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When I Averted An Indo-Pak war----A real Life Incident of 1972!

Nov 11th 2010 at 3:47 PM

Place was Village Chak Mukam, Tangdhar Sector; Lipa Valley; Kashmir.  Month and year were June 1972 . Exact date I do not remember. I was on a special mission patrol of about 20 men, from 'Bravo Company' of my battalion. I was given this special mission to village ChakMukam in Lipa Valley on the banks of river Neelam or Kishanganga (On Indian Side), on my immediate return from Young officers course from Junior Leaders Wing, Infantry School, Belgaum, Karnatka.

1_lipa valley-1 by rajee kushwaha
View of meandering road to LIPA VALLEY ---Photo by A Pakistani  visitor to Lipa Valley in POK ---(All PICS FROM NET) 
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    "Hullo, one five for two alpha, message over", the radio link of my CO was desperately trying to establish link with me and my patrol.

   "Hullo, two alpha for one five, Ok over" , I shouted back into the handset.

    "One five for Two Alpha, what the f***ks you are doing? where are you?" my CO was shouting at me.

    " One five I have done my task--I have occupied village Chak Mukam----. I have collected the villagers. I am making them sing our National Anthem---Jana Gana Mana-" I was enthusiastically elaborating when another voice intervened.

     " Shut up, you rascal. Stop this nonsense--DON'T START A NEW WAR  ON YOUR OWN.--we have interrupted message from other side-----they were asking for artillery fire on you----They claim we have attacked them---" Some one else was shouting at me.

        The intruder was interrupted by my CO, "Hullo, One Five for 'One- O -Four', let me handle this---I will retrieve the situation". I could hear my Tiger (CO) sounding a peace maker. But I was wondering why were they panicking when I had everything under control----villagers were peacefully singing our national anthem , after some coaching, of course. 

    "One O-four- for one five----Get this rascal out immediately----I want him to be marched up to me". The intruding station seemed to me none other than our Brigade Commander, Brig M ML Ghai--an officer from Corps of Engineer.

     My CO was crisp, " Hullo, One Five for Two Alpha, leave the place immediately and move to "Rakhi"---a post held by our neighbouring Battalion in Chhamkot Sub sector.

    " Two Alpha for One Five, but the villagers want us to stay on. They were complaining about the Pakistani soldiers and their high handedness---They are----" I was trying to convince.

   " One Five for two Alpha, just shut up -----They would come down with artillery fire on you in next ten minutes-----it might lead to some serious exchange of fire----Get out of the place before it begins-----You have proved your point---Now collect your men and get moving-----Be quick------Go to "Rakhi" Post ", My Tiger instructed me.  I had no alternative but to follow orders. It was around 11.30 AM, I left the place.

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                 Before I go further, I must give you a bit of a background to this incident. You must know that Shimla summit meeting, between ZA Bhutto and Smt. Indira Gandhi,  was held in July 1972. Therefore, before the meeting, both sides had to agree on the identification of certain land marks along which the Line of Control or LC ran. Accordingly, delienation talks for identification of LC on ground, sector wise,  by military representatives from both sides, had begun in March 1972.

         As a consequence of claims and counter claims, KAYIAN BOWL incident had taken place in our Brigade Sector in May 1972, whereby two of our battalions had suffered very badly as a result of an incident started by us but cleverly exploited by Pakistan.

      ( Kayian Bowl was in the NOGAON sector of our Brigade. After the war, one of our Sikh battalions was holding defences along the LC. Kayian was a depression with high hills on all sides. We controlled the entry to it from three directions. As the war ended, one of the section of nine men of Pakistan held the depression area.  After the war, on humanitarian grounds, our men allowed logistic supplies to Pakistani Section through a narrow corridor. In fact, some kind of friendhip developed and our men ignored some of the acts of Pakistanis.  But Pakistan on the quite, had built up the force upto a Battalion strength---by sending men carrying suplies as porters at night. Some would return but bulk would stay back.  We did not know anything. They prepared defences at night. We were always under the impression that we would throw them out anyday .  We had, therefore claimed that we were in occupation of the Kayian Bowl.  When Pakistan disputed, we launched an operation which became a fiasco because of poor assessment of enemy strength. We suffered heavy casualities. Then, Pakistan launched a Counter attack on the Sikh Battalion which suffered extensive fatal casualities.)

