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August 13, 1999
Meet an unusual hero of the Kargil conflict: Mule 696
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
They are the unsung heroes of the Kargil conflict. And away from the media glare, they are currently receiving treatment at the Indian Army's veterinary hospital here.
Twenty-seven mules, who kept up the supply line to the army when it was engaged in a fierce battle with Pakistan-backed intruders in Drass and Kargil sectors, have been shifted to Srinagar from the front for specialised treatment. They all belong to the Indian Army's Mule Company.
Eighteen mules died during the fighting, while 100 others were injured.
Additional Director General, Remount Veterinary Services Corps, Major Gen R M Kharb, AVSM, is currently in Srinagar to meet his officers.
He visited the hospital in Srinagar and inquired about the injured mules on Thursday.
''We had to move very swiftly and even without acclimatisation these mules performed superbly,'' Gen Kharab told this correspondent. ''In all we rushed 300 mules to carry arms, ammunition and other logistic loads to the mountain tops where army was engaged in fighting. Not only these mules, but Dog Unit too did a wonderful job of clearing the roads of mines,'' he added.
The Dog Unit is currently engaged in detection of mines and other explosives in the Kargil sector.
A general service mule, referred to as Mule GS, carries a weight of 50 kg, while Mule MA (Mountain Artillery) can carry a load of 90 kg. "Usually mules need a two-feet-wide track to move. Such tracks are under construction in Kargil now,'' Gen Kharab said.
However, during the fighting, in absence of these tracks, several animals suffered injuries. But a majority of them received injuries due to un-interrupted shelling from across the border.
"We are now reinforcing our veterinary-aid exercise and arranging more veterinary aid camps in Kargil," said Gen Kharab. Initially, he said, the army had decided to reduce the number of mules, but after the Kargil intrusion the decision has been reviewed.
Mule 696 received a serious abdominal injury during the battle to recapture Tololing in Drass sector and is presently undergoing treatment. A splinter cut through the shoulder blade of Mule 12 in Sando Nallah in the same sector.
But a majority of these animals are fast recovering. "They will be discharged within next 15 days to resume their duties in their respective units. We are proud of these unsung heroes of Kargil," a Vet said.
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