Today is Hajipir Day
28 August 1965 : SAGA Of Major ARVINDER Singh, Who Led His Company To Victory On Hajipir Pass
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
Pakistan had launched OPERATION GIBRALTAR in first week of Aug 65 to capture J&K through a “ people’s revolt “. Heavily armed Pakistani soldiers in guise of guerillas entered all over Kashmir from widely separated points.
A big rally had already been planned and announced by certain anti government elements for 6 Aug in Srinagar and few other places. The main guerilla force was to reach Srinagar and during the rally incite the people for revolt.
The plan was to capture the radio station and the airfield, blow up important bridges and establish road blocks and isolate the Kashmir valley from rest of India. The people of Kashmir being true Indians, ensured that the Pakistani plan failed miserably.
However the acts of violence, arson and murder against the people of Kashmir by these guerillas was still on such an unprecedented scale, that the State Police was unable to handle.
On 9 Aug Army took over the task of weeding out the guerillas. Soon the Western Army Commander decided to strike at the infiltration routes of these Pakistani guerillas.
Thus was made the plan to capture HAJIPIR PASS located at a height of 8700ft. The pass was South of Uri on Uri- Poonch Road,around 8km from the Cease Fire Line of 1949. This was the major route of infiltration.
So to ensure the capture of the Pass, it necessitated capture of Surrounding Posts on either Shoulders that is SANK (9591 ft), SAR, LADWALGALI and POINT 10033 on the right shoulder and BEDORI on the left shoulder.
The key feature in all this was the capture of SANK. Once this was done then all other enemy’s positions between URI and HAJIPIR would fall like nine pins.
The first attack on night 25-26 Aug by Alpha and Charlie Companies of 1 PARA failed miserably with the leading Platoon getting nearly wiped out with 28 casualties. The next attack was on night 26-27 Aug by Bravo and Delta Companies.
They commenced their attack on the SANK feature at 2130 hours from the most difficult direction. The climb was very steep, made worse by incessant heavy rain. The paratroopers pressed on relentlessly for it was a race against time: to achieve surprise the troops had to reach the top before first light.
The artillery fire support was excellent and the nonchalant paratroopers at times were as close as 75 m from own falling shells. Despite the difficulties of terrain and weather the unit reached the peak at 0415 hours.
The enemy was taken completely by surprise from the unexpected direction of attack by Major Arvinder Singh. There was an immediate assault resulting in hand to hand combat. Even for Major Arvinder it was kill or get killed. With his carbine he fired and brought down one enemy and severely wounded another.
Meanwhile Captain MMP Dhillon with a squad had eliminated an active Medium Machine Gun. The quick assault not only silenced the enemy but also made the remainder flee in panic, leaving behind two medium machine guns and three light machine guns, huge quantity of ammunition, stores, 15 dead and one prisoner.
Brigadier Arvinder Singh
Major Arvinder Singh decided to exploit his success, and his Company rushed on to the next feature, SAR which was captured by 0930 hours 27th August. However by now there was heavy Machine Gun on SANK and SAR from LEDIWALIGALI. So Major Arvinder once again decided to move forward. His company was able to capture LEDIWALI GALI by 1100h.
By 1300h all areas up to and inclusive of LEDIWALI GALI was fully secured by 1 PARA . The Force on the Top was now placed under Command of Major Ranjit Singh Dayal( 2IC of 1 PARA ). Own casualties in this action was 21 wounded. The enemy losses were 15 other ranks killed, 40 wounded and one taken prisoner.
An interesting story was heard from the veterans of 1 PARA during one of their HAJIPIR DAY celebrations. This prisoner captured on SANK had been sleeping soundly inside a bunker being totally exhausted and oblivious to the fierce battle all around.
Later when the objective had been secured and reorganization phase was going on, he heard a call for some head count. He too staggered out and stood around “finding certain talks very familiar“.
Soon the Platoon Havildar was scratching his head as he had one extra man. It took some time to find out the Pakistani who at once was made a Prisoner of War.
Though the PW was very soon having “ japhhi “ with many older NCOs and men. This soldier now part of 20 PUNJAB of Pakistan Army, had been a young soldier in 1947, 1PARA PUNJAB !!! During partition, two Companies of – PARA had been repatriated to Pakistan Army.
The North Western heights of Hajipir Pass was thus completely captured and the road itself could be seen down below. So even though the North Eastern side that is Bedori area was still in the hands of the enemy, Major Ranjit Daysl sought permission to strike for the HAJIPIR PASS immediately. The permission was given and a depleted Company was quickly formed, taking men from Bravo and Delta Companies.
Major Dayal and Captain Vaswani left for the pass as soon as possible. By 1400h they were descending into the Haidarabad Nulla. There was nuisance fire from heights along the Pass. The approach involved a very tough up and down movement and soon it was further complicated due to heavy rains.
During the hours of darkness, the continuous heavy rain made the hill-side slushy and slippery, though it helped too by concealing their movement. After crossing the Nullah they began a straight climb.
At around 2000h they even captured around 10 men sleeping in an abandoned hut. These Pakistani soldiers had vacated Bedori Post and were withdrawing.
This Adhoc Company, 1 PARA defying physical exhaustion continued doggedly, often on all fours and reached the vicinity of the pass by 0800 hours on 28th August.
The much sought after objective was in sight and after a brief pause the battalion stormed the pass. The enemy fled in confusion.
