The engagement that set the tone for the 1965 war took place on the heights overlooking Kargil on the night of 16th and 17th May today being the 50th anniversary of that small but noteworthy battle. Defeat in the 1962 war with China had seriously damaged the Indian Army’s self-esteem, a situation which was aggravated by another poor showing against Pakistan in Kutch in April 1965. General JN Chaudhary, the Chief felt the need to lift morale by taking the initiative reversing a by now accepted trend. Western Army Commander General Harbaksh Singh chose to capture the heights dominating Kargil from where Pakistan’s Karakoram Scouts were impeding the supply route to Ladakh by firing on convoys traversing the Srinagar-Leh road.
4 Rajput was tasked for the purpose with its Alfa Company taking on the capture of the Black Rocks picquet and Bravo Company that of the position known as Point 13620. Both objectives were located on commanding heights reachable only after a gruelling climb. Alfa Company (Rajputs) were shot onto the objective with fire support from the 4.2 inch mortars of 85 Light Regiment commanded by my father, Colonel (now General ) KS Bajwa. Bravo Company (Gujjars) came under withering fire from enemy machine-guns. The company commander Major Baljit Singh Randhawa exhibited the leadership which his forbears from Isapur, Amritsar, are known for. He led from the front, exhorting his troops forward showing great courage but fell in the moment of victory. A posthumous Maha Vir Chakra was awarded to him. The leading platoon commander, Captain Ranbir Kang, from Bahomajra, Ludhiana, destroyed a machine-gun post being wounded in the process. His bravery and leadership were recognised with the award of a Vir Chakra. The Rajputs emerged victorious through their determination.
The Army’s morale soared notably after this minor victory. The significance of this small action goes far beyond its size. At one stroke we as a nation shed the centuries old culture of pusillanimity, reactive action and subservience. This was a signal to Pakistan which they chose to ignore launching their ill-fated operation to grab Kashmir a few months down the line.
The passenger ships MV Corals and MV Kavaratti arrived at Kochi harbour on April 18 having sailed from Djibouti carrying 475 passengers evacuated from Yemen under Operation Raahat. These included 337 Bangladeshis, 73 Indians and 65 Yemenis of Indian origin. Marcos (Marine Commandos) were on board for the passengers’ protection. The Delhi-class guided-missile destroyer INS Mumbai and the Talwar-class frigate INS Tarkash had escorted the vessels from Indian shores. Initially, Tarkash and later the training ship INS Tir shepherded the evacuation ships on the return journey. Just another day’s job for the Indian Navy!
DSOI at Panchkula
Veterans of the tricity will have another institution to cater to their needs very soon. The Haryana government has offered two acres of land in Sector 26, Panchkula, to set up a defence services officers institute (DSOI). Army chief General Dalbir Singh performed the Bhoomi Puja ceremony of the institute at its site recently. The new DSOI will fulfil a long-standing need of retired officers. The club will be located close to AWHO (Army Welfare Housing Organisation) colonies in Sectors 27, 20, 12 and 2 in Panchkula.
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