Sitrep:Chivalry on and off the battlefield

  • Mandeep Singh Bajwa, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Nov 08, 2015 09:35 IST
The large turnout of veterans and their well wishers from civil society at the rally to press the government for implementation of OROP at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, on October 31. (Photo: UFESM)

On September 8, 1965, India’s I Corps launched an offensive in Sialkot with the aim of disrupting Pakistan’s north-south communications. Pakistan’s Patton-equipped 25th Cavalry (commanded by Colonel Nisar Ahmed Khan ‘Kaka’ formerly with 1st Patiala Lancers) was sent to stop the Indian thrust. The regiment’s actions that day and subsequently earned them the title of ‘Men of Steel’ from a grateful Pakistan Army.

Early on September 16, 8th Garhwal Rifles’ defences near Butur Dograndi came under attack. Two tanks of 25 Cavalry approached the trenches of the company commanded by Captain JS Bhullar from Amarkot, district Tarn Taran. He ordered a Strim anti-tank grenade to be fired at the leading Patton. The grenade hit one of the tank’s tracks leading to its disablement.

Tank commander Lieutenant Shamshad Ali Khan, originally from the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, bailed out, moving unhindered to the other tank. Maybe it was the fog of war or chivalrous soldiers refusing to fire on a gallant enemy. Who knows what went through the Garhwalis’ minds?

Shamshad, who retired as a Major is nowadays on a visit to India with his family. Last week Captain Amarinder Singh hosted him and some Indian officers who fought in the Sialkot sector. JS Bhullar, now a retired Brigadier living in Chandigarh’s Sector 8 came face to face with his adversary of half a century ago. The bonhomie between the former opponents was the highlight of the evening.

The armed forces look after their own

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha displayed courage in proclaiming at the traditional pre-Air Force Day press conference that the family of Corporal Sartaj, a technician posted at Chennai would be moved to a Service area and looked after. This is in the wake of the Dadri lynching incident where Sartaj’s father was beaten to death. This assertion shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Anyone who has seen the Defence Services from close up would recognise that they look after their own. This extends to families, including parents. One remembers the dark days of November 1984 after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The killings cast a baleful shadow over the nation. In that bleak period, officers and men of the army voluntarily stood guard at railway stations to protect their comrades and families travelling by train from murderous mobs. They rescued a number of civilians too.

Latest OROP news

The defence ministry on Saturday issued the notification for implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme. The ministry’s announcement has come after defence minister Manohar Parrikar had assured the ex-servicemen about OROP implementation before Diwali.

Far from resting on their laurels after the defence minister’s announcement regarding acceptance of OROP on September 5, agitating veterans have been putting pressure on the government to issue an early notification. A series of countrywide protests culminating in a huge rally at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, attended by a large number of enthusiastic veterans and their well-wishers have served to keep the burning issue in the public eye.

To keep the pressure on, the veterans’ organisation had announced a step by step programme to return their medals. The fact that the veterans are neither relenting nor prepared to take open-ended promises of action as guarantees has now forced the defence minister to hand out the necessary orders. The question now is whether anomalies pointed out by the veterans will be rectified.

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