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How Chandpuri inspired, motivated his men at Longewala

Second Lieutenant Dharam Vir, from Ghudani in Ludhiana district, and his platoon provided the first report of Pakistani armour moving towards Longewala. This was disbelieved by the higher formation commanders as the jittery fantasies of a subaltern. Mandeep Singh Bajwa writes

punjab Updated: Apr 14, 2013 23:29 IST
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Hindustan Times

Second Lieutenant Dharam Vir, from Ghudani in Ludhiana district, and his platoon provided the first report of Pakistani armour moving towards Longewala. This was disbelieved by the higher formation commanders as the jittery fantasies of a subaltern. It was only when Chandpuri, a steady, sober officer, himself confirmed the presence of enemy troops that the brigade and division woke up to the magnitude of the developing threat. The holding of Longewala now assumed paramount importance.

Having assessed the danger, both General RF Khambatta and Brigadier RO Kharbanda, the divisional and brigade commanders, respectively, stressed upon Chandpuri the importance of defending his post, causing attrition on the advancing enemy and buying time for 12 Division to turn its troops back, adopt a defensive position and deal with the threat.

The classic infantry orders of 'Fight till the last man, last round' were issued. 12 Division having adopted an offensive posture with most troops in forward concentration areas had virtually nothing in its kitty to immediately reinforce Longewala with. Anyway, two jeep-mounted 106mm anti-tank recoilless guns were hastily rushed to the post from 23 Punjab's base at Sadhewala.

Chandpuri, a hardy, experienced officer from Saroya, Nawanshahr district, now considered his own situation. He held prepared defences with around 90-odd men. Dharam Vir's platoon not having rejoined yet, he had some measure of anti-tank support but artillery fire support was questionable in the absence of an observer with his company. What he had in ample measure were the stout hearts of his men and himself. So he set out to motivate, inspire and prepare his men for the coming battle.

Gathering his men around him, Chandpuri explained the precariousness of their situation, omitting nothing. He told them what the orders were and underlined the importance of their holding out till our own defences could be organised. Finally, he provided a driving force by reminding them of a similar do-or- die situations from the history of the Sikhs and the Punjab Regiment - the fort of Chamkaur and the valour of Guru Gobind Singh and Kila Hari and the men of 3 Punjab, 1935. Alfa Company reposed faith in their commander's leadership with a rousing 'jaikara'.

Outnumbered, surrounded and cut off, Chandpuri and his men held out the entire night till the link up the next day. On the verge of being overrun by the Pakistani armour, they were saved by the IAF's flyboys in their aptly named Hunter fighters with their skilful shooting and strafing. In the end, it was a famous victory for Indian arms.

Working on the Jai Hind basis

In the wake of Partition and the mass uprooting of populations, many Punjabi soldiers deserted their posts to rescue and resettle their families. When the balloon went up in Kashmir in October that year, most of them voluntarily returned to their units. Their rationale was, 'We've won freedom after a thousand years of foreign domination. We cannot allow this hard won independence to be threatened. Our families, we can resettle any time.' This was the spirit with which the Indian armed forces as a whole approached the operations in Jammu and Kashmir in 1947-48.

There was a new Indian spirit in the air, a feeling of working for oneself rather than the colonial masters. A whole new attitude pervaded the working of officers and men alike. It goaded them to hitherto unscaled heights. Hardships were made light of, shortages were ignored, improvisation was the order of the day. The goal was victory at all costs, the preservation of the nation and its interests and territory was of utmost importance.

In time, this became known facetiously as working on the 'Jai Hind basis'. Facetious because in the name of the paramount national interest, the armed forces were made to labour under severe shortages and deprivations of all kinds. And they responded magnificently. Decrease in scales and inferior quality rations, poor or non-existent accommodation, even poorer clothing and personal equipment, outdated weapons, pay scales which poorly reflected responses to current market prices and worst of all, economies in expenditure on training became the norm. The worst instance of such attitudes was the 1962 War and the deprived circumstances under which it was fought.

With the nation's economy advancing, there must be a realistic look at such practices. The nation must get the best defence that we can now afford.

INS Tarkash arrives in India

INS Tarkash (F50) the second of the three-ship second batch of Talwar class stealth frigates joined the Western Fleet on December 27 last year after her voyage from the Yantar shipyard at Kalinigrad in Russia where she was built.
I take this opportunity to wish the Tarkash and its crew headed by Captain Antony George, an anti-submarine warfare specialist 'Shan Nau Varuna' (May the ocean god be auspicious unto us).

First Published: Apr 14, 2013 09:27 IST