Today is Kargil Vijay Diwas. Kargil is a name that has given a new dimension to the fighting faces of India. Today marks 24 years since India’s epic victory over Pakistan in the Kargil Hills. The country lives in the memory of the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country in the Kargil war. Kargil Vijay Diwas is a day to remember the heroes of the country who lost their lives in war. There was a woman among India’s proud soldiers in the Kargil victory-Gunjan Saxena. She was the first female pilot of the Indian Air Force and the first female Indian Air Force pilot to directly participate in combat. Gunjan was just 25 years old when she fought in the Kargil war in 1999. On the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, there is a lot to know about Gunjan Saxena, the brave woman fighter of the Kargil War.
Gunjan came from a military family. Gunjan saw the cockpit for the first time at the age of five. The unbridled enthusiasm that started that day grew to the level of flying a fighter jet for the country. Gunchan Saxena’s name should be written in golden letters in the history of Kargil war. Gunjan Saxena is a woman pilot who transported India’s brave warriors to the Kargil battlefield. Being a flight lieutenant, she was able to rescue brave warriors who were injured in the war. In 1994, Gunjan joined the Indian Air Force as a trainee for the first batch of women pilots. The country honoured her with the ‘Shaurya Chakra’ for her bravery. She is a role model for the women community.
Gunjan Saxena was born in a military family. Her father, Anup Kumar Saxena was a Lieutenant Colonel in Indian Army and brother Lt. Col. Anshuman also served in the Indian Army. Gunjan’s husband Gautam Narain, a Wing Commander is also an Indian Air Force pilot. He is the pilot of IAF Mi-17 Helicopter. He also served as an instructor at the National Defence Academy. The couple have a daughter named Pragya Narain.
Gunjan graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Hansraj College, New Delhi. She was one of six women who joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a pilot in 1996. Her first posting was in Udhampur as a flight lieutenant.
Flying Officer Gunjan Saxena was 24 years old when she flew during the Kargil War and was stationed in Srinagar. In the Kargil War, as part of Operation Vijay, apart from evacuating the wounded, she helped transport supplies to troops in the forward areas of Dras and Batalik. She also was assigned surveillance roles such as mapping enemy positions. She had to deal with makeshift landing grounds, heights of 13,000 to 18,000 feet and enemy fire. She was one of the ten pilots, based in Srinagar that flew hundreds of sorties during the war, evacuating over 900 casualties, wounded and killed. Gunjan Saxena was the only women in the Indian Armed Forces who flew into war zones in the Kargil War. In 2004, her career as a helicopter pilot ended after serving for eight years. Permanent commissions were not available during her time in service.
The Bollywood film, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl which was released in 2020 was inspired by Gunjan’s life. Janhvi Kapoor has played Gunjan’s character in the movie which was produced by Dharma Productions and Zee Studios.