Col. R. K.Palta
Brig Usman was born on July 15, 1912 at Bibipur which is a part of today’s Azamgarh District in Uttar Pradesh. Young Usman was educated at Harish Chandra Bhai School in Varanasi. Despite intense competition, young Usman succeeded in gaining admission to the prestigious Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Upon completion of his training, he was commissioned in the Baluch Regiment. And it was as a Baluch officer that Usman had to face the cruel specter of Partition in 1947.
When the Baluch Regiment was allotted to Pakistan, Brig Usman was transferred to the Dogra Regiment. But war had already been thrust upon India when Pakistan sent tribal irregulars and its soldiers into Jammu and Kashmir. Even as the situation in the Kashmir Valley was stabilized, the threat continued to be serious in the Jammu region. Brig Usman, Commander of 77 Para Bridge was side stepped to command 50 Para Bridge, deployed at Jhangar in December 1947. However, with odds heavily against him. Jhangar was wrested by the Pakistanis on December 25, 1947. The Brigadier vowed to recapture Jhangar-a feat he accomplished three months later.
With the fall of Jhangar, the emboldened Pakistanis seized Nowshera and the situation looked grim indeed. In the face of overwhelming odds, he effected the defence of Nowshera during the crucial battle by February of 1948. Nowshera was defended despite heavy odds and a numerically superior enemy was defeated. This proved to be the turning point in the campaign and the locals lovingly gave him the title of ‘Saviour of Naoshera’.
Jhangar, however loomed large in his mind, and the liberation of which became his obsession. After month’s planning, he was able to put into motion his operation to free Jhangar, and on March 18, the Para Brigade achieved its objective, Jhangar was once again in Indian hands. Brig Usman was given a second fire of endearment “The Hero of Jhangar”.
But it was Jhangar that cost Brig Usman’s life. On July 3 1943, Brig Usman was seriously injured due to unprovoked heavy arty shelling of the enemy at the village of Jhangar and succumbed to his injuries.
The enormity of his achievements from the nation’s point of view, can be gauged from the fact that on his being martyred on 03 July 1948, he was given a state funeral in New Delhi by a grateful nation’s leadership. It is noteworthy that Brig Mohd Usman, MVC remains India’s only military commander to have been given this singular honour), with the nation’s eminent leaders include the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru; Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then Defence Minister Sardar Baldev Singh, Sheikh Abdullah and the then COAS Lt Gen (later Fd Marhal) KM Cariappa attending his funeral, before he was buried in the Jamia Milia Islamia at Delhi. It is also noteworthy that Brig Mohd Usman, MVC remains India’s highest ranking military commander till date, to have made the supreme sacrifice on the battlefield itself, while leading his men in action, in the face of the enemy).
Besides the above, there are many remarkable facets to this eminent military personality of India, that make us proud as a nation, even to this date. His unflinching patriotism and love for the motherland is amply demonstrated by the fact that despite being an officer of the Baluch Regiment (which ultimately went to Pakistan) he steadfastly chose to remain with his motherland India, despite Pakistan trying in vain to make him join their army, by offering him the devlish temptation of making him their army’s chief. He was thus virtually a living example and hallmark of the glorious secular traditions / architecture of the Indian Army, a beacon whose shining light remaims ever so strong till date not only in India’s Armed Forces, but also as a nation, in stark contrast to neighbouring Pakistan, whose reason de etre’ itself was communal.
For his unparalleled and stupendous feat of wresting back the captured territory – of Jhangar – (Nowshera) from a treacherous enemy making the supreme sacrifice in the process, Late Brig Mohd Usman, MVC earned the nation’s eternal gratitude and was immortalised, with the endearing epithets : `Saviour and Protector of Naoshera’ and `Nowshera Ka Sher’.