Independence saw No. 7 Squadron (The Battleaxes) set up base at Agra with its Hawker Tempest Mk II fighters. In late October that year, young Flight Lieutenant Randhir Singh, a seasoned veteran of combat flying over the Frontier and in Burma, was sent to fly an operational reconnaissance from Ambala to spot tribal invaders on the Srinagar-Baramula- Muzaffarabad road in Kashmir.
Later, the unit flew ground support missions during the Battle of Shellatang using the Tempest’s four 20mm Hispano cannons to destroy enemy transport, inflict heavy losses on the invaders and help stem their advance.
Flying from grassy strips in Amritsar and Jammu, Randhir and the flight that he commanded flew constant Rhubarb operations (low-level missions seeking to locate and destroy targets of opportunity that presented themselves) over the battlefield and into enemy-held territory.
Now a retired Air Marshal, 92-year-old Randhir Singh remembers vividly that the high motivation of fighting for one’s own country made pilots and ground crew make light of difficulties, creating resources where none existed. Flying in narrow valleys pulling up after a strafing run was always problematic.
A true ‘Karmyogi’, Randhir did not rest after retirement in 1978. In a spirit of giving back to society along with other activists he set up the Federation of Sector Welfare Associations, Chandigarh, (FOSWAC) in the early ’80s. This was an early example of people’s participation in democracy in the absence of a municipal corporation.
Around 6.30pm January 20, 3 Rashtriya Rifles (affiliated to the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles) received information from 31 Composite Intelligence Unit about the presence of 2-3 terrorists in the Naibasti area of Dadasara village of Tral tehsil in Pulwama district in Kashmir. A team of an officer and a section from the battalion’s Company Operating Base at Hardumir under the company commander was immediately launched to apprehend the terrorists. One sub-team manoeuvred to flush them out, while the company OC established an ambush with another group.
Their movement having been detected around 7.15 pm the terrorists on being challenged opened fire with our own troops retaliating. Two of them escaped. The company commander and his buddy closed in on the third and shot him dead. He has been identified as Raja Muzaffar alias Zunair Bhai, a resident of PoK. This has been confirmed from separatist pages on social media.
This action has all the hallmarks of a classic counter-insurgency operation — a vigilant field intelligence organisation, an alert unit on the CI grid springing instantly into action, correct tactical deployment to push terrorists into a killing area and a young officer leading his men from the front.
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