       It is no gainsaying the fact that our claims of LC were based on map marking without physical verification on the ground. This had to happen because of the characteristics of our Brigade commander. He had made tall claims on territory without physical verification. Accordingly, like Kayian Bowl, village Chak Mukam was also shown as our own village.

       My new Commanding officer, Lt Col. SS Sahrawat, was member of the military delegation for delienation of LC in our sector. He had joined us in March 1972, while I had been on the Young Officer's course. I, alongwith  my batchmates from Indian Military Academy, Dehradun,  did the basic training for young officers only after the war---though we were commissioned in June 1971. 

      As Lt Colonel S S Sahrawat was the member of the delegation for delienation talks, headed by Lt. General PS Bhagat from India, he had been given map references of  places we had laid claims. Being the battalion commander responsible for "Sari Ridge", he disputed our claims of controlling village Chak Mukam. His logic was simple. The village was some 4-5 Kms away from our nearest post at  'Amar Singh Ki Tekri', while Pakistani post was just a few meters away across the Neelam River. He asserted that we can not control it unless we had physical presence there. But our Brigade Commander rubbished his logic . 

        The LC in our sector was earmarked by Brigade Commander and our previous CO, who had moved out on a coveted posting as Instructor  to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Tamil Nadu.  It was done on the map. No effort was ever made to verify the facts till our new CO took over and he tried to get a hang of it because he was to represent our Brigade Sector at the delieanation talks. In so doing , he had sent two patrols but Brigade Commander refused to accept their version of domination of the village by Pakistan. He had insisted that village being on our side of the river ought to be under our domination. Also, he told the CO that it was his battalion who had given this reference and it was the job of our battalion to sort it out. Truth was that he had manipulated it with previous CO, who had no concern and was going away on posting. Thus, it was entirely commander's doing and he insisted that the map reference would not be changed, as this had gone to higher HQ , some three months back.

        (Now you know, as to when the moral degradation began in the armed forces which is now getting to reflect its face  through Tehleka -expose on commissions some years back or more recently on Sukhna Land Scam or Adarsh Housing Colony scandal in Mumbai. As a passing reference, I must say that it was not that corruption had suddenly come to army but the disturbing fact that corrupt only had become Generals. AK anthony should know it better because he was party to it when he sheltered General Deepak Kapoor  in response to serious charges of corruption against him by his successor in Northern Command, Lt. General HS Panag. Anyway-----)

     My new CO had done his bit by sending patrols twice to take control of the village or just dominate it. But on being heavily fired upon,  patrols had failed. His repeated observation to Brigade HQ to make the amendment to the given map reference,t was turned down by Brigade Commander . Commander insisted that the village Chak Mukam  be shown as controlled by our battalion. It was around this time that I had returned to my unit from Belgaum, Karnatka .

lipavalley-3 by rajee kushwaha

LIPA VALLEY  IN 2010 ( ALL PICS FROM THE NET---FROM A PAKISTANI SITE)

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         It was 8 PM and I was leafing through a magazine in my officer's mess shelter at Battalion Headquarters at Nagina post (Now called Shararat ), when another person entered the mess shelter.  I looked at him. His slim waist line and fluffy hairs told me that he was some young captain from a neighbouring unit, who might have come on a patrol to our unit. I got up and wished him. We got involved in a discussion on the 1971 war and how we had captured the Wanjal feature on the night of 15/16 December 1971. To be very frank, as is usual in any conversation, one tends to exaaggerate facts to those who are silent listeners. And I was doing it very deftly, so I thought. 

     He suddenly asked me, " Have you been to village Chak Mukam?".

    "Oh, a number of times----" I boasted.

