Jahanvi Kapoor to play the role of Gunjan Saxena the ‘Kargil Girl’ and all you need to know about the first Air Force women officer who went on war

Jahanvi Kapoor is all set to play the role of Gunjan Saxena in the upcoming Karan Johar movie of the same name. The movie is dated to be released on March13, 2020 and is presented by Zee Studios and Dharma Productions

The Kargil War in 1999 was a legendary victory for India. It showed the World what we were capable of, and more.India witnessed the ultimate grit and dedication of the defence forces as they uprooted the Pakistani infiltrants on the battlefield.

Operation Vijay and Operation Safed Sagar were two major operations that led to India’s victory in this conflict. The Indian Air Force (IAF) was monumental in tipping the scales of the war in India’s favour. The IAF employed air power at an unprecedented 32,000 feet and the special, short term training undertaken by their pilots and engineers worked really well in identifying and eradicating Pakistani troops from their hidden nooks.

Amongst this grand mayhem and roaring victory, the IAF added another feather to their cap in the name of (then) Flight Officer Gunjan Saxena. She made history as she flew into a combat zone during the War, a feat which had not been allowed for or achieved by a lady officer in the IAF. For this courageous task, she was later bestowed with the Shaurya Chakra- an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice while not engaged in direct action with the enemy.

She cleared the entrance exam, the SSB, and the medical tests and joined the IAF as a pilot. Of course, lady officers weren’t then allowed to fly fighter jets (as they can now) but her batch had created history nonetheless. Back then, there were reservations about women pilots in the IAF. It was still unsure how they would cope with the mental and physical stress of flying, and of wars.

The Kargil War took a toll on the Indian Forces and their resources. The IAF too, was banking on each and every pilot they had. War times imply desperate times, which in turn need desperate measures. So while female pilots had not yet been employed in a war zone, the situation demanded for a change in the situation. Hence, the women pilots were called in for duties involving tasks of medical evacuation, dropping of supplies, and reconnaissance. Now came the time for her to fly, quite literally. She was entrusted with crucial duties in the combat zone.

“I could not wait to be called.” said Gunjan Saxena to Outlook India in an interview back in 2006.

Flight Officer Gunjan Saxena flew her chopper to air- drop vital supplies to Indian troops at high points in the Dras and Batalik sectors. In these journeys, she also picked up the wounded/dead bodies from steep and unruly mountain ranges. She meticulously informed her seniors of the enemy positions and status which added to better strategies and ultimately contributed to the overall victory of the force’s operations.

One must not forget how her trips were fraught with danger. She knew that she was flying into volatile areas where her enemies were waiting to pounce on her. She showed great grit and determination as she flew on fearlessly, ready to face death if need be. She would carry a fully loaded INSAS assault rifle and a revolver with her on the chopper in case she would have to battle her way out of the enemy’s areas on land (in case of a crash landing). Her small Cheetah helicopter would run through extremely hostile territories in unpredictable and perilous weather conditions. It goes without saying that this task would have taken a heavy toll on her mind and physique owing to the pressures of the situation.

In a terrifying incident during one of her sorties, the Pakistani Army fired a rocket at Gunjan’s helicopter which was ready for take- off at the Kargil air- strip. The chopper just barely managed to escape the attack as the missile missed it and crashed into a hill behind it in a deafening explosion.

On her role in casualty evacuation in the War, Gunjan claimed that it was her biggest motivation and feel- good factor:

“One of our main roles was casualty evacuation. I think it is the ultimate feeling that you can have as a helicopter pilot… it’s a very satisfying feeling when you save a life because that’s what you are there for.”

She is delighted with the fact that now women are allowed permanent commission in the IAF:

“I think inducting women in the fighter stream is a very, very big and a positive step on part of the Air Force. Being a pioneer, I would say, it feels great and I would only say that I hope these women who’ve come into the fighter stream now give their 100 per cent and really, really touch the sky with glory.”

A story not often mentioned, Gunjan’s unique tale of valour continues to inspire all those who hear of her. She not only proved herself as a true soldier of the country, but also showed the nation what women were capable of. The women officers who enjoy the perks of flying fighter jets, or fly into combat zones, and have been granted permanent commission owe a lot to women like her who proved that women are no less than men anywhere in the world. Now this is a life worth living!

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