The Most Heart Wrenching Tribute From One OTA Coursemate to another- Remembering Lt. CK Nongrum, MVC(P)

Lt Col Sandeep Ahlawat pens down and celebrates the valour of his course mate and buddy Lt. CK Nongrum! It’s about time we celebrate our martyrs!


When I met up Gentleman Cadet Clifford Keishing Nongrum (I will now call him Cliify) in academy in the winters of 1996, I found him to be an unassuming lad with a very pleasing personality, who use to keep smiling even in the most challenging circumstances…..a very shy but physically as tough as a “nut” guy (he was in the martial arts club). We got along like a house on fire!!…..we were about the same age (he was born exactly 46 days before me)…..he belonged to/hailed from one of the most beautiful places on earth… yes it is “Shillong” (which is the capital of Meghalaya)… since I had done my schooling from Shillong ….I was there for four long years and that too pretty much the same time as Cliffy….

We had a lot in common… we were from different schools (he was from Don Bosco and I was from KV Upper Shillong) but knew every important ‘hang out’ spot that teenagers of our time in Shillong knew… Cliffy’s dad Peter uncle was with State Bank of India and his mother Saily aunty like my mom was a homemaker.

Cliffy with a twinkle in his eyes, smile on his face and a guitar in his hand could set a packed house on fire!!……he was shy and did not want the world to know that he too could sing…..he was the best guitarist ever for me…he could put George Michael and Elton John to shame the way he use to sing their famous songs “Faith” and “Sacrifice” !!…….since he was neither from my company nor from my platoon I had to walk all the way to his company to catch up with him and listen to my favourite song “Sacrifice” many times over under the guise of “one more time!!” …..his fingers on guitar…his gentle humming….his radiant face had this uncanny capacity to put life back in a lifeless body of a Gentleman Cadet who has just survived another day of physical and mental rigours of the world’s toughtest training academy (Officer’s Training Academy)

I made this a habit to go and listen to his songs whenever I found the time… we over a period of time became the best of friends…..he even told me the name of his crush turned girlfriend……(name withheld) she was very pretty… the very mention of her name use to make him blush… Cliffy used to keep her and his parents photograph with him…
My going and meeting him and asking him to sing “Sacrifice” for me for “one last time!!!” had become a ritual… I even extracted a promise from him that he will sing “Sacrifice” for me “one last time!!” on the eve of our passing out also…

We use to sit together at Drill square under open sky and talk about our teenage spent in Shillong… our first crush, our overflowing hormones had pretty much done everything that an average teenager does!… our going to “Elephanta falls” after bunking classes, Visit to Police bazar, visit to Cheerapunji…. etc… etc…. etc…..this ritual of he singing “Sacrifice” for me “one last time!!!” continued till 3rd Sept 1997…..We were to pass out on 5th Sept…..i went to look for him on 4th Sept ….I wanted to listen to my favourite song that too from my favourite crooner and guitarist……after all he was my strength all this while in the Academy!! His songs had lifted me up when I was down and out…..I searched for him in the barracks…..i was told by a fellow cadet who was Cliify’s good pal named Zosangliana Hualngo (who is now Maj Zosangliana Hualngo, SM (Retd) currently Commandant General in Mizoram Home Guards) that he had gone to receive his family (mom, dad and both brothers) who had come to witness our POP (Passing Out Parade)…….there is something about “Passing Out Parade” and “Antim Pag” which makes every cadet of the Indian Army get adrenaline rush which has no parallel!!…..hence I will not even attempt to explain this adrenaline surge!!… You got to step on “Antim pag” to experience it!!! You got to earn it to experience it!!!

even blood in our veins is replaced by electrons on that day…..I came back to my barrack after waiting for him for sometime.

Unfortunately we both could not even meet on the last day in Academy….we were geographically separated because of being in different companies and were presumably too excited and occupied with last minute coordination before putting the stars on our uniform …..”after all we were penning the first line of our resume”. On 5th Sept at about 4 PM before leaving our Alma Mater for good, I went to his room with a hope that I may see him one last time… I saw his empty bed and was informed by the caretakers that he had left…..I felt bad… very bad… my heart was hollow yet heavy, I was annoyed with him yet missed him… was dragging my feet out of his room looking at the place he used to keep his guitar.

He was commissioned into the “Queen of battle”…the Infantry… 12 JAK LIGHT INFANTRY… we went to our respective units… 18 months went passed like a shot. Pakistan in the month of May 99 had attempted a misadventure… there were war clouds looming …I was in Pathankot… we were on a four hour notice… all preparations were done….our Infantryman were evicting the Paki’s from our land one by one… we had steam rolled the enemy… winning back our land on daily basis… our brave young officers and soldiers had given Paki’s a bloody nose.

