This article was published in 2016 by JAGRUK BHARAT.COM
50 Years Of Indian Special Forces
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces Veteran. It was read by nearly 20000 readers.
THE STORY OF GENESIS: MEGHDOOT FORCE
The Creator: Lt Col Megh Singh, Vir Chakra
On 01 July 2016, 9 PARA SPECIAL FORCES will be completing 50 years of existence. All veterans and the present generation of 9 will be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Unit’s Raising. All those who have laid down their lives for 9 shall be there too. Hence this is the right time to once again reiterate the story of our creator. The man who was the Foundation Stone of the Indian Special Forces.
In the beginning there was nothing. Then came into being the MEGHDOOT FORCE (and also the BADAL FORCE). This force then morphed into 9 PARA from whose ribs was created 10 PARA. After the requisite Sermon on the Mount India had two Commando battalions. Thereafter by adoption came 1 PARA COMMANDO.
Soon all three mutated into PARA SPECIAL FORCES. A few years later for micromanagement an associate firm was created ….HQ Special Forces and for refinement the Special Forces Training School. Then by cloning /grafting process was added 21 PARA SF.
The Associate Firm (HQ) got closed down and micromanagement went back into the hands of Company Directors. Still later, by conversion process were added 2, 3 and 4 PARA SF. Recently were born 11 and 12 PARA SF.
Who was this Creator, the founding father and how did all this chaos which today is known as Indian Special Forces start ? So this is the story of Lt Colonel Megh Singh, Vir Chakra who in 1965 raised the MEGHDOOT FORCE and the BADAL FORCE, gave a real bloody nose to the Pakistanis during the war and thus commenced the process of establishing the Indian Special Forces.
The precise Horoscope birth time of the first Indian Army Special Forces unit, as per me, should be taken as 1600h 13 September 1965 with Latitude and Longitude of birth place as 32°56’0”N and 75°8’0”E. 1500h was the time when the Draft War Establishment prepared by Major Megh Singh got transmitted to the Army HQ and at 1600h something most unusual happened within our country…The Govt of India sanctioned the WE virtually instantly.
The information was then passed on telephone to the originator by the Army HQ with added message that Major Megh Singh will be the Commanding Officer of this new unit, in the rank of Lt Colonel.This episode indicates the giant stature of that physically diminutive personality, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan was no mere slogan.
Thus was born the unit which would actually come into physical existence only a few months later after the war and named as 9th Battalion The Parachute Regiment. For the place of birth, no need to look for a map, it is, hold your breath….. Udhampur, HQ 15 Corps.
I am quite sure, this date 13 Sep65, will start a controversy, regarding the birth date of SF, at least among the older veterans of 9 and 10.However I am happy that this date for once will even surprise Col KD Pathak who is like GOOGLE as far as History, Geography, Chemistry and whatever else is concerned with respect to Nine Para. It seems I too have a fatal attraction for this date as it also happens to be the date when I first met my would be wife and finally it happens to be her birthday!!
“Commandos, I am an unknown entity for you. You know nothing about me, as to who I am, where I have come from and what for. You are seeing me for the first time and must be wondering about my capabilities to have first asked you to volunteer and then lead you into this totally new type of mission. We have met personally today only.
However our association dates back not to one year or one generation but to thousands of years. I am a Rajput from Rajasthan and most of you are from that area. History is evidence that our forefathers had lived together, worked together, fought together, won victories together and whenever required perished together in defending the honour and dignity of our motherland against our enemies. With such glorious tradition it does not matter whether we know each other or not. We will fight shoulder to shoulder in thickest of battles. “
The above speech was given by Major Megh Singh on 27 Aug 65 to a group of 02 Officer’s, 02 JCOs and less than 80 men who had volunteered and were selected from 3 RAJPUTANA RIFLES and 3 RAJPUT along with some sappers from 402 Field Company. A notable fact was that knowingly Megh Singh had selected 1 JCO and 30 men all kayam Khani muslims from 3 RAJ RIF.
He wanted to prove to Pakistan that Indians show no consideration for religion when the territorial integrity of our Motherland is at stake. As far as he was concerned “I had no doubts about the fighting qualities and integrity of kayam khani muslims.”
