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Veterans’ parleys in run-up to Chandigarh Military Lit Fest

‘Colonel LJS Gill displayed guts and determination in jumping without para-training in his eagerness to go into battle with his battalion in 1971’

punjab Updated: Dec 03, 2017 15:03 IST
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Hindustan Times
Military Literature Festival,Chandigarh,Kashmir war
Brigadier IS Gakhal talking about 1st Sikh’s operations in the first Kashmir War at the Military Literature Festival’s Veterans Parleys.(Harmeet Singh Dhillon)

This writer was asked by many veterans whether any pass was needed to enter the venue of the two-day parleys being held as part of the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh last week. My answer was, “You only have to state that you fought for your country or served it”. That was the crux of the matter. This was armed forces’ veterans own event; a platform provided by the organisers to them to express themselves on any military subject. The lectures ranged from Lieutenant General Bhopinder Singh analysing the Indian military as a part of our society and it’s relevance and status to Brigadier Kiran Krishen talking about military humour (it not only exists but is very useful as a safety valve).

There were a number of battle experiences articulated spanning the whole gamut of free India’s wars from the operations of 1st Sikh in Jammu and Kashmir in 1947-48, through bomber operations in 1971, to the lessons learned from the Kargil War. Military technocrats talked about who matters more, man or machine, and defence industrialisation. Of particular interest were the accounts of their service related by two woman officers. All in all, a thoroughly absorbing couple of days. The organisers plan to make this platform available on a regular basis.

Parachuting Without Training

Young LJS Gill, popularly known as Lalli, was commissioned in the middle of November 1971 and joined his unit, 2 Para in the concentration area near Kolkata. The war started a few days later. A parachute drop was planned on December 11th to capture the Poongli bridge on the River Jamuna and cut off the retreat of the Pakistani 93 Brigade towards Dhaka. This was strategically important since it would leave the Dhaka Bowl bereft of combat troops and vulnerable to a lightning Indian thrust.

Lalli had no parachute training and was supposed to be left behind. However, he was determined to jump with his battalion. Seeing his motivation, 2 Para’s commander, Colonel Kulwant Pannu agreed. Air Force instructors taught the spirited subaltern the rudiments of a para-jump in the short time available. Lalli jumped and landed safely in a pond some distance away from the dropping zone. Re-joining the main body, he took part in defending the unit’s perimeter against numerous Pakistani attempts to clear the roadblock set up by them. These were all beaten back, the advancing 95 Brigade joined up and the victorious march to Dhaka continued. Lalli retired to Mohali after a successful second career in the corporate world but will always relive that perilous moment when he jumped into battle sans parachute training.

National Maritime Foundation

The Indian Navy’s think-tank for conducting policy-relevant research is the National Maritime Foundation (NMF). Inaugurated in 2005, the foundation fulfils a long-standing need to correct the neglect of naval interests and abysmal ignorance of maritime affairs within the nation’s policy-making establishment.

The NMF has since it’s establishment grown from a small body to a full-fledged institute of intellectual capability. This has largely been due to the calibre of the men working in it and careful nurturing.

Regional chapters have been set up in some of the southern states. Ideally, these would be set up in all coastal states. I would venture to suggest that centres for naval study should also be developed in landlocked regions particularly within leading universities.

(Please write in with your narratives of war and military life to msbajwa@gmail.com or call/WhatsApp on 093161-35343)

First Published: Dec 03, 2017 15:02 IST