“When you conquer enemy post at a height of 21,153 feet where high velocity winds blowing at 120 Kms speed send chill through the spine and temperature dips to minus 50 degrees, you don’t celebrate victory but put in all efforts to hold on to the post facing retaliation by enemy. The real action begins at that very moment. This is what happened at Siachen Glacier in the summer of 1987” – Capt. Bana Singh.
Drive through the paddy fields of R S Pura and ask anyone about Bana Singh, the bystanders will guide you to his single story and small yet well maintained home located at the end of village Kadyal. Born in village Kadyal of R S Pura in Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory) on January 6, 1949, Bana Singh joined 8th Battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK LI) of Indian Army on January, 6 1969. His father was a farmer. Having undergone special training at the High Altitude Warfare School in Gulmarg and at Sonamarg, Bana Singh was promoted to Naib Subedar from Havildar on 16 October 1985.
Way back in 1987 when Bana Singh was posted in Ladakh region, Pakistan after infiltration had occupied one strategic post located at a height of 21,153 feet from where their soldiers used to monitor movement of Indian troops and also target them. While India was busy on her northern border in Tibet, Pakistan had launched a major offensive dislodging Indians from their pickets near Siachen Glacier located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains at about 35.421226°N 77.109540°E on Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends and established a post near the Bilafond Pass on the Saltoro ridge. Named Quaid-e-Azam post, after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan soldiers never missed an opportunity to mess with Indian army. 79 Mountain Brigade under which 8 JAK LI, 4 Dogras and 5 Guards were deployed in Siachen Glacier were asked by Lieutenant General Saklani that India never wants war but if roped in to it, we need to be ready for anything.
In an exclusive interview, Captain Bana Singh said, “irate over Pakistan misadventure on April 13 1987, we were asked to take over charge from 5 Bihar and after reinforcement we were deployed on different parts of Glacier. To assess the facilities, Brigadier Chandan Singh Naugyal himself visited almost every post and even spent one night each at Igloo type accommodations. During his tour he assesse weaponry, food supplies and clothing of soldiers to ensure that they guard borders well and stay prepared to meet any eventuality.
One day when at the last location known as Sonam Post, Pakistan troops exchanged fire both sides suffered casualties. Qaid Post was located at a much higher altitude than Indian post which was at 18,000 feet. This gave enemy an advantageous position from where they dominated an area of almost 80 Kilometres. “Sick of Pakistan’s everyday misadventure, one day our Commanding Officer (CO) convened a meeting and decided to make a strategy to take this post back which earlier was also with India”, he said.
Bana Singh went on to add that on May 29, 1987 a patrol led by Second Lieutenant Rajeev Pande and Naib Subedar, Hem Raj along with 10 Jawans were despatched to assess enemy position. Expected fire by enemy and type of ammunition used would have alerted and enabled Indian troops to identify number of enemies behind the Pakistan weaponry. Having trekked and climbed 90 degrees slope the Indian troops had reached Amar Post only to take further orders to ‘advance’. Having sensed the presence of Indian troops, Pakistanis fired on our troops and we suffered major casualties, Bana Singh said.
“Revenge” was now the only word striking our brains every day and every night. On the same night it was decided that not only we will take revenge but also the Qaid post from Pakistan. After about one month a contingent of soldiers was readied with Major Virender Singh of 8 JAK LI and Captain Ashok Sharma forming groups to be led by Subdar Harnam Singh, Subedar Sansar Chand and Naib Subedar Bana Singh and the operation was named “Operation Rajiv” in honour of second lieutenant Rajeev Pandey. In all two officers, 3 JCOs and 57 soldiers totalling 62 army men along with ration and tents besides weaponry were air dropped by helicopters in hundreds of sorties at Amar and Sonam posts.
Bana Singh recalls, “Having established camp on the glacier in minus 50 degrees, jawans spent first night in pop tents where one Jawan Mohan Lal died of inclement weather. It was on May 24 that we trekked towards Qaid post but could cover just 150 meters in waist-deep snow. The weather was so hostile that we were made to return to the base camp”. This was not so heartening but since morale was high and aim quite clear we decided to stay put but very next day Bana Singh along with two jawans was made to advance towards Qaid Post.
Trained in mountain warfare, rope was tied to scale 90 degrees steep glacier and soldiers were made to march. Commanding Officer Colonel A P Rai who also arrived at the scene was plain-speaking and ordered, “I want Qaid post”. Subedar Harnam Singh, Subedar Suresh Chand, Major Varinder Singh and Naib Subedar Bana Singh led four different teams to trek the steep glacier which Pakistan believed cannot be scaled because of its gradient. Subedar Harman Singh had to return after his troops suffered casualty.
He added that weather had become so inclement that one was unable to differentiate between day and night. Subedar Sansar Chand too had reached quite close to enemy but due to snapped communication could not launch an attack. “I, Bana Singh along with two jawans was rushed to check status of our team with whom we had lost contact. Crawling on the snow slopes I joined Sansar Chand team near Qaid post. Sansar Chand, however developed chest congestion and was evacuated from ground zero” he informed.