Continuing with his talk to the volunteers, he had further spoken thus “I have come as a volunteer with the express permission of Western Army Commander, to organise operations behind the enemy lines and create a situation in that it may become extremely difficult for Pakistan to support these infiltrators who are operating in our territory from the bases across the ceasefire line.
I have decided to select you all for your fighting qualities, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. You will prove to Pakistan that when security of India is at stake then all hindus and muslims will unite. As worthy members of your respective communities, you will make any required sacrifice and prove your mettle, I have no doubt about. Let this golden opportunity not slip away, lest it may never come again.
This is a big test for you all. What you achieve or fail to achieve will not only reflect on you, your community, your Regiment and your Unit but it will have a profound effect on history too. In case you fail, history will hold you guilty. I know your worth and that is why I want you to join me. “
Finally he said the following “I am fully qualified to lead you in such types of Operations, as I have operated behind the enemy lines in World War II in Italy and have planned and participated in many a raids in Nagaland. I shall always be at the head of your column, even if it is to be done at the cost of my life. In return I wish to have your loyalty, obedience and co-operation. In the end, if there is anyone among you, who is not prepared to serve with me, he is free to walk out and go back to his unit “.
Not one person walked out. In fact they all stood up and gave a pledge that they would not hesitate to sacrifice their life to protect the dignity and honour of India, the National Flag and the Constitution of India. In the next fortnight that was to follow, these men would make history in field of unconventional warfare.
These officers, JCOs and men were then put through four days of intensive training. Then they were launched on their first mission on 01 Sep 65 and thus was born the Force which in the first SITUATION REPORT of HQ 93 Infantry Brigade was referred as MEGHDOOT FORCE.
The Vir Chakra Citation read as “Lt Col Megh Singh, then a Major with a Brigade in Jammu & Kashmir successfully conducted three important raids into enemy territory between 1 September to 11 September ‘65. On 2 September, his force blew a big Culvert on Kotli – Bandi Gopalpur Road, disrupting the enemy’s line of communication inside their territory.
On 6 September, his Column captured two important Piquets NEJAPIR and ARIDHOK. Again on 10 September his Column went 2 miles deep into enemy territory and affected the Uri -Poonch Link i spite of heavy enemy fire. In all these actions, by his exemplary courage and initiative, Lt Col Megh Singh inspired confidence in volunteers under him, causing confusion and casualties in enemy camps and facilitating the success of Brigade’s Operational Plan.”
Megh Singh was born on 01 March 1924. A Rathod Rajput hailing from Rajasthan, he was commissioned into Patiala State Forces. During the Second World War, Maharaja of Patiala offered the services of his army to the British Monarch. Thus Megh Singh’s unit became a part of the 8th British Army and participated in the Italian Campaign.
During the campaign, as a young subaltern he gained the experience of operating behind the German Lines in the tough terrain of Apennine Mountains. After independence, his unit which during British era had become part of 15th Punjab Regiment, now joined the newly created Brigade of Guards. His new unit was 3 GUARDS.
From details available, it is known that, Major Megh Singh had rich experience of Counter Insurgency Operations in Nagaland too. He had been an instructor at Indian Military Academy and had attended Defence Services Staff College in 1955–56. Presently in 1965, he was under some “cloud” and had been brought down to his substantive rank of a Major. He had forwarded his papers for retirement.
Meanwhile he had been posted out of 3 GUARD to HQ Western Command as General Staff Officer Grade 2 (Training). He had reported to Command HQ on 09 August 65. Pakistan had already started sending infiltrators in large groups into J & K. These infiltrators were successfully carrying out convoy ambushes, attacking isolated posts, cutting lines of communications and disrupting essential services. Casualty rates of our troops started mounting daily.
One day during morning briefing, seeing the casualty rates, Army Commander thinking loudly and a bit in anguish said “can’t we do something about this“. When no one spoke out, Megh Singh also present for the briefing, stood up and said “sir, I have the experience of operating behind the enemy lines, permit me to select few men and allow me to cross the ceasefire line into Occupied Kashmir. I will destroy their supply bases, rear dumps and mounting bases. Soon the infiltrators will be left with no logistic support and ultimately would be rendered ineffective.”
