India looks upon October (the month gone by) as a very auspicious month; the festival of Dusshera falls in this month and so does the Muslim festival of Bakrid. Both festivals epitomise the victory of all that is just and righteous. This month also holds great significance so far as the military history of the nation is concerned. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose laid the foundation of Indian National Army (INA) on October 21, 1943 at Singapore. China declared an unjust war against India on October 20, 1962.
Most significantly, the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947-48, that laid the foundation of a free and resurgent India commenced on October 27, 1947 with the landing of Indian troops at Srinagar airport post the signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh a day before on October 26, 1947 making his state a part of the Indian dominion.
The courage and resilience of the Indian troops who fought the war over two campaigning seasons is now a part of Indian military folklore. The first unit to land in Kashmir was 1 Sikh commanded by Lt Col Ranjit Rai. The Battalion Headquarters and one Company of the unit took off from Delhi at 0600 hours on October 27, 1947 and landed at Srinagar airfield at 0930 hours. They were received and briefed on the airfield itself by senior civil and state forces’ officers. The military engagement of the enemy commenced almost immediately. It was a very challenging task since the enemy was vastly superior in numbers. Lt Col Ranjit Rai died in action after having delayed the enemy enough for reinforcements to land.
On November 3, 1947 within a few days of his joining the battle, Major Somnath Sharma of 4 Kumaon created history by stalling the invading hordes 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 Param Vir Chakra (PVC) in independent India.
The war witnessed award of four more Param Vir Chakras and many other gallantry awards to the brave Indian soldiers who fought against terrible odds. The brave PVC 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 is the recipient of the first Maha Vir Chakra of independent India.
Any talk of bravery and tenacity exhibited during the war would be incomplete without mention of Brigadier Mohammad Usman. Such was his spirit of nationalism that, at the time of partition, he declined to move to Pakistan despite being given the bait of being made the Pakistan Army Chief. He was in command of 50 Parachute Brigade during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1947-48 and deployed in the Nowshera-Jhangar sector. When Jhangar fell to insurmountable odds 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 and was awarded Maha Vir Chakra posthumously thus becoming the highest ranking Indian Army officer to have received this award. His funeral was attended by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his cabinet colleagues. For his feats of valour he was nicknamed “Lion of Nowshera.”
Before the Indian Army landed in Srinagar, 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 tribal (kabailee) march to Srinagar and literally saved the city from a fate even worse than that of Baramulla. When the mercenaries realised that young Maqbool Sherwani 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.
If the Indian Army had not fought with such unprecedented courage, Srinagar would have been a huge, desolate graveyard and the history of the Kashmir Valley would have changed forever. It merits mention here that the Indian Army fought the war with full support of the local population inclusive of the Muslims, Hindus, 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. The Indian troops who fought the war had only the safety and security of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in mind. The people at that time were full of praise for the Indian forces as they are even today, except for a few anti-national elements.
Kashmir has found its destiny as a part of the largest democracy in the world with a test of fire and sacrifice of blood. The bravery of the soldiers and civilians who fought the war shoulder to shoulder can never be forgotten nor allowed to go in vain. Those who are trying to break away the region due to some evil vested interests should understand that their malevolent designs will never fructify since they disrespect the great sacrifices made by the previous generations to create a good life for their off-springs in the democratic environment of the Indian Union. It is necessary for the present generation to live up to the ideals that their forefathers fought for and ensure that the sacrifices made by them do not go in vain.