Brigadier Rajinder Singh : Defender of Kashmir

01 Jan 2018 19:45:50



The narration of how bravely and tactfully Brigadier Rajinder Singh defended his motherland even though he had to sacrifice his life while doing that makes our hearts filled with pride. With his indomitable courage, wise leadership, a heart full of boundless love and loyalty for motherland and a handful of soldiers, he kept a huge number of Pakistani invaders away from Kashmir for four long days. He could not save his own life, but ensured the safety of Kashmir. For his exemplary valor and service to his motherland, he was awarded Maha Veer Chakra (MVC) posthumously. His wife received this honour on 30th of December, 1949. He was the first person of independent India to receive this honour.


Rajinder Singh was born on 14th of June, 1899 in Samba tehsil of Jammu. His father, grandfather and other ancestors, all were great soldiers. Because of untimely death of his father Lakha Singh, he was brought up in the guardianship of his uncle Col. Govind Singh. He was a sincere and studious student. He earned his graduation degree from GGM Science college, Jammu. It was called “Prince of Wales College” in those days. On 14 of June 1921, exactly at the age of 22, he was made an Army Officer. Because of his leadership qualities, he rose quickly at the ladder of success. He was made Brigadier in May 1942. On 25th of September 1947, he was made Major General and was appointed as 'Chief of Army Staff' of the Jammu Kashmir army. He took over the charge from General HL Scott.


Jammu Kashmir was facing serious military and political crisis when he became the chief of army staff. Pakistan had attacked Kashmir to capture it forcibly, putting Kabailis forward as so-called “rebels”. The invaders were 6000 in numbers, divided into 6 'Lashkars' of 1000 each. Each lashkar was being led by a “Malik”. There were a Major, a Captain and 10 Junior Commissioned Officers with each Malik. This whole army was moving under command of Major General Akbar Khan. He was being assisted by Brigadier Sher Khan who was a resident of Kashmir and knew the terrain very well. He had planned to deploy his forces into a formation, and move towards Srinagar to capture it.


In the meanwhile, another shocking incidence happened. Two companies of 4th J&K Regiment of the state had Muslims soldiers of Poonch in them. In the name of “Jehad”, they joined the enemy forces betraying their own companions. They also took arms and ammunitions with them. This treachery was so dire that they even killed their commanding officer Lt. Col. Narayan Singh and other officers while they were asleep. Narayan Singh had been warned by the intelligence about the possibility of such incidence. But he had ignored the warning as he had more faith in these soldiers than in the Dogra soldiers. The main objective of the invaders was to  capture the capital, Srinagar, and establish the so called “People's Government” there. By the night of 21-22nd of October, all of these military forces gathered across the International boundary. The boundary was near Muzaffarabad at that time. Jammu Kashmir connected to the mainlands of India via Lahore during partition in 1947, and Lahore became part of Pakistan. The road passing through Lahore was the only way through which necessary goods were supplied to the state.


Taking advantage of this, Pakistan blocked this road, thus blocking necessary supplies to the state. The Pakistani invaders than ransacked the city of Muzaffarabad. They not only looted the city, but also dishonoured mothers and sisters, killed citizens including children. The then ruler of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh received this dreadful news in the afternoon of 22nd of October. The Maharaja ordered to gather soldiers from Badami Bagh cantonment, but only 150 of them were available there. They also did not have any modern weapons. As the road supply was blocked, they also did not have sufficient fuel for military vehicles.


In such grave conditions, the Maharaja made two important decisions – First, immediately complete the formalities of Jammu Kashmir's accession to India and seek its military aid, and two, prevent the invaders from advancing further at all costs until the arrival of Indian army. He decided to lead his small contingent of soldiers himself to face the enemy at the frontier. He called over his Chief of Army Staff, Brig. Rajinder Singh, to debrief him on the situations before leaving. Brig. Rajinder Singh persuaded the Maharaja to let him lead the contingent to stop the enemy, while Maharaja takes care of situations within the state. The Maharaja ordered him to stop the invaders until Indian forces arrive. The task was obviously quite a challenge and obviously dangerous.