Lt General Harbaksh Singh, Vir Chakra looked at Megh Singh and then and there gave his decision “Megh, if you succeed in your mission, I promise that I will myself pip you with the rank badges of a Lt Colonel.”This incident is mentioned in the book In The Line Of Duty: A Soldier Remembers by General Harbaksh Singh.
Also mentioned in the book is that Megh Singh was told by the Army Commander that he was free to call him directly in case he wanted anything. “I will speak to Kashmir Katoch, you go and report to him. With his permission, you can also speak to me directly. ”There is further mention of the incident where Megh Singh called him directly seeking permission to enrol a volunteer as a member of his force. After great deliberation over the issue, General Harbaksh overruled it…..the volunteer was none other than Major Bhawani Singh, Crown Prince of Jaipur State who later joined 9 PARA and then moved to 10 and was their Commanding Officer in 1971.
Major Megh Singh left Shimla on 22 Aug 65 and reached HQ 25 Infantry Division on 24 Aug 65. Luckily GOC, Major General Amreek Singh had been his instructor at the Staff College. A free hand was given to Megh Singh to select his area of Operation and also to select the men to compose his force. He was then personally taken by the GOC on 27 Aug to HQ 93 Infantry Brigade as the area of Operation was to be Poonch.
Brigadier Zora Singh was equally helpful and so were Commanding Officers of 3 RAJ RIF and 3 RAJPUT, both being old friends. He selected his men out of volunteers from these two battalions. 2/Lt Mohinder Singh, Naib Subedar Hamid Khan and 30 Kayam Khane Muslims were selected from 3 RAJ RIF and same number of men were provided by 3 RAJPUT under
2/Lt N K Mukherjee and Naib Subedar Dil Jan. Just a few days of intensive training was followed by launching of the Force on their first mission, after last light on 01 September ‘65. The total missions in this Sector were :
- Infiltration into Bandi Gopal Area to disrupt lines of communications of the enemy between Road Dwarandi–Bandi Gopalpur to prevent enemy reinforcements reaching their RAJA POST on being attacked by 93 Brigade. (01 Sep to 04 Sep) Capture of NEJAPIR POST in conjunction with Brigade attack on RAJA and CHAND TEKRI POSTS. (05 Sep to 06 Sep) Capture of ARIDHOK POST (07 Sep) Raid on enemy Administrative Base South West of Kahuta (07 Sep to 09 Sep) Uri Poonch Link Up (09Sep to 10 Sep) Lt General Kashmir Katoch,
- GOC 15 Corps was so impressed with the results achieved by MEGHDOOT FORCE and its effectiveness behind the enemy line that he ordered the Force to shift its area of Operations to Chamb Sector, where after launching OP GRAND SLAM Pakistan was on Top.
- Accordingly on 13 Sep, he reported to HQ 15 Corps and had a meeting with the GOC, where he received the good news that Govt of India had agreed to the idea of a Special Forces Battalion. For the time being he was to operate in the hilly terrain of Akhnoor- Jourian- Kalit.. However his Force itself had been left behind in Poonch.
- Finally Lt Mohinder and 12 men were heli lifted from Poonch to HQ 10 Infantry Division. Lt N K Mukherjee could not be spared owing to various commitments in his unit. However Megh Singh got his choice of other officers who in order of priority were Captain C M Malhotra 10 GUARDS, Captain B M Narang 3 GUARDS and Captain B P Mathur, AMC. All these officers had operated with him in Nagaland during 1963-64.
- “Out of them Chandan Malhotra had displayed outstanding courage and devotion to duty of a very high order in number of operations that I had organised against the hostiles in Nagaland. He was also a volunteer to join me in my present assignment. “A signal was immediately flashed by Army HQ to make these Officers available, wherever they might be.
It is also pertinent to mention here that in 1971 War, the MANDHOL GUN RAID carried out by C Group of 9 PARA had been under the leadership of Major Chandan Malhotra …. he definitely deserved at least a MAHA VIR CHAKRA for the raid.
