One of the most glorious moments of the Indian Army – the victory in the Battle of Laungewala during the 1971 Indo-Pak war – is based on blatant falsehoods, claims a book authored by a general decorated in the same operation.
Major General Atma Singh (retd) has alleged that the army’s version of the battle is built on “exaggerated claims”.
Singh, then a major in the army, has credited the Indian Air Force for saving the day for the country. He was then commanding the No 12 Air Observation Post (AOP) flight under the IAF.
“If our troops had vacated the post (Laungewala) at first light on December 5, then when and where was the big battle of Laungewala fought,” he questions in his book Battle of Laungewala: The Real Story, which will hit the stands on December 3 — the day the war began 42 years ago.
Singh writes the first enemy tanks were sighted 5 km from the Laungewala post at the crack of dawn on December 5, after the army had vacated the post. The tanks, he says, were bombed by the IAF jets. Singh’s version can’t be taken lightly as he was awarded Vir Chakra, India’s third highest gallantry award for bravery.
According to the army, Major KS Chandpuri (later brigadier) along with 100 men from 23 Punjab had frustrated an attack by 2,800 Pakistani troops backed by an armoured regiment of 45 tanks. Chandpuri was decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra.
General Singh told HT, “It’s about taking credit where little is due. Can troops equipped with recoilless guns, medium machine guns and mortars beat off an armour attack? I hope the book will lay the lie of the battle to rest.”
A senior army officer, however, said soldiers from 23 Punjab played a valuable role as they held on to their positions, delaying the enemy’s armour thrust until the IAF arrived on the scene.