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The Indian Army: An epitome of courage and selfless devotion to duty
Jasbir Sarai11/15/2018 9:48:49 PM
11, November is marked across the world as Armistice Day. It was on this day, in 1918, that World War I formally came to an end with the armistice document signed between the Allies and Germany. This year marks the centenary of Armistice Day and is being celebrated across the globe with due solemnity. The bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers of different nations is being remembered and acknowledged. It is relevant here to note the massive contribution made by the Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army in the war effort, especially so of the Sikh Regiments.
The Indian soldiers draw their nobility from millenniums old chronicles of courage and bravery beyond the call of duty. Soldiering in India sets examples unparalleled in the history of mankind. The legacy is being carried forward in full measure by the Indian Army on which fell the onerous responsibility of protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the Indian Union on gaining independence in 1947.
As the world remembers Armistice Day it becomes incumbent for India to also remember the historic account given by its Armed Forces in the same time but 29 years hence in November 1947. The nascent Indian Army, that was still finding its feet, was called upon to protect the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistani marauders in what is termed as the Indo-Pakistan War 1947-48.
The Army was inducted into the Kashmir valley, on October, 27, 1947, to rid it of the brutal Razakars (tribal mercenaries), soon after the signing of the Instrument of Accession in favour of India by Maharaja Hari Singh, the monarch of the state.
Few in India would pause to reflect the importance of that time in the history of the nation. Within days of landing in Srinagar under the most challenging circumstance a gallant son of India won the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) the highest gallantry award designated by the new country. On November, 03, 1947 Major Somnath Sharma, an officer of 4 Kumaon of the Indian Army created history by stalling the Pakistan tribal invasion in Srinagar in the historic Battle of Budgam. Major Somnath Sharma laid down his life in the battle under such heroic circumstances that he was awarded the first PVC in independent India at a time when the medal has not even been designed. The Battle of Budgam was the harbinger of a ruthless war. It lasted over two campaigning seasons (1947-48) and resulted in the rout of the tribal and regular forces sent by Pakistan. The most challenging and decisive period, however, was in November/December 1947.
The war witnessed award of four more PVCs and many other gallantry awards to the brave Indian soldiers who fought against terrible odds. The brave recipients were Lance Naik Karam Singh, 1 Sikh, in the Battle of Tithwal, Second Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane, Corps of Engineers for the Battle of Jhangar and Naushera. Naik Jadunath Singh, 1 Rajput, for the defense of Naushera and Company Havildar Major Piru Singh, 6 Rajputana Rifles, for the Battle of Tithwal.
Also part of folklore is the bravery of Brigadier Rajendra Singh, Chief of Staff of the Jammu and Kashmir State Forces, who obeyed, with his life, the command of his Maharaja to hold the "enemy at Uri at all costs and to the last man." Brigadier Rajendra Singh was the recipient of the first Maha Vir Chakra of independent India.
Any talk of bravery and courageous tenacity exhibited during the war would be incomplete without mention of Brigadier Mohammad Usman. He was in command of 50 Parachute Brigade during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1947-48 and deployed in the Nowshera-Jhangar sector. For his feats of valour and defence of Nowshera he was nicknamed "Lion of Nowshera." Jhangar fell to insurmountable odds to the Pakistani attack. Brigadier Usman vowed to take back the strategic location and did so within a period of three months. He died on July, 3, 1948 due to Artillery fire while defending Jhangar. He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra Posthumously and became the highest ranking Indian officer to have received this award during the war. His funeral was attended by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his cabinet colleagues.
It merits mention here that the Indian Army fought the war in Jammu and Kashmir with full support of the local population inclusive of the Muslims, Dogra's, Sikhs, Buddhists, Paharis and the many other communities who form part of the state. There was not even an inkling of separatist tendencies in that period of time.
Before the Indian army landed in Srinagar and opposed the tribal onslaught, the invading hordes had laid waste every living being that came their way. Even under such terrible conditions the human spirit prevailed. A 19 year old boy, Maqbool Sherwani, went about on a cycle spreading a message that the Indian army was on the doors of Baramulla. This information stalled the march to Srinagar and literally saved the city. When the Pakistanis realised that young Maqbool had misled them, they shot and crucified him. The young boy, with his courage and presence of mind, etched a place for himself in history for all times.
The Indian troops who fought the war had only the safety and security of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in mind. They did not know or care about how politics would play out in the long run. Their only concern was to ensure that the barbarians were thrown out in the shortest possible time without causing any further damage. In this they were singularly successful, but not without paying a heavy price including loss of lives of many soldiers. If the Indian Army had not reacted the way it did, Srinagar would have been a huge, desolate graveyard and the history of the Kashmir valley would have changed forever. The people were full of praise for the Indian forces as they are even today, except for a few anti-national elements.
The Indian Army has, since independence of the nation, remained steadfast in countering external threats, maintaining internal security, providing assistance in natural disasters and meeting any other requirement. It is an epitome of courage and selfless devotion to duty and it elicits respect from one and all.
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