Saviour of Kashmir

Col J P Singh, Retd
J&K had become an independent nation after 15 August 1947 after which the then Chief of Staff J&K State Forces Maj Gen H L Scott, a British officer, was to leave the state. Brig Rajinder Singh of the State Force, who had been Brigadier since 1942 and stood approved for Maj Gen took over from Gen Scott on 24 September 1947. He was born on 14 June 1899 in a small village of Bagoona, 35 Kms East of Jammu, now named Rajinder Singh Pura. He studied in Jammu and graduated form Prince of Wales College in 1921. In June 1921 he got selected as 2nd Lieutenant in the State Force. He was married to Smt Ram Devi from Kishtwar. He was promoted to Captain in April 1925, Major in July 1927, Colonel in 1935. In May 1942, he rose to the rank of Brig and would have soon put on the badges of Maj Gen had Pakistan not attacked Jammu and Kashmir.
This tribute depicts the saga of man who thwarted Pakistan plan of annexing Kashmir in 1947 with a strength of just 100 soldiers at his command. He put up a fight which was extra-ordinary by all accounts. His martyrdom was unique. No where in the history of world armies, an officer of the rank of brigadier and that too a head of his military forces being ordered to command a contingent of size of an Infantry Company ‘to fight to the last man and last round; not even known of in Israeli army. This is best done by a Captain or a Major. Brig Rajinder Singh laid down his life at the altar of Ruler’s Command as per the unparalleled centuries old tradition. Hence his martyrdom was a saga of unmatched courage, valour, devotion to duty and above all a meaningful supreme sacrifice. The janoon of bravery and sacrifice ran in the family with his illustrious ancestor General Baj Singh having sacrificed himself almost a century earlier in the defence of Chitral. His grandfather was a war veteran with seven battle scars on his body. His father Subedar Lakh Singh, whom Brig Rajinder lost at an early age of six months, was a junior officer in the State Force. He was brought up by his uncle Lt Col Govind Singh.
Brig Rajinder Singh as Head of the State Force responded to the call of the ruler and laid down his life fighting with a company, virtually to the last man, a rare feat in the annals of military history. He delayed Pakistani invasion of 6,000 strong with 100 gallant soldiers for four days from 23 to 27 October 1947 on Uri front and enabled Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to Indian Union and get reinforcement.
‘The saviour of Kashmir’ as he came to the called later was awarded the first gallantry award of Independent India Maha Vir Chakra ( 2nd Highest) posthumously. We gratefully remember him on his martyrdom day to pay homage to him and other gallant Dogras who sacrificed their lives under his command.
Independence demands price and sacrifices. While the country got independence under Mahatma Gandhi with comparatively less sacrifices but the partition took its toll. Our miseries started with Pakistani invasion of the Valley on the night 21/ 22 October 1947. Pakistan attacked Muzaffrabad according to the plan presumably hatched in collusion with the British officers. Two Muslim companies of 4 J and K Infantry defending Muzaffrabad switched sides, killing their commanding officer Lt Col Narain Singh Sambyal and all other Hindu officers and Jawans. Very few survived to tell the tale. It was a severe treachery and a great blow to the defence of J&K which was to have a far reaching affect on the battle of Uri.
When Maharaja Hari Singh was informed about the fall of Muzaffrabad by Brig. Rajinder Singh, Maharaja decided to go to the front to see the situation for himself but Brig Rajinder Singh volunteered to proceed to the front telling Maharaja that his presence in the capital was essential to carry out accession parleys and arrange reinforcements from India.
On 22nd October Brig Rajinder Singh collected whatever troops were available in Srinagar Cantonment and proceeded towards Uri with a small force of 100 men. He reached Uri at midnight. Next day the first engagement took place at Garhi where he inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy but lost a platoon in the battle. This bold and determined action put a severe caution on the enemy which enabled him to organise his defences at Uri and get some reinforcements. At this time Maharaja, realising the gravity of the situation, issued the historic order, “I command Brig Rajinder Singh to hold the enemy at Uri at all costs and to the last man”. Realising the importance of Uri Bridge to the invaders Brig Rajinder Singh blew it up on 24th October. It was a masterly stroke of the delaying operation that saved the Valley. The destruction of the Uri Bridge drastically slowed down enemy advance. The invaders however followed up on foot and Brig Rajinder Singh commenced a fighting withdrawal towards Baramula. After delaying the enemy at Mahura on 25th October, he took a defensive position at Rampur Buniyar where he fought them like a lion till 1 AM on 27 October. Since this small force came under very heavy pressure, it was forced to withdraw due to mounting casualties. Brig Rajinder Singh was himself hit in his right arm and legs in the ambush while withdrawing to the next position. Despite his bleeding wounds he continued to inspire his men to fight on and subsequently lost his life while defending his country against great odds. Others who fought shoulder to shoulder with their C-in-C and laid down their life fighting the invaders, to my knowledge, are Sub Parkash Singh, Jem Mejra Singh, Sub Maj Swaran Singh, Sub Ram Saran Dass, Sub Duni Chand, Sep Balak Ram, Nk Kirpal Singh, Sep Munshi Ram, Sep Bhag Chand, Sep Ram Saran, Sep Bharat Singh, Hav Khajoor Singh, Hav Khajan Singh, Nk Suraj Singh, Sep Chet Ram, Sep Munshi, Sep Hera Lal, Clk Babu Singh, Clk Nar Singh, Clk Sita Ram, Hav Vikrma Singh, LNk Chain Singh, Nk Janak Singh, Sep Kirpa Ram, Nk Balwan Singh Slathia and Hav Sansar Singh with many others. Sep Mahinder Singh was taken prisoner who returned home from Rawalpindi after six months. Those who were wounded include Capt Jawala Singh, Capt Nasib Singh, Capt Khajan Singh, Sub Sultan Singh, Hav Kanwal Singh and Hav Jai Karan.
A Chowk behind the Secretariat has been dedicated to him. His statue has been installed there amidst a beautiful park. In the memory of Brig. Rajinder Singh, a park on his name has been built on Ranbir Canal
Head an Auditorium in Jammu University. Rajinder Bazar in Jammu also reminds us of this great military leader and son of the soil. Brig Rajinder Singh left behind five daughters. His eldest daughter Urvashi was married to a State Forces officer Capt Pathania from Dunera, HP who retired as Lt Col from 8 JAK Rif.
He was fighting in Poonch while Brig Rajinder was fighting at Uri. Smt Rama Devi brought up her daughters alone and married two to the army officers.
Kareena the youngest, then 6, went on to become a renowned doctor in UK. Urvashi Pathania is 87 years and lives in NOIDA. She religiously comes to Jammu for the martyrdom day celebrations of her illustrious father despite her age. Least the army or the JAK Rifles can do is to take care of her visit and least the society can do is to appreciate her coming to Jammu on her father’s martyrdom day and inspires us to remember those who gave their today for our tomorrow. Names of all the martyrs are recommended to be written in Rajinder Chowk so that their generations can visit this monument and pay homage to their ancestors who left their loved ones for the sake of their motherland. We are indebted to them. Jammu is the city of temples and warriors and should be projected as such for the purposes of promotion of historical and religious tourism. Following tribute should also be inscribed in bold letters at the chowk:-