1965 War Saga of a soldier’s family

Maj Gen Goverdhan Singh Jamwal
While celebrating Golden Jubilee of Victory over Pakistan in 1965 War I am reminded of the Centenary Commemoration of the World War I 1914 – 18 which was observed all over the World including India which has contributed substantially although without any direct threat to the Country. The Department of English of the Central University Jammu organized an excellent two days National Seminar on 3 – 4 Sep 2014 to discuss Cultural and Literary response which I happen to attend and also shared the dais with eminent participants including Lt Gen K H Singh, GOC 16 Corps, Lt Gen Hasnain and Maj Gen G D Bakshi, eminent Military Scholars. While paying tribute to the thousands of Indians who had laid down their lives in many continents I attributed the success of the Allies to the Indian Soldier for whom the Britishers had built a Memorial ‘India Gate’ which is the only National Memorial in the Country. Happily the Prime Minister, Mr. Modi has announced the building of the National Memorial in Delhi to remember those who had laid their lives in World War II and all the Wars fought by the Country after Independence which will be a befitting tribute to the Indian Soldier.
At this point a very intelligent Post Graduate student of the Central University asked me a question ‘whether the Memorial is being built in remembrance for atoning the sins of those who perpetrated the War causing sixty million deaths, many more handicapped, insane, orphans, destitutes and so on’. A very intelligent question indeed. I had to search my heart, my reply ‘All those who laid down their lives never asked for Memorials. Now it is upto you whether you would like to remember them for their sacrifice for posterity’. Undoubtly there is a big human aspect involved in War where people die leaving their families as Widows, Orphans, Destitutes and many are maimed for years to live often uncared possess a big question about the human aspect.
While recounting various operations and lessons learnt, and Pay Homage to the great Indian Soldiers who had laid down their lives so that we could celebrate this great victory with pride today, this aspect of the 1965 War, should also be remembered with equal zeal. This is the Human Aspect regarding the insurmountable sacrifices made by the families of those who left us during the War. One such story is of a family from my village Suchani, the village of the Soldiers which has produced five Generals, three Brigadiers and hundreds of Soldiers from 1947 till date and now can boast of a Central University of Jammu where, two decades back, there was no School, no road, no water, no power and no hospital. Yet it produced such a cream of Army leadership.
8 JAK Rif was raised by Col Jaswant Singh of the same village Suchani in the District of the Braves ‘Samba’ on 10 Feb 1942 and demobilized in 1952 due to general rundown of Indian Army, although it had played a crucial role in saving Poonch in 1947 – 48 J&K Operations. It was re-raised on 01 Oct 1963 by Lt Col later Brig Prem Singh, AVSM after the 1962 debacle. In 1965, it was deployed in Deva sector opposite Chhamb when suddenly Pakistan attacked its various posts immediately after Operation Gibraltar in which Pakistan had infiltrated thousands of infiltrators with the aim of subverting the Muslims of Kashmir. The first clash with the infiltrators took place on 07 Aug in Sunderbani area. On the same night Battalion HQs at Deva was raided by Pakistan as a prelude to a major offensive. On 14 Aug Pakistan artillery began shelling with medium guns and howitzers, Kalidhar posts and the Battalion HQ at Deva. Pakistan continued heavy shelling and attacks on Platoon and Company pickets to remove them to prepare a Firm Base for her major offensive by an Infantry Division and Armoured Brigade. Pakistan was desperate to establish a secure firm base for the major offensive planned to capture Jourian and Akhnoor with a view to cut off Poonch – Rajouri area from rest of the State. During this intense firing Maj Balram Singh Jamwal, the Second-in-Command of the Battalion, although outnumbered and surrounded from all directions, refused to leave the forward post and continued to thwart the enemy’s attempts to create a secure firm base. The officer was killed in heavy shelling on 15 Aug 1965 and it was only after his death that the enemy could capture Deva Sector. It is the story of his family which needs to be recounted.
On this day of 15 Aug, when he was killed in action, he left a young widow of 22, having married to him at the age of 14, with five young children. What happened to them and how they were brought up by the young widow is a saga of another kind which is best described by her grand-daughter on her demise on 08 Oct 2014 after almost 50 years of widowhood:
“Her laughter was infectious. Her presence illuminated every place she visited. She was the life of every party due to her nonstop talk. She had the ability to keep everyone engaged and entertained. She always had so many stories to tell and jokes to share that it was hard even to catch a moment when she would stop to breathe. We would sometimes get tired and fall asleep, but she never stopped talking until everybody called it a day, and even after that, she was always up for a cup of tea. She was a ball of energy. All the vigor that her kids and her grand-kids got was definitely from her.
I remember when playing as kids we would stop to admire your beauty. I remember your lovely hair, your love for clothes, your obsession with perfumes, your amazing cooking, your ability to never let a topic end, your hand on my head, your flying kisses, your attempts in teaching me dogri, your tears when saying goodbye.
Married at the age of 14, and widowed at 22; this single mom raised 5 fantastic children. We can only imagine all the sacrifices she had to make along the journey, as she never once mentioned any of that.  A caring mother, a loving grand-mother and a whole package of affection. Dadima, I cannot imagine going to Jammu and not seeing your pretty face as the first thing. I cannot imagine not running downstairs every morning to see what you were cooking for breakfast. Your mandir, your room, your kitchen, your veranda, your bed, your TV, the walls- every corner of your house will miss you. Your departure is painful, but I’m sure heaven will treat you well. I’m sure you will keep everybody up there entertained as well.
Thank you for countless memories, thank you for your love and thank you for teaching us that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. If there’s one thing we can learn from your life, dadi, is that whatever life throws at you, throw it back at life! Dadi there’s just so much I remember. We all are going to live with these beautiful memories embedded in our hearts and forever be grateful that you are such an integral part of your entire family. I love you a lot, and I miss you so much already! Lots of love Dadima.”
This young widow spent her entire life – 50 long years – bringing up her children, educating them well and settling them in life. Three of them studied in Lawrence School Sanawar, Simla Hills while two studied in Presentation Convent, Jammu. In spite of what happened in 1965, she sent her elder son, who was studying at Lawrence School, Sanawar, to NDA in 1972, to be commissioned into Army in 1976. He joined and commanded the father’s Battalion, 8 JAK Rifles, before retiring as a Brigadier in 2010. Even after retirement he is contributing towards the cause of the Nation by preparing Officers and Soldiers for the Armed Forces through his LAKSHYA DEFENCE ACADEMY which he opened in Rajinder Vihar, Patti, District Samba. In the last one and a half years his Academy has achieved tremendous success with 221 candidates having joined the Belt Forces, 49 as Officers and 172 recruited as Soldiers. This is an excellent contribution by the family of a brave soldier who gave his ‘today for our tomorrow’. How can a Country inhabited by such people can ever lose?