The Battle of Badgam was a pivotal event during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48, fought over the region of Jammu and Kashmir. Among the many significant episodes of this conflict, the fall and recapture of Jhangar stand out as a testament to the bravery and resilience of the soldiers involved.
As winter descended upon the region, the cold winds carried with them an air of foreboding. On a fateful day, in the midst of a chilling November, Jhangar fell to the advancing Pakistani forces. Jhangar, a small town nestled in the rugged terrain of the Pir Panjal range, held strategic importance in the conflict. Its position along the line of control made it a valuable target for both the Indian and Pakistani forces.
The inhabitants, forced to flee their homes, sought refuge in the nearby forests, their lives now defined by uncertainty and fear. The streets that were once filled with the laughter of children and the hum of everyday life now echoed with the sound of gunfire and the cries of the wounded.
Among them were families torn apart, children separated from their parents, and elders struggling to keep up with the frantic pace of escape. The loss of Jhangar was a bitter pill to swallow, a stark reminder of the harsh realities of war.
The day of reckoning arrived, marked by the indomitable spirit of the Indian soldiers. As news of Jhangar's fall reached the Indian forces, a determined resolve took hold. Plans were set in motion to reclaim the town and restore a sense of normalcy to the lives of its inhabitants. The journey to Jhangar was arduous, with soldiers traversing treacherous mountain paths, enduring biting cold, and facing constant threats from enemy forces, but Indian forces strategically held Jhangar which was also a vital junction between Mirpur and Kotli. Thus by doing so, they disrupted the enemy's communication lines.
Despite facing continuous pressure at Uri and Poonch, the main hostile effort was directed at Jhangar. The battle for Jhangar was fierce, with every inch of the town fiercely contested. House-to-house fighting became the norm, with soldiers displaying extraordinary courage in the face of adversity. Each step forward was hard-fought, as the echoes of fallen comrades spurred them on.
At this time, 1/2 Punjab was stationed in Jhangar, along with armored cars, machine gun platoons, engineers, and medical units. The commander placed piquets to guard approaches from Mirpur and Kotli, emphasizing the defense of Pir Matals ridge against Mirpur threats.
However, the dispersed piquets lacked mutual support due to the terrain. The defense was basin-shaped, with limited armored car support. From early December, enemy attacks intensified, culminating in a fierce raid on Pir Matalsi Ridge on December 9 Despite being outnumbered, Indian forces repelled the attack, inflicting heavy casualties. On December 16, the enemy engaged an Indian convoy en route from Jhangar to Naushahra, disrupting communication temporarily.
The enemy subsequently launched a massive assault on Jhangar, overwhelming the defenders at Pir Matalsi Ridge. Despite inflicting heavy losses, the ridge fell to the enemy. With crucial positions lost and ammunition exhausted, the garrison faced annihilation.
On December 24, a well-coordinated enemy attack on Jhangar involved approximately 1500 assailants armed with heavy weaponry. They successfully blocked roads to Naushahra and Beri Pattan. Armored car troops encountered heavy resistance, with one troop leader, Jemadar Umrao Singh, displaying exceptional bravery, causing significant enemy casualties.
The Indian forces orchestrated a multi-pronged assault. 1 Patiala and 3 (Para) Maratha Light Infantry advanced in tandem, capturing key vantage points with the support of artillery and mortar fire. Companies of 1 Patiala exhibited remarkable agility, employing leapfrogging tactics to maintain momentum. Simultaneously, 1 Kumaon Rifles and 4 Dogra secured intervening features, inching closer to Jhangar.
The enemy's disposition was telling; their main defensive efforts were concentrated at Pir Thil, leaving their inner ring around Jhangar thinly held. This vulnerability proved crucial in the ensuing battle.
The enemy's resistance was met with overwhelming artillery barrages on predefined targets, effectively suppressing their defenses. By the afternoon of March 17, the last pockets of enemy resistance around Jhangar crumbled, and the town was recaptured.
Amidst the chaos, tales of selfless heroism emerged. Medics braved enemy fire to tend to the wounded, officers led from the front, and soldiers displayed extraordinary acts of bravery. The town that had witnessed their despair now bore witness to their triumph.
With the recapture of Jhangar on March 18, 1948, Operation Vijay concluded, marking a significant triumph for the Indian forces, and a renewed sense of hope swept through the town. Its inhabitants returned, determined to rebuild their lives from the ashes of war. The scars of battle were etched into the landscape, a reminder of the sacrifices made in the pursuit of freedom.
This operation, marked by meticulous planning and unwavering resolve, showcased the bravery and determination of those who fought to reclaim Jhangar, turning the tide of the conflict in their favor. The recapture of Jhangar remains a testament to the unyielding spirit of those who defended the nation's integrity in the face of adversity.