       In fact, it was not a white lie, but an exaggeration because I had been only twice in December 1971, immediately after the ceasefire . The village Chak Mukam is located on the tip of a "Sari" ridge line, taking off from Nastachun Pass (also called--SADHNA PASS---after that Bollywood actress of yesteryears by the same name)  over the Samshabari Range, moving south east as part of a spur, jutting out of the Nagina and going South east some 8-10 Kms via some of our defended posts at 'Ghasla Top', 'Brown Patch, 'Left Shoulder', 'Ring Contour' and 'Amar Singh Tekri' . All these localities were captured by one of our sister battalions of Rajputana Rifles (RAJ RIF) during the 1971 war and my battalion had been asked to occupy them after the war.  The village Chak Mukam, was located just 3-4 Kms away from the last post of 'Amar singh Tekri', right on the banks of River Neelam. ( It is called River Kishanganga on our side)  

    As I was bragging about my exploits in Chak Mukam, just then another officer, our Adjutant, Captain AD Singh entered the mess shelter. The way he said 'good evening" to the stranger and paid his respect, I was a bit rattled. AD Singh then, pointing his fingrer towards me said,  " Sir, he is Subaltern Rajinder Singh----We call him Rajee---Just returned from Young officer's course".  

     "Yea, I met him AD, he is quite familiar with Village Chak Mukam---he claims, he had been to the village number of times. Let us see, if he makes it to the village now.  Why don't you send him on a patrol to the village? " came the directions from the stranger.  

     Capt AD Singh frowned at me but said, " Rajee , meet me after dinner I will brief you about the same." 

    Some other battalion officers joined us in the Mess shelter and the way every one was paying respect to the stranger, I knew as to who he was. I had realised that I had put my foot in my mouth by talking arrogantly to my new Commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel, S S Sahrawat. While I was feeling disturbed, he gave me mischievious and a crooked smile. Later, we became familiar with this smile when he used to pit his young officers in a competition for excellence, whether it was training or sports. He would make one young officer do something and then ask others, mostly subalterns and Captains, if they could do better. It was his way of getting job done in a much better way. We all loved him because he was professionally very competent  and a very able leader of men. (Unfortunately he died at Nagrota, near Jammu,  in 1982 when approved as a Brigadier---Indian army was the biggest loser)

     After the dinner, I was briefed by Capt AD Singh. I was told that earlier two patrols had badly failed due to heavy firing from Lubgrian Post of Pakistan across the Neelam river, just opposite village Chak Mukam. The patrol leaders of both the patrols had been Commando instructors of the Divisional Battle School. One of the patrol leader, Capt VC sharma, had been injured and admitted in the hospital. Capt AD singh also told me that we have laid claim to the village in the delienation talks but Pakistan disputes it.  "May be" , he said, " Pakistan has created a post there."  I was instructed to move to BROWN PATCH ---a post between Ghasla Top and Ring Contour ----with my men.

        Before I went for the course to Belgaum, I was located here at Brown Patch---I had visited village Chak Mukam, then as a patrol Leader. In retrospect, I feel, we should have created a defended post there, if we wanted this to be shown on our side. But due to administrative reasons, it was not accepted and the village was almost left on its own. The villagers had shown a desire to be on our side. And, thus, we allowed Pakistan to dominate it from Lubgrian defended post.  

       Anyway, as per my orders, I was to rest  at Brown Patch and then choose my route, date and time . I was to inform the battalion HQ before I moved. I was cautioned that it must be done within a week, as CO was to move for delienation talk to THAKOCHAK, in Jammu Area. To be precise, after reaching BROWN PATCH, I decided to rest during the next day and move to Village ChakMukam after 2 AM during the following night. I chose the time because I wanted to be in the village by first light the next day. I told my men and Battalion HQ only at 10 PM that night. My CO was surprised on this haste---but he only said, " I like your eagerness, best of luck".