I was deployed in Pathankot and suddenly in the middle of a night training I got a call from Army Exchange and was told that an Infantry officer wanted to speak to me…..I rushed to the phone and heard the voice that can melt a mountain to molten lava… was Cliffy on line…. his unit was inducting into Kargil war…. he was raring to go… he apologised for not having met me before before leaving the academy… sensing my annoyance, he in order to mollycoddle me made another promise, he said that he on his way back will stay with me and will sing “Sacrifice” that he could not do “one last time!!!” in the Academy… no hint of fear…. he was all of 24… not even the fear of unknown… he was going on icy heights… there was a constant and unrelenting enemy fire… he was to move on 70 degree gradient into certain death… I felt a tug at my heart… we had already lost a few coursemates … they all gave up their today for our tomorrow… every officer who passed out with 64 batch use to shed silent tears when the news to our coursemates getting martyred use to reach us!!!

For every Indian Army Officer death of a course mate is worse then the death of your biological brother and…. these are no hollow words!!….

I was told that on 30th June/ 1st July 1999 Cliffy was tasked to assault a near impossible vertical cliff feature in the Batalik Sector. After an arduous 70 degrees climb for for more than 10 hours with very heavy loads he and his men reached the top, they encountered a very strong enemy opposition as the Pakis were well entrenched in inter connected positions and remained immune to even artillery fire. The enemy pinned down the column of Cliify with heavy and accurate automatic fire. The only way the Pakis could have been dislodged was if either Cliify or any team member went all the way up with out cover and took the enemy on “one on one”, and knowing him well I knew it would be Cliify who would undertake this… Cliify with utter disregard to his personal safety, charged through the fire zone, closed in on the enemy, he threw hand grenades inside their bunkers and killed six enemy soldiers!… however in this retaliatory action by the enemy he was hit by volley of bullets.

Even before breathing his last Cliffy killed a Paki soldier in hand to hand combat (the bugger was a boxer in school) The audacious action by Cliify not only stunned the enemy but also gave valuable reaction time to his troops to close in and finally they cleared the position which resulted in capture of Point 4812. Lt Keishing Clifford Nongrum ( for once I will not call him Cliffy ) displayed, bravery, dogged determination and raw courage in the face of the enemy and made the supreme sacrifice in the highest traditions of the Indian Army and was posthumously awarded Mahavir Chakra… On every Kargil Vijay Diwas, we remember and salute this heroic warrior who laid down his life fighting to protect his nation and his fellow countrymen. It’s time we gave these unsung heroes and their families the recognition and respect they deserve! Forgetting martyrs who ensure your right of freedom and free speech is a sign of thankless Nation! It also speaks of our poor National Character!!

I wanted to meet Cliffy’s parents in 1999… but could not muster enough courage
to even touch the feet of Saily aunty who gave her 24 year old son to this nation!!!!
The very thought of how will she react after seeing the mortal remains (draped in triclour) of her son who was just 24 years old was too much to bear for me… his body had more bullet marks than flesh… the saga of his courage is unparalleled… he is the first and only recipient of Maha Vir chakra (MVC) of Meghalaya state… I will go and meet Sally aunty sooner than later!!……Cliffy my friend wish you had sung “Sacrifice” one last time for me on the 4th Sept 1997…this is the longest wait ever…I will wait…. till we meet in Heavens…..Cliify till we meet again I will remember you everyday of my existence!!!…..
and yes Because of Cliffy now I keep a statue of an Indian Army’s Infantryman on my table!!!… It reminds me of Cliffy and countless other faceless infantryman who gave their everything for our freedom!

PS. The infantryman’s statue on my table does not hold a guitar!


The Mahavir Chakra Citation of MVC Lt. CK Nongrum is-

On the night of 30 June/01 July 1999, in an operation to capture Point 4812 in the Batalik sector, Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum was tasked to assault the feature from the South Eastern direction. He led his column over the near impossible vertical cliff feature. On reaching the top, his column encountered strong enemy opposition. The enemy was well entrenched in interconnected positions carved out of boulders and remained immune to even artillery fire.

The enemy pinned down the column of Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum with heavy and accurate automatic fire for about two hours. On seeing the futility of own fire against the fortified enemy position, Lieutenant Nongrum, with utter disregard to his personal safety, charged through the fire zone. Closing in with the first position, he threw grenades into it and killed six enemy soldiers. He then tried to snatch the universal machine gun of the enemy from the second enemy position and received a volley of bullets.

The audacious action of Lieutenant Nongrum not only stunned the enemy but also gave valuable reaction time to his troops to close in and finally clear the position. Though severely wounded, he refused to be evacuated and fought valiantly till he succumbed to his injuries. This act resulted in the ultimate capture of Point 4812.

Lieutenant Keishing Clifford Nongrum displayed conspicuous bravery, dogged determination and raw courage in the face of the enemy and made the supreme sacrifice in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.

This was an effort by Lt. Col Sandeep Ahlawat to remember his coursemate, his dear friend who gave his life for all of us. We salute Lt, CK Nongrum for sacrifice and keeping duty over everything in the hours when the country needed the most.

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