On Sunday, several members of the 1971 batch, led by Major General C D Sawant (retired), gathered to commemorate the golden jubilee of the commissioning of the officers from SS(NT)-10 and Tech-2 course in Delhi and paid homage to the “Seven Legends” who sacrificed their lives in the war. Before placing a wreath at the National War Memorial, Maj Gen Sawant said, addressing the families of the martyrs, “We were fortunate to fight in the 1971 war. It was the greatest victory of any nation wherein a new nation, Bangladesh, was created and we captured 93,000 prisoners of war (the largest-ever surrender since WWII).” According to a report, an estimated 3 lakh people lost their lives in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Of the remaining members of the 1971 batch, 222 went on to get permanent commission. Six rose to the rank of Major General, 18 became Brigadiers and 60 Colonels. Many of them won several Army medals and honours for bravery, exemplary courage and dynamic leadership.“When we passed out from the OTS in March 1971, we were inducted into short-term courses meant for officers. That time the war with Pakistan looked imminent. So in September, we got the instruction to leave the course and join operational areas,” Brig R S Parmar (Retd) told TOI.
Other members of the “Tenacious Tenners”, as the No. 10 batch is popularly known, also paid tributes to the “seven comrades-in-arms” in Chandigarh, Aizawl, Pune, Secunderabad and at OTA Chennai. They also remembered 67 other batchmates who have since passed away.
The “Seven Legends” were Second Lt Bharat Singh Kasana (9 Dogra), 2nd Lt Dharampal Yadava (14 Kumaon), 2nd Lt S M Sabharwal (Regiment of Artillery), 2nd Lt Vikram Burn Appalswamy (164 Field Regiment), 2nd Lt S M Viney Kaul (165 Field Regiment), 2nd Lt Girija Shankar Nair (13 Guards) and 2nd Lt K M Mandanna (9 Engr Regiment). A few of them were blown away in enemy mine blasts and artillery fire, and their bodies never recovered, while the whereabouts of some others were never known.
It is said that 2nd Lt Sabharwal from 18 Punjab captured three Pakistani posts in the Kargil sector. The officer, his radio operator and 18 men of his battalion went missing while attacking Point 4910. “My elder brother, then 22, captured a point in Kargil at night. But the next morning, Pakistan countered with a heavy force. It is said Sabharwal’s gun jammed. He and his men were either killed or made PoWs. There were some foreign reports about him languishing in a Pakistan jail. Till date, we do not know anything for sure,” Sabharwal’s brother Satish, along with his sibling Vinod, told TOI.
2nd Lt Dharampal destroyed several enemy bunkers on the eastern front. He was shot in the head while attacking an enemy bunker. “When my father Dharampal ji laid down his life, I was four years old and my sister was just two years old. We feel privileged that the government still remembers the sacrifices of my father and his colleagues and invited us on this occasion. My sister Suvida Yadav, who is an ex-sarpanch and even went to Pakistan as a peace ambassador, and I always try to follow the right path that our father had shown to us,” says Dharampal’s son Devender Kumar.
Bharat Singh Kasana, who received the Vir Chakra (posthumously), launched an attack on a well-entrenched enemy locality at Suadih, then East Pakistan. They captured the terrain but Kasana and his men died in the fighting. “Viney Kaul was the topper of his class and a silver gunner. A very decorated officer. He made the supreme sacrifice in Jalalabad at such a young age of 21. It’s a great feeling and we feel so honoured that his class, the Army and the nation still remember him,” his niece, who came for the event, said. His coursemate, former Army officer V K Sharma said that Viney and his radio operator died in the enemy’s artillery shelling.
Lt Col S J M Jafri (retd), who was injured while retrieving anti-personnel mines laid by Pakistan, said, “The war lasted 13 days in December. But many lost their lives in operations before the war started and after the ceasefire was announced. When the ceasefire was declared on December 16, Pakistanis handed over the captured land to us but they did not tell us exact locations of the mines laid by them. Several of our jawans died later in mine-retrieving operations.”
While Major Gaonkar G R (retd) won a sena medal for winning the Battle of Dhamdaha, his batchmate Major Vishwambhar Singh (retd) participated in the Battle of Dera Baba Nanak in which several Pakistanis were killed.
The Indian Army even conducted several amphibious operations to capture the Pakistani troops.
Col Dhirendra Gupta (retd), whose team captured Jessore, told TOI, “A special Romeo force was set up with the help of the Indian Navy. It’s objective was to capture the enemy running from Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong. We sailed on a civilian cargo ship called ‘Vishwa Vijay’ from Diamond Harbour in Kolkata to Chittagong in Bangladesh to block the fleeing Pakistani troops. We captured around 10,000 enemy troops and brought the PoWs back to Kolkata by the same ship.”