An ardent and brave patriot (1959-2018)

Col. Magod Basappa Ravindranath was born on 15 May 1959. He hailed from Davangere district of Karnataka. His father, Magod Basappa, was a school teacher. Ravindra studied at Sainik School, Vijaypura. He was good in elocution and showed qualities of leadership early. He joined the National Defence Academy, and was commissioned into 2 Raj Rifle in 1980. His first posting was in Arunachal Pradesh, and later he was instructor in Infantry School, Mhow. He was commanding 2 Raj Rifle Battalion in 1999.

The Indian Army used to vacate certain posts in the heights of Kargil during winter due to extreme conditions of climate and terrain. In 1999, the Pakistan Army and para-military personnel occupied these posts. The Indian Army came to know about these intrusions when the shepherds reported about them, and a few patrols did not return. This intrusion was a threat to the supply line of Indian troops in Ladakh. India moved units located outside Kashmir for regaining control of the area. This was to ensure that posts in Kashmir were not weakened. The operation to push the intrusion was launched in May 1999.

Point Tololing at a height of over 15,000 feet was the dominating feature in the area. There was no cover, and the Pakistanis could observe the entire track. They brought heavy artillery fire on traffic on the National Highway NH 1A. It had to be cleared. The enemy was lodged in crevices and bunkers with artillery support. The attack on the feature commenced on 21 May 1999. It was a hard fight, and in three weeks, it was possible to consolidate at three points, 300 metres below the enemy positions. These points provided a base to launch further operations. 2 Raj Rif was given the task to capture Tololing Top and Black Rock.

Ravindranath went about the task in a meticulous manner, and personally led the reconnaissance teams. The teams were constantly under enemy fire from machine guns and artillery. Ravindranath made three teams to attack from multiple directions. The attack commenced at 0630 am on 12 June after intense artillery fire. Major Saxena was able to get a foothold on the objective. Ninety volunteers under Major Vivek Gupta had assembled for the final assault. Amongst them were 11 Tomars who have a tradition of not returning from the battlefield defeated. They must do or die.
The progress was slow due to enemy fire from well built bunkers. In the attack on Black Rock, both the officers were casualties and Ravindranath rushed to the spot to encourage them. Major Vivek Gupta attacked a bunker and shot the three enemy soldiers, but he too was cut by enemy fire. The Top was captured by about 2 am, but a post called Barbed Bunker still remained. Ravindranath released the reserve company, and Lt. Thapar and 22 men attacked the bunker, singing songs from the movie Border.

By about 5 am, the entire feature was cleared. His personal influence ultimately led to beating back the counter-attacks and consolidating the position. In the morning of 13 June, he called the GOC Major General Mohinder Puri over radio and informed him the he was on Tololing. It was a hard fought, hand-to-hand battle, on the windswept icy slopes. Cover was a prayer, and bayonet, courage and hands, the weapons. On 14 June, his father received a much awaited call from Ravindranath, “Opera- tion successful. We have captured Tololing.” Ravindranath was awarded the Vr C (Vir Chakra) for his gallant leader- ship. Later in the day, he wept in his bunker when he saw the bodies of soldiers lying around him. The unit lost 4 officers, 2 JCOs and 17 soldiers.

The unit was one of the seven battalions to get a citation for Kargil war. Four MVCs were awarded to personnel for outstanding bravery. Col. Ravindrnath settled down in Bangalore. He passed away on 8 April 2018 due to a cardiac attack while jogging in a park near his residence. He was cremated with full military honours.

Brigadier Suresh Chandra Sharma (retd.)