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Dussain of 1964

My Life and Times

Raising and Command of 4th Battalion, 3rd Gorkha Rifles

By Lt. Col. Duleep Sinh
Part 6 : Dussain of 1964

In Nov 1963 the Battalion moved to Samba just after celebrating Dassain, with Kim Yadav joining us and having a good time. In Samba, 2/Lts Varma, Nijhawan, JS Pannu, SB Dogra, and OP Verma joined. Maj SDS Yadava got posted out on promotion and a large batch of 2/Lts further joined us in 1964. These included SP Kothiyal, L Colney, AK Sharma, Yogendra Singh, BL Kothiyal, M Chettri, R Mishra, D Devraj and Gangte

Conditions were very stable and there was no tension at all. I was on cordial terms with my opposite number and we met frequently. The area between us was thickly overgrown by undergrowth and bushes and was the home of jungle fowl, partridge and quail. It was the normal practice, whenever a VIP visited, as once Bong Bedi, the Area Commander did, to arrange a shoot by getting the Pakistanis to organize a beat. Naturally, whenever a Pakistani VIP visited, at their request, I would arrange a beat and generally a good time was had by all with a lot of bonhomie. A little later our first Battalion, under Charles Campagnac, passed through and I held a gala get together. We held an officer and JCOs football match with bars behind both the goal posts. Every time a goal was scored the scoring team was treated to a drink. Eventually the drinks had their effect and the match ended by declaring a draw. The same night my Battalion held a barakhana for the 1st Battalion and it was a joyous affair. I still have a photograph of myself with Brig Nand Lal Kapoor and Charles, in full regimental uniform, having a chit chat.

In Apr 1964 the Battalion moved back to the Valley and I took this opportunity to get Shanta and Bharat to Srinagar in summer, where they stayed with Hamir Singhji of Kunadi, who was a RAW official.

The Corps Commander during this period was Lt Gen Kashmir Chand Katoch. He was located at Srinagar and the Battalion was providing the guard at his residence consisting of a platoon with a JCO in charge, who were living there itself. Gen Katoch was, in a way, related to Shanta as he was the Mama of Dr Nasib Singh Pathania. I made it a point to visit the general’s residence often to check on the guard and every time I went there, Mrs Katoch used to insist that I should see her and would serve up some tea and eats and have a chit chat. Some time the General would also be at home and he would join us when tea was served.

Kim Yadav was not very popular with the higher echelons of command because of his stand with Lt Gen BM Kaul against Lt Gen Manekshaw. To fix him therefore, an exercise was planned on the Pir Panjal Range where his brigade was tasked to attack and capture the most dominant feature occupied by the enemy. Yadav put in an attack, with the Sikhs, on the left but was held up. I was then ordered to put in an attack to help the Sikh advance. I sent D Company to proceed to the spot and engage the enemy in a fire fight simulating an attack. I ordered B Company, under Nirodi, to proceed along the Nala on the right during the night and by first light occupy the high ground behind the enemy position thereby cutting off contact with his main base. Nirodi did an excellent job and as he progressed I decided to follow him with the rest of the Battalion, leaving a platoon behind to continue firing to simulate an attack on the flanks of the Sikhs. By first light I was well established with my battalion behind the enemy position, which even the planners of the Exercise had not foreseen. They thus had no option but to call off the Exercise. While all this was going on, Shanta was not idle. She on her own, like a true blue regimental lady, went up to Gen Katoch and told him how this exercise had ruined the Gorkhas biggest festival, the Dushera and exhorted him to do something even at this last minute to permit them to celebrate. Gen Katoch ordered the Brigade to assemble for a debriefing, took a helicopter and arrived at the spot where we all had gathered. He congratulated me and the whole Battalion for doing an excellent job and told me to leave with the Battalion at once for the Base to celebrate Dushera. I called the Battalion to attention, saluted and with a final Jai Gorakh, with me leading the way, we raced down the mountain to get into waiting transport to arrive at the Camp, where my SM had everything ready and Kalratri was once again celebrated with the usual song and dance with Rakshi flowing. The next morning was the day of Maha Balidan. Everything was ready when I and Shanta arrived. The boys all knew that it was only due to her efforts that we could celebrate Dassain and to show their appreciation of her efforts, they all got up and folded their hands in greeting to welcome her. There was much singing and dancing with Bharat right in the middle of it as all the photographs show. And so ended another eventful Dassain.

With the onset of winter the Battalion moved from the Valley to Naushera and occupied the defences of Rumlidhara. It was a very dominating feature completely overlooking the Pakistani posts way below in the plains but within range of our MMGs. Once I had got Randhir, who was at the NDA, to come and spend his leave with me at Rumlidhara. I took him up to a company picket where he had the enjoyable experience of blazing away with the MMG at the Pakistani picket down below and seeing them scurrying to their bunkers. The Pakistanis retaliated with mortar fire and Randhir learnt to take evasive action by crawling to the safety of the bunkers.