On 17 Sep both Army Commander and Corps Commander met Megh Singh at HQ 10 Division. Army Commander was mighty pleased to see Megh Singh and holding his hand patted him for the superb work done. Along with them Megh Singh moved to HQ 191 Infantry Brigade. There he was given a detailed briefing for the raid missions by Brigadier Manmohan Singh who happened to be a GUARDS Officer too.. Both the Generals wished him good shooting.
While he was at the Brigade HQ, a band of Ex Service Men led by Naib Subedar Kanwal Singh met Major Megh Singh and volunteered to work with him in Chamb Sector, where they came from. Totally convinced that these men will be of great help in guiding the MEGHDOOTS inside the enemy held territory and also for various other tasks as they were filled with a sense of Revenge against Pakistan, Megh Singh immediately spoke to the Corps Commander.
On the spot decision was given for the arrangements to be made by HQ 10 Division to issue weapons, equipment and uniform to this band of 50 men. Thus was born basically a Civilian force… BADAL FORCE. This
For gave an excellent account of themselves in the two actions which were under taken by Meghdoots in Chamb Sector. Two more Officers 2/Lt S S Sohal of 6 SIKH LI and 2/Lt N K Dubey of 3 KUMAON too joined the force. The two Actions in Chamb Sector were:
(a) Raid on Enemy base at Thil
(b) Destruction of Enemy Nathal Base
The first Operation in Chamb Sector was to be launched on night 18 -19 Sep. Meghdoots left the Brigade HQ location before first light and at daybreak reached the location of 3KUMAON. As they were having tea the All India Radio morning news broadcast mentioned that Major Megh Singh of MEGHDOOT FORCE had been awarded the VIR CHAKRA. This had a considerable morale boosting effect on all ranks of the Force.
P22. On 22 Sep morning at around 0430 h during the raid on Nathal, Megh Singh got hit by a Machine Gun burst. One bullet grazed over his left shoulder, second one passed through his left hand fingers and the third pierced through his right thigh. He did not let any one know about it till the capture of Area Nathal. It was only by 1130 h after a fierce battle that the base was captured.
2/Lt Sohal too was wounded. A reinforcement from 3 J&K Militia reached Nathal by 1230h and by last light 22Sep, Meghdoot Force reached Sunderbani with all the wounded and dead and along with all the captured weapons. This marked the end of the Operations of Meghdoot Force. Major Megh Singh and Lt Sohal were evacuated to Military Hospital at Udhampur and other Officers and men went back to their respective units.
During a period of 22 Days MEGHDOOT FORCE organised 7 Operations behind the enemy lines and inflicted 600 casualties on the enemy against 10 on own side. During the battle for RAJA Post, it was attacked by two battalions 2 SIKH and 3 DOGRA. They suffered heavy casualties, whereas Nejapir was captured by Meghdoots with only one casualty.
Aridhok would have required at least a battalion with full fire support, whereas Meghdoots captured it in broad daylight. Kahuta was captured with 60 men which otherwise would have required a minimum of an infantry brigade. At Thil, 35 men of Meghdoot pushed out a battalion of the enemy and thereafter beat back three of their determined assaults.
“On the Morning of 24 Sep65, Megh Singh had just been evacuated from Akhnoor with a bullet in his thigh from one of his many escapades behind the enemy lines, in the presence of the Corps Commander, I pinned the rank of a Lt Colonel on his Shoulders “and thus the General Officer Commanding In Chief of our Western Army kept his promise.
After the war was over and Lal Bahadur Shastri no more, it seems things got back to “NORMAL” once again and it took 9 months for issue of implementation orders. It seems there was a bid by GUARDS to have the Special Forces within their fold. However para trooping being one of the basic skills for the Special Forces, the new force was given to Parachute Regiment.
The first Commanding Officer and Subedar Major were from Megdoot Force and also those men of the original force who managed to report at Gwalior. Lt S S Sohal, who had been awarded a Sena Medal for his actions with Meghdoots, had moved out of unit for reporting to Gwalior.
However his vehicle was hit by a landslide and he had to be evaccuated due to injury. He had personally told me about this when he was commanding 163 Infantry Brigade at Udhampur. Implementation orders were issued in june 1966 and on 01 July 1966, NINE PARA came up at Gwalior and raising commenced.
May be later you may get to read the detailed stories of each of the Operations under taken by Meghdoot Force.