Conquering of Qaid Post
“As directed by the CO, I and two jawans took out our shovels, dug out a ditch and slept in it for three days. An attack by Pakistan left our one person seriously injured. Reinforcement was sent and a cover fire given to us. Finding a suitable time we launched a final offensive throwing grenades in the Pakistani bunker. The bunker was also locked from outside and we engaged them into fierce gun battle”, Bana Singh narrated adding that an officer of Pakistan army fell deep into the gorge while trying to flee gun fire.
Bana Singh and his team including Riflemen Chuni Lal, Laxman Das, Om Raj and Kashmir Chand were also engaged in combat with troops of Shaheen Company of Pakistan’s elite Special Services Group who were bayoneted outside the bunker. Bana Singh and is team had successfully scaled 457 meters high impregnable glacier fortress of enemy and destroyed it. Having stayed in snow for three days without food, this was for the first time Bana Singh his fellow soldiers including Chuni Lal had captured Qaid post where they cooked some rice in reclaimed bunker and had their meal while Indian flag was unfurling on top of Qaid post.
One of Bana’s teammate Om Raj was seriously injured in Pakistan shelling. His had was amputated but succumbed to his injuries. Sepoy Om Raj was awarded Vir Chakra posthumously. Rifleman Chuni Lal and Rifleman Om Raj who were part of final assault were awarded Sena Medal. Harnam Singh was awarded Mahavir Chakra. 7 others, including Major Varinder Singh, 2nd Lt. Rajiv Pande were awarded Vir Chakra. Subedar Sansar Singh was awarded Mahavir Chakra MVC.
Six bodies of Pakistani soldiers were found in conquered Qaid Post. The moment news was flashed on Radio; Pakistan launched a major offensive targeting the post with mortar shells from heavy artillery. The shelling was increased due to which we sent some troops back to get reinforcement and till then five of us retained the post firing indiscriminately on enemy while protecting ourselves from shelling. Next morning, Brigadier Chandan Singh Naugyal reached at the post and said, “Bana Singh, never ever a battle has been fought at this height. Now that you have shown courage to capture Qaid post, from here onwards it will be known as “Bana Top”.
A proud moment
“I was 36 when this task of ours was recognised by Indian Army”, he said. Naib Subedar Bana Singh, On 26 January 1988 was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal in India for his bravery during Operation Rajiv. He asserted that we are because nation is and to defend its borders soldiers always stay alert. Very humbly Bana Singh told that he just did his task like any soldier would do. Now that government had honoured him he feels proud of having served nation and attended to his call of duty.
Nb Sub Bana Singh was promoted Subedar on December 1, 1992, with promotion to Subedar Major on October 20, 1996. He was given the honorary rank of Captain at his retirement. Honorary Capt. Bana Singh retired from service on October 31, 2000. The Jammu & Kashmir Government named a stadium at R S Pura after his name which today is in most dilapidated condition. Despite a meagre pension by erstwhile state government, Bana Singh declined Punjab Government’s lucrative offer of Rs 2,500,000, a monthly allowance of Rs 15,000 and a 25-acre plot on the condition of moving to Punjab.
He however refused the offer and being son of soil Bana Singh’s chose to settle in his home village Kadyal, R S Pura and is doing his bit to encourage youngsters to join and serve Indian Army.
Param Vir Chakra Winners
1. Maj. Somnath Sharma
2. Naik Jadunath Singh
3. 2nd Lt Rama Raghoba Rane
4. Company Haviladar Major Piru Singh
5. Lance Naik Karam Singh
6. Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria
7. Major Dhan Singh Thapa
8. Subedar Joginder Singh
9. Major Shaitan Singh
10. Lt. Col. A B Tarapore
11. Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid
12. Lance Naik Albert Ekka
13. Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon
14. Second Lt. Arun Khetarpal
15. Major Hoshiar Singh
16. Naib Subedar Bana Singh
17. Major Ramaswamy Parameswaram
18. Captain Vikram Batra
19. Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey
20. Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav
21. Rifleman Sanjay Kumar
NB SUB BANA SINGH
8 JAK LI (JC-155825)
Naib Subedar Bana Singh volunteered to be a member of a task force constituted in June 1987 to clear an intrusion by an adversary in the Siachen Glacier area at an altitude of 21,000 feet. The post was virtually an impregnable glacier fortress with ice walls, 1500 feet high, on both sides. Naib Subedar Bana Singh led his men through an extremely difficult and hazardous route. He inspired them by his indomitable courage and leadership. The brave Naib Subedar and his men crawled and closed in on the adversary. Moving from trench to trench, lobbing hand grenades and charging with the bayonet, he cleared the post all intruders.
Nb Subedar Bana Singh displayed the most conspicuous gallantry and leadership under the most adverse conditions.