Archive for November, 2014

1947/48 War – Gen Thimaya’s Tribute to 1st SIKH

Posted on November 25, 2014. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

By son of Col Harwant Singh MC, 1 Sikh.  Col Harwant Singh MC (Retd) is 94 yrs. He was one of the Company Commanders of 1 SIKH when they landed in Srinagar on 27 Oct 1947. He took part in all actions of the unit before taking command of 4 SIKH in Dec 48 in the Valley itself.

The Dakota landings of the Indian Army commenced on 27 Oct 1947 and were spearheaded by 1 SIKH under Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai. One Dakota carrying the Signal Platoon had to force land at Jammu and joined after three days. Meanwhile the CO took near two coys to Mile 32, East of Baramulla and occupied hill features astride the road. Col Rai was killed on evening of 28 Oct in a rear guard action against the attacking horde of raiders. He was awarded a posthumous MVC. As rest of the battalion had not arrived, Major Harwant Singh MC, D Coy Commander took command.

The CO had given orders to withdraw and stop the raiders at the Shalateng Spill Channel 4 ½ miles from Srinagar. However during Night 28t/29 Oct, Maj Harwant Singh MC with six years service decided to make a stand at Mile 17 near Pattan, midway between Srinagar and Baramulla and this position was occupied on Night 28/29.

The position had barely been occupied when at dawn the leading convoy of raiders was ambushed. Repeated attacks were launched by the raiders to dislodge 1 SIKH from Mile 17 but the unit held firm and inflicted heavy casualties on the raiders. Had the raiders not been held at Pattan, Srinagar would surely have fallen on 29 Oct itself.

This action delayed the raiders by some 48 hrs and enabled the defense of the Srinagar Airfield to be prepared.

Here is Gen KS Thimaya’s Order of the Day as GOC 19 Div, when 1 Sikh left the Valley –

I bid farewell to you, Officers and men of the 1st Battalion The SIKH Regiment, on the eve of your departure from 19 Division.

You had the honor of being the first Battalion to arrive by air to Srinagar on the outbreak of hostilities and you reached Srinagar on the 27th October 47. The enemy was then at Baramula when you pushed forward. During this action you lost your gallant commander – Colonel Rai. Owing to the lack of  reinforcements and the overwhelming strength of the enemy you were forced to pull back to the outskirts of the city until your whole Battalion was concentrated.

From here, as part of 161 Brigade you made a brilliant advance and pushed the enemy all the way back to Uri causing him heavy casualties. Your speedy advance caused the enemy to run beyond Muzaffarabad. It was purely for other reasons that we stopped you from reaching Muzaffarabad itself.

From then on as part of 161 Brigade you held a secure base at Uri and prevented the enemy from infiltrating into the Kashmir Valley from the West. During this time you had some very fierce engagements with the enemy in which you proved your superiority in every way. For many of you the sight of snow was a novel experience and the way you operated and stayed in that area under intense cold and in difficult terrain was a fine example of toughness and high morale.

Early in spring the enemy infiltrated into the Handwara Valley via the Nastachhun Pass. You were hurriedly sent there to push him back from Sopor and Handwara and there you held him in the hills and prevented him from making further advance.

During this time, apart from the fighting that you carried out, you took the opportunity of befriending the local population and with them you gained great popularity and won the confidence of the peasants, which has been a deciding factor in the political stability of Kashmir.

All this time you were part of J&K Force. In April 1948 Sri Division came into existence and you formed part of 163 Infantry Brigade. In May 1948 Sri Division took the offensive to the West and your Battalion as part of 163 Infantry Brigade took a most prominent part in these operations.

On the night of 16 /17 May in a lightening advance from Handwara you surrounded the enemy HQ at Dogarpur and then continued to capture Chowkibal, the Nastachun Pass and finally entered Tithwal on 23rd May 48. This was an amazing advance under very difficult conditions and in very mountainous country against a Pathan enemy who was highly skilled in mountain warfare. When you pushed through the Nastachun Pass, it was still under ice and snow.

From then on you held the most vital part of the Tithwal area for six months. You occupied a forward position which was constantly under heavy mortar and artillery fire. The enemy made repeated attempts to drive you from this position and the last effort of the enemy on 13 October when he used over three Battalions with heavy Artillery and Mortar support. You beat him back causing very heavy casualties. 