     By 5 AM, we had surrounded the village.  I told my men to collect the villagers at a mosque in the centre of the village. While doing so, my men found some 7 men in Khaki dress sleeping in a house. Two to three men managed to escape. Their weapons were taken away and they were blind folded and tied up. They were made prisoners and brought near the Mosque. Soldiers are soldiers---they have their orders and would treat roughly, anyone who resists them. So were those Pakistani men In Khaki. I learnt they were from 14 Azad Kashmir Rifles of Pakistan. Anyway, one of my task was to get evidence, if any, of Pakistan's hold in the village.

       So, I had these seven prisoners and also we had collected all things Pakistani---cigarette packets, Pakistani News papers and magazines from some houses. By 1100 hours, I had the whole village collected near the mosque and had been making them sing  our National Anthem. As they were singing Jana Gana Mana , there was hustle and bustle at Pakistani Post Lubgrian. They were shouting abuses and so we were. I had well placed my machine guns on higher ground to respond to their fire. I was sure dominating them.

     The men in Khaki joined in singing Jana Gana Mana-----and all of us were getting sadistic pleasure in making them sing this. Some of my men were veterans of earlier patrols which had failed. This was their finest hour of victory and they were being tough with men in khaki because they held them responsible for injuries to Capt VC Sharma and some other men in the previous patrol. The fault of the earlier patrols was that they used to start from 'Start Point' during early hours of the morning and they  often got day-lighted by the time they reached the village.   Also, I was told by some men that they used to move very slowly, thus alerting the Pakistani Post at Lubgrian.  No doubts, we had surprised them this time

     It was then that the radio conversation quoted above had taken place. When I told my CO about seven prisoners, he curtly asked me to free them and move away. The reason was our Brigade Commander was now getting jittery He had already earned a bad name for Kayian Bowl fiasco. He had got away by blaming the GOC by claiming that he had known everything and that's why GOC had directed him in writing to clear the Kayian Pocket.  He was a pastmaster in passing the buck. This time too he was cleverly trying to pass it on to his subordinate i.e my CO but situation was seemingly getting out of hand and he realised that he might not be so lucky for the second time.Thus, he did not want to get caught in another local fight with Pakistanis. With new GOC in command, he would have been exposed for his fake projections. 

       (Brigadier MML Ghai had saved himself in the 'Kayian Bowl fiasco' by blaming his GOC Major General E D Souza of Maratha Light Infantry. He had said that he was asked by his GOC to evict Pakistanis from Kayian Bowl. The fact was that the GOC had merely asked him to sort out the issue because it was Brigade Commander who had laid claims to Kayian Bowl. In good faith GOC did not inform his Corps Commander, Lt General Sartaz Singh. Brigadier MML Ghai asked orders in writing for sorting out the matter. GOC, ill- briefed on the strength of Pakistan soldiers in the Kayian bowl---- some 20-30 men were claimed, where as it turned out an Infantry Brigade ( 3000 Men) in actual----had given a written directive to clear.  GOC had thought it was only a matter of throwing out a platoon----which would be done by the brigade on the quiet. It was not to be so. Instead, it was a clear ploy to involve the GOC and mislead the Corps Commander that GOC had known about Pakistani presence in Kayian Bowl. The fact was otherwise. 

         Thus, the orders for eviction were also interpretted as use of reserve battalion and use of arty fire----which was forbidden in 1972.  The permission was not taken. A whole battalion of Mahar Regiment was written off---followed by heavy casualities to a Sikh battalion , holding the shoulders of Kayian Bowl---which got butchered in a Pakistani counter attack.  When the issue flared up, inquiry held, General E D'souza was blamed and Brig MM L Ghai got away by blaming the GOC. Unfortunately, Ghai rose to be a Lieutenant General and QMG of Indian Army. His kind  were the pioneers of road to Tehleka, Sukhna and Adarsh Housing society. They were a trickle which has become a deluge now.) 

