Brig BK Khanna
The Government, public and even the Army, have forgotten the sacrifices and blood shed by the Indian soldiers on the soil of the Emerald Island. The Government has not till now recognised the IPKF intervention by officially paying homage to the departed souls or by laying wreath at National War Memorial by the PM/ RM/three Services Chiefs. It is left to the veterans of the IPKF to fend for themselves.
It was the first time in independent India when Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war took place with the deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka, intended to perform a peacekeeping role. The deployment followed the Indo-Sri Lankan accord of July 1987 which was intended to end the civil war in Sri Lanka between militant Sri Lankan Tamil nationalists, principally the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), led by Villupillai Prabhakaran, and the Sri Lankan military.
The original intention was the Indian Peace Keeping Force would not be involved in large scale military operations. It was basically a peacekeeping mission. No heavy weapons, artillery, maps, logistics required for a military operation were carried to Sri Lanka by IPKF. However, after two months of the accord, the Indian Peace Keeping Force was engaged with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a series of battles when the latter refused to lay down arms and started causing casualties on the IPKF.
During the two years in which IPKF was deployed, it fought numerous battles against the LTTE, causing heavy toll on the LTTE. It required another 3-4 months to tame the LTTE, but the political scenario forced IPKF to withdraw, prematurely due to political reasons. The IPKF began withdrawing in 1989, and completed the withdrawal in 1990. It was the decision of the Indian Government t to send forces in a neighbouring embattled country. Whether it was right or wrong is not for the armed forces to question, but what they want is due recognition of their sacrifices laid for the country’s cause.
When the Kargil War is celebrated (and why not?) with such pomp and show, where total soldiers killed were 527, in Op Pawan two-and-half-time more soldiers laid down their lives and the country does not even recognise their services by paying proper tributes. What a pity!! The Government has since last year permitted silent wreath-laying at NWM. Is this all they deserve? Time has come to properly recognise the sacrifices of martyrs of IPKF by giving them official recognition.
This year the wreath-laying was done under the aegis of Veterans of IPKF. The mother of Second-Lieutenant Bedi, MVC (Posthumous), laid the wreath on behalf of the veterans. More than 100 veterans and their spouses were present who later on paid flower tributes to their respective unit martyrs. It was a touching moment for them remembering their fallen comrades, whose names have become immortal in the National War Memorial.
Lt Gen AK Kalkat, who was the overall force commander, was present at the second wreath-laying ceremony, along with Lt Gen Milan Naidu, former Vice-Chief of Army Staff, and many other veterans.
- Period: July 29, 1987 – March 24, 1990
- Location: Northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka
- Deployment: At peak, more than 1.00,000 soldiers
- Casualties: 1,287 soldiers killed, over 3,000 wounded
- Result: Stalemate, hasty IPKF withdrawal due to political changes in both countries and beginning of Eelam War-II