During all these operations you suffered the following :-Killed Two Officers, Six JCOs and 101 ORs. Wounded- Five Officers, 15 JCOs and 342 ORs. Missing – One JCO and 15 ORs. Enemy Casualties Killed, 1206; Wounded 1215 and Missing 15.

Before the partition of the Indian Army your Regiment – the SIKH Regiment- had earned for itself a great reputation for gallantry and efficiency in two World Wars and in numerous operations on the North West Frontier.

During these 13 months in the Kashmir Valley, fighting for free India, you have surpassed all previous records and have further enhanced your traditions as a fighting unit.

It has been a great privilege to have had you in my Division in which you have helped to lay the foundations of a great tradition and it is with  great sorrow that I bid farewell to your officers and men whom I have come to love and admire.

The Valley of Kashmir will always sing your praises and echo the deeds of gallantry performed by you.

Some of you who are present in the parade have lost all you owned in the West Punjab. You have lost your homes and your families have been displaced and many of you are  still without a home. In spite of all this you have fought hard and kept your morale high and enhanced the reputation of the Indian Army.

I hope you will all – in a very short time – be able to take your well earned leave and that you will find your families in great cheer and happiness. I wish you all a well earned rest. May God be with you – JAI HIND!

K S Thimaya,                                                                                                                                            Major General – Srinagar J&K Nov 1948

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The 1971 War – The Turning Point

Posted on November 18, 2014. Filed under: Books, From a Services Career, Personalities |

Contrary to the claims of the likes of Arora, Jacob and there ilk, these extracts from the review by Group Captain Unni Kartha of Mukul Deva’s Book, ‘The Garud Strikes’ , tell what really triggered the sure end to the 1971 War.     

Unni begins with a Quote from London’s Sunday Times of 12 Dec 1971 – just four days before the Pak surrender – ‘It has taken only 12 days for the Indian army to smash its way to Dacca, an achievement reminiscent of the German blitzkrieg across France in 1940. The strategy was the same – Speed, Ferocity and Flexibility’.

“The book is a must read especially because of the yeoman service rendered by the FAC, just 19 and still a ‘Pitot Tube’. It gives an in-depth understanding of the importance of close air support, why or how the ‘boots on the ground’ need the unstinting support of Air Power.

The highlight of this story is the Meghna air lift, the largest heli-borne operations ever undertaken in war. The basic Pak defense strategy was based on the belief that a threat from 4 Corps in the east was limited, due to major water obstacles, especially the wide swath and oxbow lakes of Meghna river, which made Dacca unassailable and safe.

That perhaps was the perception of the Indian army too, reason why 4 Corps and Gen Sagat Singh was initially given only a limited offensive role in the ’71 war and the major Indian thrust was from the North and West. But Sagat had a visible character trait that perhaps was neither understood by Pak nor the Indian High Command.

Much like Guderian, Rommel and Patton, Sagat was a General who had a track record of going for the juggler. He was a ‘rapid manouvre and vertical envelopment man’ from the Paras.

Besides he had an incredible game changer; ten Mi-4s of 110 Helicopter Unit, based in Kumbhigram (Silchar). In those years, any helicopter unit could barely have 50% fully operational machines- or pilots – to field for any operation. Their motto was ‘Apatstu Mitram’ and hence, by doctrine or training they were really not men of war, and not too eager for eye ball contact with the enemy. But Sagat had another real game changer right beside him.

This was Gp Capt Chandan Singh – a man with the same ‘do or die’ spirit as Sagat. Chandan had given evidence of his mettle in the ’62 War in Ladakh where he got himself a VrC for dropping ammunition and supplies on a post which was under attack. Earlier Sqn Ldr Chandan Singh had been with his brazen devil may care carriage, the most beloved of the NDA Sqn Cdrs in 57/58.

Though the Air HQ and Eastern Air Command had decreed before the commencement of hostilities that the helicopters of 110 could at best be used for causality evacuation or barely heli-lift a company strength in or out of non-hostile area, both Sagat and Chandan had other plans.

Chandan waved his magic wand and led in person from the front. He turned Sqn Ldr Sandhu and his boys of 110 from pupa to butterfly, did a ‘Bulbo’ (getting all their 10 machines airborne simultaneously, a unique feat) and moved into enemy territory right alongside Sagat, who was leading 4 Corps.

