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Sunday, May 16, 2010

I ESCAPED THIS 'SWEET'



I was on annual leave in 1965 and was engaged only a couple of days when one fine morning in August 1965 I received orders to rejoin my unit.Suddenly the atmosphere in the family changed from rejoicing to grim. Chitranjan, my fiancee was shocked at the turn of the events. Our happiness was short lived.

The call to the duty and my country was supreme.I left for Jammu transit camp by the evening train and reached Jammu in the morning of 6th August 1965. After a day's rest at Jammu we were transported through a Dakota plane to Poonch.

This sector was the hottest spot during the 1965 conflict. There used to be news in the media about Poonch sector every other day. This small hill town was on the lips of everybody in the whole of India.

The airstrip in Poonch was under constant observation by the Pakistani observation post named 'Preetam'. This picquet was situated on the highest hilltop in the area and commanded an excellent view of the whole of Poonch city and surrounding areas. All our movements were closely monitored by the enemy.

The airstrip in Poonch was within their shelling range. The planes had to undertake the landings and take-offs in the night with lights switched off. But because of the mobilisation of the troops and exceptional circumstances the landings had to be done even in the daytime.The engines of aircraft were kept running to be able to take off without any loss of time.

On joining the unit I was given orders by the adjutant to proced to observation post opposit 'Preetam' picquet to give artillery support to Capt Anoop.

Capt.Anoop, was a very fine infantry officer.He was very brave young officer and was decorated for exceptional bravery in the Bangladesh war in eastern sector six years later. We both were almost the same age and thoroughly enjoyed our stay together. Soon we became very good buddies.

We being on a lower altitude were under constant observation by the Pakistani troops. Slightest movement from our soldiers invited a barrage of MMG and mortars and guns.

They used to shell us on the slightest movement. Our troops had to duck to avoid receiving this 'prasad' or 'sweets' which were very generously distributed by them. We had jokingly nicknamed their shelling as 'sweets'.

During August 1965 major incursions of militants and Pakistani soldiers increased in Poonch and there were skirmishes almost every day. Some clever journalist coined the word 'ghuspaith' for infiltration. This Hindi word was on the lips of everyone in the country during this conflict in Jammu and Kashmir.

Everyday there used to be bloody raids and counter raids resulting in loss of lives on both the sides.

The war was declared between the two countries and our troops were on maximum alert. There were heavy casualties on both the sides.On 23 Sept 1965 a UN mandated ceasefire was declared between the two countries.

This picquet was a nuisance and it made our lives hell.The plans were made to neutralise this picquet and it was decided to assault it. All the available resources were mobilised and it was decided to assault it on 22 Sept 1965.

In the evening before the D Day the troops assembled to start an assault on Preetam picquet. It started raining heavily in the evening and the mountainous rivulet 'Betar nala' was to be crossed to start the assault. But on the evening prior to the D Day it got flooded due to a heavy rain in the catchment area thus forcing us to delay the assault by a few hours. We started the climb to Preetam picquet about 4 hours late.

When we were within 500 metres of the target the Pakistani troops manning the picquet got suspicious and started heavy shelling. This was the heaviet shelling in this sector on any day.Even the officers and personnel at the command post got suffocated.The smell of the gunpowder lingered in the city for 2 days.

The Pakistanis were desperate to hold on to this post which was an excellent vantage point from military point of view.

We suffered heavy casualties. Our anchor OP officer Capt Lal Singh also got killed due to a hit on the makeshift observation post.I just narrowly escaped tasting this 'prasad' and was lucky to miss the appointment with dame 'Death'. The shell which was directed at us fell a few meters short and I got a new life.

This photo of the splinter,which I have kept as war memorabilia for 45 years has a stamp on it which reads 'P O F 10/62' meaning 'Pakistan Ordnance Factory' and month of manufacture October 1962.

The wars are an abominable thing and can not solve any problems but bring misery all around apart from leaving scars in the minds of innumerable people. Let us inculcate the spirit of love and solve our problems through dialogue.

MAKE LOVE NOT WAR!!!!!
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