In defence of my country undeterred I stand, in return I get betrayal – I
by Nancy Kaul on 28 Oct 2010 9 Comments

The enemy is only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round.”

- Maj. Somnath Sharma, 4 Kumaon Regiment, Param Vir Chakra (posthumous), to Brigade Hqrs. as he fell seven-to-one fighting the enemy at Srinagar airport, arm in cask, determination in his heart, and valour in his soul.


The security and strategic frontiers of a nation are of utmost importance for its existence as a nation state in the world order. Only a strong nation with a will to stand up and defend its territory and people, its civilisation and culture, a nation with a strong army and courageous soldiers, can fight and win the war for dharma; and this is the Indian concept war (Dharma Vijayi) since time immemorial.


The political establishment and persons who play with the preparedness and respect of the armed forces will in time not only consign the nation to her enemies, but may place her very identity at stake.


The Indian nation seems to have forgotten the ground rules of warfare and peace with regard to its security, territorial integrity, sovereignty and armed forces. The political class, including the government and the supreme commander of the armed forces, the President of India, are not acting as even as missile after missile is being hurled at national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Scathing attacks, both overt and covert, on the armed forces are not an aberration, but are virtually becoming the norm in Indian democracy today.


The corridors of government, which should be responsible for keeping defence structures and pillars intact, are more or less either mute spectators or providing impetus to actors who are eroding the morale of the armed forces.


In the true spirit of nation first and foremost, Maj. Somnath Sharma decided to lead his company (D company, 4 Kumaon Regiment) in Badgam Srinagar as Pakistan had attacked India with regular troops and tribal raiders. Even though his right hand was in a cask due to an injury from a hockey match, Maj. Sharma chose to be airlifted with his men to fight till the last bullet and the last breath.


Even as Maj. Sharma fell while trying to secure Srinagar Airport, under attack from 700-strong enemy troops, he fought seven-to-one till the dawn and till the last drop of his blood held the ground at the airport. Because the stakes were so high for the nation: The enemy is only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round.” And the brave Major kept his word to brigade headquarters, to defend the all important and only available airstrip in the Kashmir Valley, as he knew that if Srinagar Airport and Kashmir Valley fell to Pakistan, all would be lost.


His fierce courage earned him the nation’s gratitude and he was awarded the first Param Vir Chakra of independent India, the highest gallantry award of the country. Yet the sacrifice and courage of the armed forces came to naught with the 1962 betrayal of the collective trust of our nation by China, and 48 years after the war, Sepoy Karam Chand Katoch, listed as ‘missing in action’ along with many others, could be given a final adieu as a martyr only in July 2010 after his body was found in a trench still holding out against the Chinese.


Sepoy Katoch had answered the call of duty, which took him to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh, were the 4 Dogras joined the 4 Sikhs, 3/3 Gorkhas and 6 Kumaon as the last sentinel against the advancing Chinese, which till then was held at bay by an Assam Rifles post. The Indian Army was poorly equipped and vastly outnumbered to confront the enemy, yet the troops fought undeterred to the bitter end.


Eventually, the Chinese casualties were almost five times that of India, despite their numerical strength and the advantage of sophisticated weaponry. Time magazine wondered at the sheer courage of the Indian soldier at Walong, theatre of one of the fiercest battles of 1962, and India’s heroic resistance to the marauding Chinese brigade was at tremendous human cost to the Indian soldier. At Walong, Indian troops lacked everything but guts.


During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, even as the emphasis was at the eastern front, the battle theatres along the western borders saw raw courage and deep commitment. Flying Officer Nirmal Singh Sekhon of 18 Squadron “The Flying Bullets” was flying the Folland Gnat fighter aircraft from a detachment based at Srinagar. On Dec. 14, 1971, Srinagar airfield was attacked by six Pakistan Air Force F-86 jets. Flying Officer Sekhon was on readiness duty at the time. Under heavy fire, he managed to take off his Gnat and engaged the Sabres. In the ensuing air battle for Srinagar airport, Sekhon scored a direct hit on one Sabre and set another ablaze. The latter was seen heading away towards Rajouri, trailing smoke. The four remaining Sabres pressed the attack, and after a lengthy dog-fight at tree-top level, Flying Officer Sekhon’s aircraft was hit, and he became another martyr to the nation. The remaining Pakistani aircraft returned without pressing the attack. (The author was witness to this with her own eyes in Srinagar).


From the battle of Battalik to the battle of Haji Pir, from the battle of Chhamb-Jaurian to battle of Longewala, from the battle of Basantar to the battle of Yamso-la, bravery abounds from every unknown soldier.


India stood strong because of the sacrifices of its bravest of the brave, yet what was won at the cost of the Indian soldiers’ blood, was frittered away as goodwill by the Indian political establishment. Not allowing the Indian Forces to enter Skardu and Gilgit areas during 1947- 48 is bleeding us heavily to this day. Giving away Haji Pir in the Uri sector has placed the troops at a permanent disadvantage in that area because of the loss of strategic height.


During the 1971 war, India returned 92,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War, but the plight of 56 Indian POWs, including Flt Lt V.V. Tambe (fighter pilot) and Capt Dalgir Singh (81 field regiment) still eludes India and is shameful testimony of the betrayal by the Indian establishment towards the very nation, the motherland.


Wars are created by politicians, compounded by bureaucrats, and fought bravely by soldiers. Even though they stand for the honour of the country, yet the worst sufferers are the armed forces and their families.


When you go home tell them of us

And say for your tomorrow we gave our Today.”

-   War Memorial Kohima


(To be continued…)

The author is convener, Daughters of Vitasta

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