Two more Mi-4s from 105 joined Chandan. Wave after wave, in a nonstop 24 hours operation, 12 Mi-4s flew to and fro between Brahmanbaria stadium in East Pak, right across the oxbow lakes of Meghna, deep into enemy held territory, to an open cultivated field in Raipur, right adjacent to the enemy deployments in Methikanda, first inducting A-Coy 4 Guards to hold ground and then the entire battalion.

As 4 Guards over-ran Methikanda and Narsingdi, the heli-borne operations became bolder and the landing sites went further forward, towards Narsingdi, airlifting an armada of almost a Division.

What is really amazing is that the entire heli-borne operation was an impromptu improvisation in the heat of the battle, and not a well thought out or rehearsed military manoeuvre. Not at that time and then or ever. The Meghna heli-lift is what changed the course of war and by 9 Dec 71, just 9 days from the time 4 Guards crossed the border. Dacca became an achievable objective.

The initial Indian war plan of limited objectives now changed to the total capture of East Pakistan, surprising every one including Pak. At the vanguard of this heli-borne armada was A Coy of 4 Guards, led by Paunchy. And the day Paunchy went across and set up harbour for the heli-borne armada at Raipur, way behind the Pak 14 Inf Div at Bhairab Bazar and the formidable fortress at Ashugunj, Pak as good as lost the war. Paunchy is a Rimcollian and from NDA (F/24th). He won a VrC.

PS. Ala Guderian who was shelved during Barborrassa, Rommel who was made to take poison, Patton who was passed over by Bradley,

Sagat too was made to give way to KK and never made Army Commander. Chandan took premature retirement as Air Marshal over a matter of principle.

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Indian Rule of Law …

Posted on November 17, 2014. Filed under: Indian Thought, Searching for Success |

By Ajay Shukla IAS (retd)  –
I address the immediate issue of how we treat different classes of accused, even though we are fed, ad nauseum, the lie that the law is the same for everyone. I am increasingly beginning to feel that the law is putty in the hands of skilled and expensive lawyers and that there is no consistency in the judgments handed down from those lofty heights.
How else does one explain that in this country a convicted and sentenced felon can get bail while a person who is not even convicted is denied bail? Both Mr. Lalu Yadav and Ms. Jayalalitha have been convicted and sentenced but have been released on bail, simply because they have/ are appealing their convictions.  Why then have the Talwars not been released, whose circumstances are exactly similar? I am no apologist for Tarun Tejpal but I am one for equality before the law, and therefore I am compelled to wonder why he has been locked up since one year even though he has not been convicted and his trial has a long way to go?
Because one set relates to corruption( not heinous) and the other to violent crimes? Then why were Kanimozhi and A Raja imprisoned for a year( their charge was also of corruption)? Because they could influence witnesses? Really? It stretches one’s credulity to believe that the latter two could threaten/bribe witnesses and Lalu and Jayalalitha cannot.

As I said earlier, try as you might it will be impossible to locate any thread of consistency in the law applied in these cases. We are told that each case is different-yes, indeed, but isn’t the law supposed to be the same? I do discern, however, a faint and nebulous thread running through these cases, and perhaps you do too – if you are a politician the law will treat you with kid gloves, and if your case is picked up by Arnab Goswami and Karan Thapar for prime time panel discussions then you are damned!

This is a constantly emerging pattern and cannot be a coincidence. The Talwars and Tejpal (and Mr. Pandher- let us not forget this gentleman who has been acquitted in almost all the cases against him but has been reduced to a cadaver after seven years in jail) – they were dead meat the day the prime time mob got after them, and the law obliged.

The grant of parole is another mystery I cannot fathom. Tens of thousands of under-trials cannot even think of getting parole but the privileged have no problem, even though they are convicted and sentenced.

A Chautala gets the reprieve on medical grounds and then goes on to campaign for elections: our judicial conscience is assuaged by sending him back to jail AFTER the campaigning period is over! A Manu Sharma (sentenced to life for murder, no less) repeatedly obtains parole for attending funerals, weddings and taking exams.

A Sanjay Dutt benefits likewise because his wife is supposed to be ill, though she is otherwise seen partying.

Two Italian marines are given a vacation to celebrate Christmas with their families in Italy- if bilateral relations make this imperative, then why charge them in the first place: why not simply accept the crores offered by Italy as compensation and give the two a Presidential pardon? Why first bring them into the legal system and then twist this system and make a mockery of it?

