1st Battalion the MADRAS Regiment of Indian Army was the first paltan to cross Shamshabhari Ranges after the news of Razakar presence in general area of Pharkiyan Gali came as a bolt from the blue in May 1948. Having led the advance by crossing the Mountain Ranges from Nastachun Pass, the unit secured the firm base at Chhamkot to enable launching of 1st Battalion The SIKH Regiment for liberation of Tithwal. Subsequent to the liberation of Tithwal, Operation SURYA planned to liberate Muzzafarabad with a two-pronged advance was aborted due to strong resistance by the Pakistani regular forces opposite the Uri Sector who had by now taken over the areas looted by the Razakar Army at Chakothi. 1 MADRAS having thus played an instrumental role in Tithwal liberation, was tasked to consolidate the position inspite of shortage of Infantry due to 2/4 Gorkha Rifles being diverted to the Northern Sector (Ladakh). The brave Madrasis with half a day ration available at hand & zero air support took on the task to cross the Kishanganga River amidst a gushing stream of water creating multiple Rapids along the rocky course of the river on 23 May itself.
The scene on the banks of Kishanganga on the day of crossing was gory. The area along this pristine water body was strewn with the mortal remains of young men, women, children and old. It was a clear visual of the purpose for which the Razakars had come in to Kashmir - Rape, plunder & Loot. The Madrasis had their task cut out. They had to cross the gushing river in spite of all odds and rescue the population of Neelum valley from these Barbaric tribes brought in by Pakistan to coerce Kashmiris into joining them in the name of religion.
1 MADRAS crossed Kishanganga River under heavy enemy shelling on 23 May. Having crossed the river, the Battalion surprised the enemy by occupying Point 2203 through a steep & unexpected climb beyond the banks of Kishanganga River across the Neelum track. Thereon, troops consolidated their position at Point 2203 which formed the firm base for progress of operations towards Point 2119 rechristened as Madras Hill in recognition of the valour of 1 MADRAS). The night of 23 May had negligible ambient light since moon was in the first quarter and had set by 10:30 PM. The climb from Pt 2203 to Point 2119 was not very steep but strewn with mines. 1 MADRAS under heavy odds mounted the attack and with brute force and speed, established a momentum which was beyond the capabilities of the pakis to withstand.
By the midnight of 23/24 May 1947, Pakistani troops had abandoned Point 2119 and occupied Chunj Top to plan their counter attack on the liberated locations. 15 Razakars lay eliminated at Madras Hill as a testimony to the unit’s valour. Having captured the location, one company of 1 MADRAS was despatched to Reali village to safeguard the villagers from further brutal attacks by Razakars. Indian Army’s capture of heights across Kishanganga River still gives Pakistani commanders jitters, as any movement close to Tithwal Bridge by Army personnel even if ceremonial or training in nature invites their diplomatic protests.
Point 2119 by now Madras Hill not only provided a firm footing for the Indian forces across a formidable obstacle but also secured the northern flank for capture of Mir Kalsi & Pir Sahiba. This also enabled further progress of operations towards the Kafir Khan Ranges from the Richhmar Salient along the Darapari spur line which could isolate Leepa Valley from rest of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Indian advance towards Kafir Khan Ranges along the 2 feet wide razor sharp Darapari Spur could be accomplished in subsequent days due to courage & supreme sacrifices of 6 RAJ RIF. One such incident of courage laced with indomitable spirit of CHM Piru Singh, Param Vir Chakra (Posthumous) will be covered in the next edition.