'Never flew with her at the same time'

Former Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Gunjan Saxena, who finds herself in the middle of a controversy after the release of a recent biopic on her, has reacted to allegations made by a colleague about Gunjan not being the first female combat pilot of IAF, as has been said publicly on multiple occasions. Gunjan, in her defence, said that no such counter-narratives were introduced in the two decades leading up to the film's release.

"When I went to Kargil, I never went there thinking of setting any records, or trying to make history. My only focus was to fly and do my job as well as possible," she told in an interview.

She said that towards the end of the conflict, the IAF arranged for a media interaction, and it was then that her name was projected as being the first woman to fly for the IAF in a combat zone. "From July 1999 till today, my name has featured in a number of headlines, in a number of articles, and in the Limca Book of Records, and in one of the promotion exams taken by the air force," she said.

Gunjan said that in all these years, there has been no controversy about this. "Between July 1999 and today, I don't see what has changed. The only thing that has changed is this movie being released," she said.

Earlier this week, Gunjan's coursemate, Flight Lieutenant (retd) Sreevidya Rajan, wrote in a Facebook post that the makers of the Janhvi Kapoor-starrer have 'twisted the facts'. She wrote, "In the movie, Gunjan Saxena was shown as the only lady pilot to fly in Kargil operations. This is factually incorrect. We were posted together to Udhampur and when the Kargil conflict started, I was the first woman pilot to be sent along with the male counterparts in the first detachment of our unit which deployed at Srinagar."

She said that she never flew with Sreevidya at the same time 'during the Kargil operations', nor were they stationed at Srinagar at the same time. "I don't think I was looking for any clarification, about who came in one week before..."

Several people have raised objections about the events shown in the film, and its depiction of the IAF. Retired Wing Commander Namrita Chandi, in an open letter, had also accused the filmmakers of "peddling lies". She wrote, "Sreevidya Rajan was the first lady pilot who flew to Kargil – not Gunjan. Though, I am certain that Srividya has no complaints about this credit being taken away from her."

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