The battle of Laungewala has snowballed into a big controversy in the Indian military’s post-Independence history. The desert war between India and Pakistan, which spawned innumerable tales of valour heroism, is now the subject of countless questions about its crdibility.
The debate that simmered for 37 years burst into the open recently when the army gave Defence Minister AK Antony a blow-by-blow account of how Major KS Chandpuri (later Brigadier) leading just 100 men, had frustrated an attack by a Pakistani brigade backed by 45 tanks. Maj Gen Atma Singh (retd) then made the schocking revelation that the Army had faked the famous battle. A smorgasbord of responses to the story broken by the Hindustan Times:
Kiren Rijiju, BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh: An independent judicial inquiry must be launched to set the record straight about Laungewala. Now is the time to make war records public.
Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi, former vice chief: I write to express my anguish at the unseemly pronouncements by two retired flag officers (both of whom I know and respect) for their uncalled-for comments after over 36 years. Let us not succumb to our inflated egos, merely to score brownie points!
Air Marshal Vinod Patni, former IAF vice chief: I congratulate the Hindustan Times for its efforts. The army glorified its role in Laungewala. The IAF does its work without embellishing its achievements. Laungewala was, and will, be the greatest example of use of air power against armour in the open.
Major General VK Narula, Additional Director General Public Information, MoD: Questioning the authenticity of a Battle Honour bestowed by the highest constitutional office of the country must be done with utmost sensitivity and after detailed historical research.
Sandeep Dixit, Congress MP: There is no harm in appointing a fact-finding mission to get to the bottom of the matter.
Colonel YP Bhatia (retd), Sena Medal: I corroborate the versions of war veterans who have disputed the battle. I was a major, Delta Company Commander of 17 Rajputana Rifles, and was tasked to reinforce Laungewala. The first army casualty was one of the tanks put under my command. Four crewmembers died unsung. Their gallantry was much above that of Chandpuri (who won a Maha Vir Chakra).
RS Rathaur, New Delhi: Hindustan Times has done a great service to the nation by exposing the Laungewala episode. The rot runs too deep and it must be corrected as it involves the destiny of a nation.