Brigadier left for the front in the evening of 22nd of October on public transport due to lack of fuel for military vehicles. The slippery paths due to rain were further slowing him down, yet knowing the value of time, he kept moving. His contingent reached Uri at 2:30 past midnight. Leaving a small platoon at Uri, he left for Garhi. A fierce battle was fought in Garhi in which the enemy suffered heavy losses initially. But they became dominant later due to their huge numbers. The brigadier decided to fall back to Uri, and hold the defences there. He informed the Head Quarters of the situation, and requested for more soldiers and ammunitions. Brig. Faqir Singh at the headquarters promised to send a contingent of 70-80 men.


On 24th of October, Captain Jwala Singh came with a small contingent at around 3 in the morning. He had brought along with him an order-letter from Maharaja to hold the enemy in Uri till the last man. Despite his best efforts, when Brig. Rajinder Singh found it difficult to stop the enemy advancement, he ordered to destroy the bridge at river Uri. This successfully stopped the enemy at the other side of the river. Here again, the Brigadier inflicted serious damage on the enemy forcing them to fall back. But two hours later they returned in large numbers and placed a deadly attack on the defences. As a result, the Brigadier was forced to make the decision to withdraw from there, and set up the defence in Mahura. Although this was clearly a violation of Majaraja's order, but was actually a very wise decision as was proven later.


Brigadier reached Mahura with his men at 10 in the night. The enemy attacked on 25th of October at 7 in the morning. Our barricading here was so strong that the enemy had to decide to cross the river Jhelum in small groups using small footbridges. Brigadier order to destroy these footbridges as well. This was done by around 4:30 in the evening, but some of the enemy platoons had already crossed the river by then.


In order to meet his goal of stopping the enemy from advancing further, the Brigadier now decided to set up his defences near Pathar, a place near Rampur. His soldiers remained busy throughout the night of 25th in tirelessly digging trenches and bunkers. This entrenchment proved to be so effective that even though enemy fire was coming from all directions, yet they could not succeed in launching a well-planned attack. Seeing their attacks being ineffective, the enemy adopted another strategy – they blocked the roads to stop the Brigadier from moving again. The Brigadier decided to set up yet another defence at Sheri Bridge in the west of Baramulla. His convoy moved towards the new target in the morning of 27th of October. Despite heavy enemy fire from all sides, the first roadblock was tackled without any loss. But while moving the second one near Devan Mandir (Buniyar), the driver got killed in the attack and the convoy halted. His convoy was consisted of seven vehicles. When Captain Jwala Singh himself came down to clear the roadblock, he saw that the drivers of the first three vehicles had been killed. Somehow he cleared away these three vehicles to move with the remaining four, but he found the Brigadier in none of them. What had happened was that when the driver of the second vehicle got killed, the Brigadier himself took the driving seat. But he also got heavily wounded in his right leg in the deadly firing that came from an MMG. He forced his men to leave him under the culvert with a revolver and move ahead to take position at the new defence-point so that the enemy advancement towards Srinagar could be stopped once more. It was around 2 in the morning of 27th of October when he laid down his life in the service of motherland. The same day Indian army landed at Srinagar airport and started pushing the Pakistani invaders back.


The efforts and sacrifice of Brigadier Rajinder Singh proved to be a key factor in saving Kashmir. He knew and understood very well that he must prevent the enemy from reaching Srinagar until the arrival of Indian forces, whatever it takes. He kept changing positions, adopted different ways to check the enemy. He could simply obey Maharaja's orders and sacrifice his life at the first or the second front. But his objective was clear for him, which he put above his own life. The Indian Army still bows to his leadership skills. His sacrifice will always be a source of inspiration to all those who those who have unbounded love for their country.


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