"The enemy is only 50 Yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round.”
The creation Islamic nation of Pakistan was created on the ‘Two Nation Theory’ that promulgated a separate nation for Muslims carved out of the Muslim majority areas of the then undivided India. Based on this fact, Pakistan saw it obvious for a Muslim-majority Kashmir to be part of Pakistan. Another reason for launching the tribal invasion of Jammu and Kashmir was to maintain control over the restive North Western Frontier Provinces (NWFP). If the aspirations for independence of the Pathans could not be checked, then the very basis of Pakistan – formed on an orthodox Islamic identity would have collapsed. One of the primary motives for tribal invasion of Jammu and Kashmir was to create a diversion for the Pathans by luring them towards the wealth and prosperity of Kashmir. A communal twist was given to J&K by formulating a narrative to depict that the Hindu rulers were oppressing the Muslim subjects & interest of the state.
Pak Plan : Op Gulmarg
Op Gulmarg was conceived at the Pakistan Army HQ in Rawalpindi after independence. The Demi-Offical letters giving out the operational instruction had the stamp of approval by the then British C-in-C of the Pakistan Army, Gen Sir Frank Messervy. According to these instructions, lashkars of 1000 pathans each were to be raised by every pathan tribe. To facilitate it, separate instructions were issued to the Deputy Commissioners and Political leaders. Once recruited, the lashkars were to concentrate at Bannu, Wana, Thal, Kohat, Peshavar and Naushera by September 1947. The Brigade Commanders at these places were to then equip them with the weapons, ammunition and basic kittings. On paper, this procurement was shown against regular Pakistan Army regiments. Each irregular company was commanded by a JCO. All the Pakistan Army regulars were pathans. Each Lashkar were provided with at least four informers.
The invasion force was led by Maj Gen Akhbar Khan (Code Name Tariq) and assisted by Brig Sher Khan. All laskhars were instructed to travel in civil buses at night and concentrate at Abbottabad by 18 Oct 47.
The ‘D’ day for Op Gulmarg was decided to be 22 Oct 47.
The First Assault
The Pathans launched first strike along Jhelum Valley road and captured Lohar Gali & Ramkot outpost. They arrived in 200 civilian trucks & lorries. One Company of 4 Kashmir Infantry (KI) joined the raiders for attack. Our composite detachment of 150 soldiers from Srinagar led by Brigadier Rajinder Singh, the Officiating Chief of State Forces had reached Uri on 22 Oct 21. But on being heavily outnumbered, they had to withdraw to Mahura. Brig Rajindra Singh was killed while encountering a roadblock between Mahura and Baramulla. He was posthumously awarded Maha Vir Chakra for stalling the enemy advance by four days. The raiders entered Baramulla on 26 Oct 47 & got indulged in mass pillage and looting of town. On 27 Oct, 1 SIKH was nominated to fly-in to Srinagar from Gurgaon to secure the aerodrome & the wireless station. Lt Col DR Rai, CO 1 SIKH alongwith his battalion concentrated at Srinagar airfield. One Company was dispatched to augment state forces holding the enemy’s march at Baramulla. On 28 Oct, Lt Col Rai went forward with two companies. On assessing the critical scenario & on being outnumbered by raiders, he decided to fall back to Srinagar. But, while the last screen was withdrawing, Lt Col Rai sustained a bullet in his neck. He was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously was withdrawing, Lt Col Rai sustained a bullet in his neck. He was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously. By 31 Oct, HQ 161 Inf Bde was air-lifted to Srinagar while 3 PARA(Rajput) with a company of 1 MAHAR had linked up by road from Pathankot.
Battle of Budgam : A Saga of Supreme Bravery
On 31 Oct 47, ‘D’ Coy of the fourth Battalion of Kumaon Regt under the Command of Major Somnath Sharma was deployed in Srinagar. On 3 Nov, Brig Sen, Commander 161 Inf Bde decided to send a strong fighting patrol to the hills overseeing Budgam village. The task of the patrol was to search the area in the vicinity of Budgam and Magam for signs of infiltration. The patrol comprised of One Company of 1 PARA (KUMAON) and two Companies of 4 KUMAON. While returning, ‘D’ Coy of 4 KUMAON was ambushed by about 700 raiders at a point just north of Budgam in an attempt to press towards Srinagar airfield. Maj Somnath knew that the importance of Badgam village and its loss would make the city of Srinagar and airport vulnerable. Some of the raiders had merged with the population in Budgam village. Maj Somnath Sharma, who was earlier wounded continued to fight till the last and honour of the land. His last message to the Bde HQ was –“The enemy is only 50 Yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round.” By the time, the relief company reached Badgam, their position was lost However, the 200 causalities suffered by the raiders, slowed their advance, buying time for Indian troops to fly into Srinagar airport thereby blocking all routes to Srinagar. The Pakistani raiders made no attempt to exploit the vulnerabilities that night. It surmised that incapacitation of the leader, the heavy losses and reports of the movement of 1 PUNJAB into the area had caused the raiders to misjudge the tactical situation. After this major action, a series of probes and sneak-ins were carried out by the enemy into Srinagar while 161 Inf Bde consolidated its position at Shalateng. Maj Somnath Sharma played a pivotal role in preventing the fall of Srinagar & perhaps of Kashmir. For this gallant act of bravery, he became the first recipient of ‘Param Vir Chakra’ of Independent India.