper was touched and he told the boy, this slipper costs Rs 800. Should I show you a cheaper one. He said, it's ok.

As he was packing it, the shopkeeper again asked the boy, can you you afford it.

The boy said, yes. I will take it.

Baffled, the shopkeeper asked him, how much do you earn, what's the salary.

The boy with a smile replied, I get Rs 12,000. And from this, I send Rs 3,000 to my mother, spend around Rs 7,000 on rent and food. I am left with Rs 2,000, some of which goes for travelling expenses and I try to save Rs 1,000.

The shopkeeper was touched by his innocence and honesty. He handed over the packed box to the boy, and also handed over another box saying, tell your mother this is a gift from her brother. Once your slipper wears out, let her use this.

As the boy was leaving, the shopkeeper asked, can you give me the paper with the footprints. The boy handed it over to him.

And the shopkeeper asked, what's your mother's name.

The boy said - Laxmi and happily walked away thanking the shopkeeper.

The shopkeeper opened the folded paper, touched the footprints and said to himself, you made a man of your young son!

He kept the folded paper in the cash drawer.

Next day, his young daughter visited the shop, while checking the cash drawer found the folded paper.

She asked her father, whose footprints are these. And he simply said - Laxmi's. She was here yesterday.

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Picture Post:

Shiv Ling at Amarnath

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