Something else that addles my jurisprudence challenged brain is the constant interventions by higher courts in the proceedings of trial courts, somewhat similar to what Arnab Goswami does to his panelists.

With more than 30 million cases pending in various courts as of 2013, should trials be stayed on the flimsiest of applications?

A case which immediately comes to mind is the National Herald case against the Gandhi clan. Taking cognizance of a complaint the trial court issued summons to the accused for appearance almost three months ago. The accused immediately approached a higher court (no surprises here!) and got a stay-and added another number to the pendency.

The case has not moved forward an inch-which suits the Gandhis just fine.

Consider another odd case: Salman Khan was CONVICTED by a trial court in the black buck poaching case two years ago but the sentence was suspended by the Rajasthan High Court without even deciding his appeal. The Rajasthan govt. has challenged this in the Supreme Court. The main appeal is yet to be heard. Years have been unnecessarily added to the final disposal of this case enabling our dabang hero to add a few dozen more crores to his kitty. And this is in addition to the dozens he has already added because his hit-and-run case in Bombay has already taken 12 years and reached nowhere, because mid-way the honourable judge decided to add fresh charges against the thespian, and the whole trial had to be started de nouveau. Why can our courts not realize that delays benefit only the rich and powerful, and then do something about it?

It has become almost the norm, if your pockets are deep enough and your connections extensive enough, to challenge every interim order of a trial court at a higher forum. Appeals are filed against charge-sheets, summons and warrants, framing of charges, summoning of witnesses, nature of evidences, and just about every excuse the fecund mind of a well paid lawyer can conjure up.

I am unable to understand why these appeals are entertained at all-why not simply let the trial go on and let these issues become the causus belli in appeal when the trial court passes its final order?

I have no difficulty in understanding why the lawyers do so- after all, if you are paid a few lakhs for every appearance( in court) your mind will be as fertile as a vermicomposting pit. But why do the courts allow this to happen?

How is it that politicians who work 16 hours a day while in office and corporates who party for just as long, invariably develop heart/ blood pressure conditions the moment they are sent to jail? And why are our courts so accommodating as to send them to the nearest five star hospital ( in the comfort of which they can plan their next interlocutory appeal)? Why can they not be treated, if treatment is required at all, in the jail hospital or the nearest govt. hospital? After all, govt. hospitals are where law abiding and unconvicted (as yet) citizens like you and I go to-why not these hot shots?

If the courts sent them there instead of molly coddling them I can guarantee that, given the conditions of our govt. hospitals, these worthies would be screaming to be sent back to their VIP cells in Tihar and such requests would end once and for all.

And finally, about our laws and law makers. About 150000 Indians die in traffic accidents every year, victims of over speeding, drunk driving, unlicensed drivers, rash driving and other similar conscious acts.

And yet the perpetrators of these deaths obtain bail within a few hours and, if convicted at all, can get a maximum sentence of two years only.  In other words if you kill somebody with a six inch pistol or a nine inch knife weighing 500 grammes you will get life or death, but if you know your law you would be better advised to kill someone with a four meter projectile weighing two tonnes; chances are you would go scot free or spend just a year or two in jail, even less if you develop high blood pressure or an enlarged prostate or decide to take your bar council exams at this propitious moment.

Why cannot the law be amended to make such a deliberate act( it IS deliberate if you drive while drunk or break the speed limit or do not ha

In the USA such offences come under a separate category termed vehicular homicide, an eminently sensible formulation. What prevents the government from bringing in a similar law, or the Supreme Court from ordering the govt. to do so?

Civilizations cannot exist for long without a system for imparting justice that is fair, equitable, affordable, accessible; a system that is not hijacked by the rich or powerful few.

In India our much vaunted justice or judicial system sadly lacks all these attributes.

Furthermore, it is not merely laws that ensure the rule of law: its guarantee lies in the intellectual integrity of its practitioners-the plaintiffs, lawyers, the judges; here again there is much that is found wanting.

The time has come for us to tackle this creeping malaise. Otherwise there are Alternative Dispute Redressal Mechanisms( ADRMs) waiting in the wings to take over. These comprise a range of mediums or agencies, none of them compatible with a progressive society: the Taliban, The Khap Panchayat, the D-company, the Vigilante, the Encounter Specialist, the Dirty Harry cop. Their prototypes have already arrived. Its time for us to wake up.

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