      My CO had proved his point to his Brigade Commander and he did not want the situation to further escalate. This is why he asked me to move on to "Rakhi Post". But as soon as I reached Rakhi Post I was asked to immediately get back to Brown Patch. There was some urgency. But when I reached there I found some big game going on------My battalion HQ had shifted to 'Left shoulder ----between Ghasla Top and Brown Patch '-----My company commander Major CMP Sinha with his company HQ was at Brown Patch------It was a different kind of a situation -----War without firing, as I later learnt------A real hand to hand war----

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lipa valley-4 by rajee kushwaha VIEW OF BROWN PATCH FROM PAKISTANI SIDE----2004

                     As soon as I reached Brown Patch, I was asked by my Company Commander Major  (Later Colonel)  CMP Sinha to move to "Left Shoulder " forth with, where I was to meet the new GOC, Major General SK Sinha. GOC was coming to personally assess the latest situation around Chakmukam, which had threatened to become a zone of conflict, consequent to my patrol there. I was told that Pakistan had inducted a large number of additional troops in the Lipa Valley and they were all occupying the lower slopes--probably in wait for launching an attack to recapture the Ghasla Top -Ring Contour Ridgeline from us. Major CMP Sinha also told me that Brigade Commander, Brigadier MML Ghai, was particularly incensed with me for the whole fiasco.

           Next day, exactly at 730 AM, I met my CO, Lt Col SS Sahrawat, in his office. He was tense---I could see his facial expressions.  Rightly so, because just within three months of his command, he had not only fallen out with his Brigade Comander but probably, even GOC was unhappy. But I must commend the man----he did not display his unhappiness about me. Instead, he asked me as to what all I did in Chakmukam-----I frankly told him of every thing and handed over some goods and articles to him, which I had brought from ChakMukam. It included a Cigarette packet , an urdu magazine and a News paper published from Muzaffarabad in POK.  He only said once as to why did I make them sing Indian National Anthem. I explained to him my reason. He remarked, " Well! this has caused the present conflict---all radio intercepts indicate an attack building up on us in a day or so. Forget it, you have done your job." 

         Exactly, at 8 AM, I was encountered  by the Brigade Commander, Brigadier MML Ghai. He blasted me in front of all our officers, with his choosy abuses in English and I did the same to him silently, in my heart, in Punjabi.  My CO showed his helplessness--but I could see his discomfort at the pitiable plight of his junior most officer, being on the firing line, like a lamb being cut to pieces by a butcher. Finally, my CO managed to say, " Sir, GOC is landing at the helipad in next five minutes."  Brigade Commander said "OK "and moved away, sparing me further abuses.  

      Around the same time, my company commander, Major CMP Sinha, had purportedly  radio messaged that Pakistani soldiers were climbing the slopes from all directions. But they were not holding their weapons in assault positions but 'sling arm'. This was a strange observation. I was ordered to rush back to Brown Patch. I later learnt that the said message was manipulated by the CO to make me disappear from the scene, as he did not want me to face the new GOC. Our adjutant had drafted the message  and enacted as if it had come from my company commander-----who was also told about the message which he had purported to have sent to the Adjutant.  I moved out.  I was happy that I didn't have to face the FIRING of the GOC. I had enough of it from the Brigade Commander.  It is better to face bullets of the enemy than wordly missiles of your seniors in anger. 

     As soon as I reached Brown Patch, I learnt that Pakistani Soldiers were holding positions some 300-400 meters short of Brown Patch, within the range of our small arms .  They were about 400 to 500 men, shoulder to shoulder----it was strange---as this was no assault position. What was funny was the question as to what were they doing lying in the open in the broad day light. After the Kayian Bowl incident, we had orders not to open fire unless approved by the Corps HQ. Officially, matter was not even reported to Corps HQ and our GOC had come to personally assess the situation before reporting it.

      Suddenly, I told my Company Commander, " Sir, if we have orders not to open the fire, I think, they too have their orders on the same lines"

      " So", said Major CM P Sinha.

     "Let us physiacally throw them out", I added.

     " How" Major CMP Sinha gave an amusing look

      "We will talk to them first to go back, then, physically push them out, if they do not listen", I was sounding so unmilitary like.

      Major CMP Sinha burst out laughing----" You think we are participating in a wrestling championship here----Youngman, we are facing enemy, who is fully armed."

