On 22nd October 1947, Pashtun tribal intruders invaded Jammu and Kashmir intending to plunder, rape, and destroy the region. Termed as ‘Gulmarg,’ the Pakistan military-supported operation was initiated under the leadership of Pakistani tribal leader Khurshid Anwar.
Since the day of Independence, Pakistan is trying to take control of Jammu and Kashmir. Though Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, Pakistan mischievously denies to acknowledge it and blame India for illegally occupying Kashmir. The first attempt to invade Indian Territory was brutally crushed by Indian armed forces. During the time of the first war between India and Pakistan, several factors play a vital role that turned the tables in favour of India.
The day when the first Battalion of Indian Armed forces landed in Srinagar
By the time India started sending troops in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani invaders have already reached Baramulla. There was only 56 KM of tarmac road between the invaders and Srinagar. Almost negligible intelligence had reached Delhi resulting in a sort-of blind entry on the battlefield.
The first Battalion of Sikh Regiment landed in Srinagar on 27th October, now celebrated as the Infantry Day. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai, was clear with the instructions that before landing in the region, the safety of the troops had to be ensured. He had directed them to first circle over the airfield, and if there was an iota of doubt that invaders have taken control of the airfield, they must fly back to Jammu.
‘Defend the state till the last man and the last bullet’
On 22nd October 1947, Brigadier Rajinder Singh, Chief of Staff of the Kashmir State Forces, rushed to Uri with around 200 soldiers on the instructions of Hari Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir. The aim was to stall the invaders in Uri that is 101 KM from Srinagar.
There were clear instructions from the Maharaja to Brigadier Rajinder Singh, “Defend the state till the last man and the last bullet,” and he did so. Singh gave his life during the battle on 24th October. He was awarded posthumously with the Mahavir Chakra. Singh became the first soldier of the Indian Armed forces to get the award in Independent India.
Maharaja had been asking the Indian Government for military aid, but it was only legitimate after Kashmir formally acceded to India. On 26th October, Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession and joined India. The Indian government then decided to send Indian Armed Forced to Srinagar. If the military aid has been forwarded on 22nd October, Pakistan would not have been successful in illegally occupying part of Jammu & Kashmir.
Political desires delayed Pakistan’s progression
Khurshid Anwar, the Pakistani tribal leader who led the invaders, took control of Baramulla on 26th October. His dream to become President of ‘Azad Kashmir’ was shattered when he learned that the Pakistani government had appointed Sardar Ibrahim Khan for the post. The ‘betrayal’ was more than enough to infuriate him to a level that he slowed down the progression.
The legend of Sherwani
There are many stories attached to the first India-Pakistan war. One such story is of 19-year-old Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani. The bicycle-riding young man single-handedly slowed down the advance of thousands of Pakistani tribal invaders with a simple yet effective trick. He convinced them that they should not advance towards Srinagar as the Indian Army has reached close to Baramulla. In reality, the Indian Army was nowhere close to Baramulla. His trick worked and provided valuable time to the Indian Armed Forces to land in Srinagar. The invaders later realized Sherwani had been tricking them. They shot him dead and crucified him. A community hall was set up by the Indian Army in his name to honour his bravery.
Unmatched act of bravery
As the first batch of the troops landed in Srinagar, Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai had to make a quick decision whether to engage with the invaders or to wait for the reinforcement. After asserting the situation, he decided to engage. He kept one company in reserve and attacked the intruders with another company. Equipped with machine guns and mortars, the intruders forced Lieutenant Colonel Rai’s company to fall back. He took control of the area around Pattan that is located halfway between Baramulla and Srinagar. Though he was injured by a sniper’s bullet, he managed to halt the enemy.
‘Enemy is less than 50 yards from us; I shall not withdraw an inch’
On 3rd November, a company of Kumaon Regiment under the leadership of Major Somnath Sharma went on a fighting patrol to Badgam. Major Sharma was injured at the time and had plaster due to a fracture. However, the injury could not stop him from inflicting casualties on the enemy’s side. Before he gave his life on the battlefield, he radioed the command office, and his last words were, “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 the last man and the last round.” The message was interrupted by a loud sound of a bursting mortar that killed him. Major Somnath Sharma was posthumously awarded Param Vir Chakra and Sepoy Dewan Singh of his Battalion was awarded Mahavir Chakra posthumously.
The spitfires that broke the backbone of intruders’ resistance
During the first week of November, Spitfires engaged in attacking the Pakistani intruders beyond Pattan. The attack was so thorough that it broke the spirit of the intruders. Former Chief of Air Staff Dilbag Singh was among the Spitfire pilots.
Battle of Shalateng
The demolition drive of the Pakistani tribal intruders that started on 27th October found its glorious closure on 7th November when Brigadier L.P. Sen, DSO, gave the final orders of the attack. The enemy was attacked by the armour troop under Lieutenant Noel David from the rear and attacked by 1 Sikh from the front. From the right, 1 Kumaon under Lieutenant Colonel Pritam Singh attacked the enemy that confused them to the point they started to run Westside. The battle of Shalateng lasted for 12 hours and royally concluded by the Air Force that roared over the escaping intruders.