28 August 1965 Haji pir Pass
Picture Taken by Adjutant 1 PARA Capt Bindra
By 1030 hours 28 August Major Ranjit Singh Dayal (later Lt General) 1 PARA was in complete control of the objective. These men had been in action for more than 72 hours, without blankets, warm / dry clothing and hardly anything to eat.
By night 29–30 Aug, Major Arvinder with remainder of his Company left Ledwali Gali and joined Major Ranjit Dayal at Hajipir Pass. This was necessitated because of enemy build up on area Ring Countour around 1500m South West of the PASS. By morning 30 Aug the fire from Ring Contour became heavy.
So Delta Company under Major Arvinder was ordered to capture the area.
They quickly moved out, with Major Ranjit Dayal himself joining in and a platoon of Alpha Company following. It was broad daylight and the enemy brought down all the fire power available to him. The last 100ft climb was really hell.
The Battalion War Diary says “ nothing could stop the determined Ahirs of Delta Company. They charged ahead with KRISHNA MAHARAJ KI JAI. In the hand to hand fighting 8 enemy were killed and rest fled along the spur towards Point 8777.“
The enemy soon countered attacked with full force. The forward platoon under had heavy casualties. Major Arvinder too rushed forward with a section followed by Major Ranjit Dayal.
A shell fell near Major Arvinder, killing three men and splinters tearing off his calf. Though wounded, he pulled out the LMG from his dead comrade and continued firing at the charging enemy.
Within minutes D Company had lost seven men killed and 26 wounded, including Subedar Arjun Singh, the Platoon Commander. Major Dayal had a narrow escape, when a Machine Gun burst shot off the sten gun slung on his left shoulder (it is still kept in the Unit).
The INTELLINGENCE NCO, L/ Naik Jai Singh standing next to Major Dayal though hit in the leg and bleeding heavily, continued transmitting grid references to Artillery,as directed by Major Dayal. Thus nine people beat back the enemy till reinforcement came and saved the day.
1 PARA Troops At Hajipir Dated 22 feb 1966 About To vacate The Hajipir
A word about the people of Uri Area as narrated by then Major Arvinder “ our Subedar Major got together around 150 civilians to carry down 20 stretcher cases ( 2x 4 taking turns ) to the road head for further evacuation (which included Major Arvinder).
The Commanding Officer had ordered that they will be paid the laid down rates of civil porters and that too double of the rate ….the sum would be Rs 4+ per porter ….a very large sum those dayPPPs, for the poor impoverished people of the border areas. The Officers, Subedar Major, JCOs and men of 1 PARA, were astonished when the Civilians refused to accept the money for carrying down the wounded.” ….it was their contribution to Mother India.
Lt Colonel Arvinder later on took over command of 9 PARACHUTE COMMANDOS in Mar1977 at the age of 36 and was there till Mar1980 when he handed over the Unit to Lt Colonel Subhash Chandra Khullar. He had been my first CO when I had joined the Unit as a 2/ Lt. Later on he was our Military Attaché in Iraq and Commanded a brigade in J&K.
We all know that in the aftermath of the 1965 Indo Pak war, during the negotiations at Tashkent, under intense International pressure, we had to return Hajipir Area back to Pakistan. 1 PARA which had captured the area including the Pass had remained there till 22 Feb 1966. The picture below was taken on by the Unit Adjutant, Captain JS Bindra on 29 Aug 1965 , next day of capture of the Pass
29 August 1965
Lt to Rt Major Vamani, OC A Coy, Lt Joginder Singh, Lt Ranga, Major Patil OC B Coy,
Lt Col Pravjinder CO, Major R S Dayal 2IC, Captain J S Bindra Adjt, Capt M P S Dhillon
So after taking over Command of 9 PARA, at least on HAJIPIR DAY of 1977, 1978 and 1979, did Lt Col Arvinder Singh ever think of revisiting Hajipir Pass, Sank and Beodori areas but this time with his 9 PARA COMMANDOS?
However, I am sure each and every Army Commander of NORTHERN COMMAND on taking over must be looking afresh at the map of Jammu & Kashmir. In doing so prominent names striking his eyes must be Gilgit, Skardu, Khapalu, Kahuta etc and invariably HAJIPIR.
Knowing the man he was, Lt General P S Bhagat, VICTORIA CROSS, the first Army Commander of Northern Army, while looking at map and must have vowed to get it back. A likely drama may have played out like this :
General Bhagat —- ask the Commando CO to meet me tomorrow.
Next day Lt Col O P Sabharwal, SM is standing in the office of the Army Commander.
“ take a good look at the map Sabu, and now tell me what features you see”
“ sir, I see HAJIPIR and only HAJIPIR ( with a smile )” …. Result of some good friend in Operations Branch passing some hint earlier.
“ Excellent, I want you to capture Hajipir and give it to me.”
“ yes sir. I need time to plan, sir”
“ I give you a Week,….no just 6 days, come back with a plan and discuss it with me and me alone”
After 6 days of hectic planning and detailed discussions
“ Sabu, your boys have already proved their worth in the War and I have full confidence that you will get HAJIPIR for me and unite it with rest of J&K and India. However need to tell Sam and get permission from the Lady. Now go and get ready for the word GO. No loose talks”
Did the above drama happen? When I asked General OP Sabharwal, he just smiled and said …..may be. Should I ask General R K Nanavatty if he thought along these lines during O P PARAKRAM?
Earlier the Parliament had passed a resolution that POK is part of India.Now the Government of the day has openly declared that POK is ours and we will get it back. 9 can always be dialed for help.