       I went silent. Around 11 AM, a message came from CO to Major CMP Sinha to talk to Pakistani Commander on the spot and ask him to move back otherwise we would fire at them. We collected some 40 men and moved down slope towards the Pakistanis. Negotiations began when we were just 50 meters short of them. Rest of our men were at 'stand by position's in all our localities. 

        We kept talking for 15 minutes. The Pakistani officer became abusive and his soldiers started shouting 'Pakistan Zindabad". It irked me. I had a stick in my hand----I lifted it and ran towards Pakistani officer----shouting choicest Punjabi abuses at him. I could hear my company commander asking me not to do so. But I was already gaining momentum----and some of my men also followed me. 

      And lo! the scene had changed and Pakistani soldiers started running down slopes. Chase became interesting. Realising a golden opportunity, my company commander ordered all other men from Ring Contour, Brown Patch and Ghasla Top to start physical assault with sticks. And everywhere Pakistanis were on the physical run.  CO was informed by Major CMP Sinha,  who in between his briefing to the GOC announced the latest development. AD singh later told me that General SK Sinha asked the CO, if I were the same youngster.

        When CO confirmed, he remarked, " I want such spirited youngmen in my command. Let him do this. But ask him to stop short of Chak Mukam village. Take up positions some 200 meters short of it. Now, if they come , we would fire. I would convince  the Corps Commander."  We did exactly what we were told. After seeing us taking up positions around 2 PM, Pakistani soldiers also stopped and took up positions facing us. At places we were just lying five meters away from each other. 

       In the meanwhile, Pakistani opened up another front towards Ghasla Top from their post at Shishaldi feature.  GOC at 'Left shoulder', saw this happening and he asked our Medium Machine Gun to open fire, but in the air. Pakistani soldiers ran away and our men moved down and occupied more advantageous positions.

       Thus, the game spread to entireLipa Valley---everywhere both sides got into the act of physically grabbing land by positioning men. Both sides were reluctant to fire being prohibited by higher HQs. This wrestling match continued till next 15 days when the LC was finally agreed to on the ground, during a flag meeting at 'Amar Singh Tekri'. I was present there along with my commanding officer who was head of our delegation.

       Some eight months later, in February 1973, while driving from Chowkiwal in J&K to Dharamshala in Himachal Paradesh, to attend Captain AD Singh's marriage, my CO in his happy mood, told me, " Rajee, you know your act of charging Pakistanis at Brown Patch  had averted an Indo-Pak war. Our GOC had basically come to assess the ground situation and approve an attack plan to throw out the Pakistanis---This time we did not want to give in like the Kayian Bowl incident.  We had an Infantry Brigade earmarked for this attack."  He also informed  me that the said brigade  was in the process of concentrating near Niti Pass,----some 10 KMs behind our road head, when my act had taken place. He asked me as to what made me take that step. I couldn't think anything else but this:" Sir, irritation at our Commander's abuses!."

       "Yea! I thought so" , had said Lt. Colonel SS Sahrawat.

          There are so many such type incidents which when you look back----you feel like being stupid and an idiot. But as a 21 year old youngman---you dont think of the consequences----You don't think ---just do it----caution is not your USP. Isn't it so?   
lipa valley-2 by rajee kushwaha

LIPA VALLEY AS IT LOOKS TODAY----VIEW FROM PAKISTAN SIDE---PHOTO TAKEN BY A PAKISTANI ------NOT REALLY SITE OF VILLAGE CHAKMUKAM -------NOTE THE RIVER BEND----THE ONE YOU SEE WHERE RIVER DISAPPEARS----THIS WAS HOW VILLAGE CHAK MUKAM  WAS LOCATED ON THE RIVER BEND ---THIS IS LIPA VALLEY---BUT I DON'T KNOW IF IT IS CHAKMUKAM AREA-----IN 1972, THIS AREA HAD HARDLY ANY CIVILISATION EXCEPT THE VILLAGE OF CHAKMUKAM---TODAY IT IS MUSHROOMING. 

 

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