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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

A true warrior from the Kangra valley

Mandeep Singh Bajwa   December 29, 2013
First Published: 01:30 IST(29/12/2013) | Last Updated: 01:31 IST(29/12/2013)

Kangra is justly renowned for its contribution to the fighting forces. Paras Ram from Nangal, Dera Gopipur tehsil, answered the call to arms and enrolled in the army in 1938. Posted to 1/12 Frontier Force Regiment, the famous 51st Sikhs (now 3 FF in Pakistan), he served with them in Waziristan and later in the wartime subjugation and occupation of Iraq, Syria and Iran with the famous 8th Indian Division with its clover-leaf insignia.

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Landing in Italy in September 1943, the formation was constantly in action for the next year and a half, pressing forward through rugged mountain ranges against stiff German opposition centred around a series of defensive lines running the width of the country. The division’s successful crossings of the rivers Biferno, Trigno, Sangro, Moro, Rapido, Senio, Santerno and Po led it to adopt the motto ‘One more river’. It was a very tough campaign; the bright spot being the warm welcome given by Italian civilians who saw Indians as their liberators. Paras Ram, a matriculate, was by now a clerk. He remembers vividly the large amounts of vino on offer!  1st FF became a parachute battalion after the war. Partition saw brotherly relations torn asunder with the Hindus and Sikhs separating from their Muslim comrades to join 1/2 Punjab (now 1 Para SF) with which Paras Ram served in Jammu and Kashmir in 1947-48. Leaving the army in 1953, he became a teacher. Now 93, he lives with his children in Ludhiana and Chandigarh.

Remembering a martyr

It’s good to note that even after nearly half a century people in this country cherish the memories of those who made the supreme sacrifice to protect our freedom. Balbir Singh from Puadh area of Punjab was another young man who answered his country’s call and enlisted in the army. He served with 9th  Punjab raised in 1948 from Sikh and Dogra elements of famous battalions that went to Pakistan like the Guides Infantry and 1/14 Punjab (descended from the Sherdil Paltan of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army).

On August 31, 1965, Balbir Singh was killed when the battalion was heavily shelled by Pakistani artillery in the Chhamb sector, to add to the long list of martyrs from Punjab. He was not to remain unsung however. His family and young men of his village, Bajidpur in Mohali district, started a youth club named after him. On the December 17, his family, the youth club and the people of his village dedicated an imposing gate to his memory at a well-organised, largely attended function with a lot of pomp and show.

Dhaadis (balladeers) sang in praise of the sacrifice of young Balbir Singh and other martyrs. The families of other soldiers from the area who fell on the battlefield were honoured too.

There can be no praise high enough for the people of Bajidpur who took such pains to honour the memory of the young soldier from their village. Such memorials dot the rural areas of Punjab, nearly all constructed through peoples’ initiatives.

NSG guarding Laloo Yadav

The National Security Guard is a specialist force dedicated to counter-terrorist operations. The home ministry must ponder over the effect on the force’s morale and professional pride of having to protect Laloo Prasad Yadav, a convict in a corruption case.

Please write in with your narratives of war and soldiering to msbajwa@gmail.com or call on 093161-35343

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