The 1947 War Hero Who Sacrificed His Life For Kashmir

Brigadier Rajinder Singh, independent India’s first war hero, sacrificed his life to keep Kashmir in India. 

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Brigadier Rajinder Singh (left) and troops in the 1947-48 war. (Photo Courtesy: Ayushman Jamwal and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/ARMY/Galleries/Wars/1947/">Bharat Rakshak</a>)

It has been over a month since violence erupted in Jammu and Kashmir. Independence Day in the valley is marked by tensions and sporadic violence between protesters and security forces.

The memory of a terrorist – Burhan Wani – looms large over the minds of thousands across Kashmir as the state tries to limp back to an uneasy sense of normalcy.

However, in the turmoil of Kashmir and the discord of Kashmiri politics, we often forget the service of independent India’s first war hero, my great granduncle – Brigadier Rajinder Singh – the ‘Immortal Dogra’, also known as the ‘Saviour of Kashmir’.

This is a day we remember the valiant who shaped India into what it is today. We honour the sacrifice of our brave freedom fighters, our visionary leaders and the service of our jawans.

On 21 October 1947, Pakistani forces besieged the lands of Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir and tried to take it by force, hoping the dominant Muslim community would support them.

Sikh troops in Baramulla, November 1947. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/ARMY/Galleries/Wars/1947/">Bharat Rakshak</a>)
Sikh troops in Baramulla, November 1947. (Photo Courtesy: Bharat Rakshak)

They entered Kashmir via Baramulla and targeted the Sikh and Kashmiri Pundit community, committing rape, murder and arson. As the Pakistani forces laid waste the villages in a bid to ‘purge’ the land – on 22 October, Maharaja Hari Singh ordered Brigadier Rajinder Singh, who served as the Chief of Army Staff, to defend the state “till the last man and the last bullet” and await re-enforcements from the Indian army.

Maharaja Hari Singh’s son Dr Karan Singh in an interview remembers the day the order was given.

It was a very worrying situation. We were under attack. Rajinder Singh was given the order by my father and he just saluted and walked away.
Dr Karan Singh

Kashmir Is a Part of India Because of Rajinder Singh’s Sacrifice

Rajinder Singh gathered 110 soldiers and moved to Muzaffarabad to counter the invading force of over 6000 militia. The Brigadier used guerrilla tactics to delay their advance, blowing up the Uri bridge and stalling them in Mahura and Rampur, inflicting heavy casualties.

For four days, Rajinder Singh and his brave jawans hindered the progress of the Pakistani invaders. This may have been the first time in contemporary military history where an Army chief personally led soldiers in combat.

As Rajinder Singh and his men fought, on 26 October, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession joining the Union of India. The Indian military rushed in to back Rajinder Singh.

However, just hours away from his position, the Brigadier was ambushed at Buniyar and fatally wounded. He had held fort and staggered the invaders long enough for the Indian Army to swoop in and push them back, saving thousands from a brutal onslaught.

Rajinder Singh carried out his orders to the letter, setting an example of courage and patriotism that is unparalleled. He was the first recipient of the Maha Vir Chakra in independent India.

If Rajinder Singh had not stopped the Pakistani invaders, if he didn’t sacrifice his life, Kashmir may not have been a part of India.
Dr Karan Singh

Pakistan Will Never Achieve Kinship With Kashmiris

Rajinder Singh hailed from the Duggar or the Dogra people of Jammu, a community deeply entrenched in the armed forces of India for several generations.

He continues to be an inspiration to people across Jammu and almost every household has one or two members serving in the armed forces, many defending the border and the Kashmir valley.

Despite facing the brunt of militancy for decades, Jammu has not allowed it to take root in the region as the memory of this braveheart continues to thrive.

His sacrifice is also the reason why J&K citizens beyond the Kashmir valley claim the land to be their own and an integral part India. His sacrifice turns the calls for independence from separatists and Pakistan meaningless – a fool’s dream that history has denied and the future will never allow.

Pakistan has wreaked havoc in Kashmir since 1947 and denied basic rights to Kashmiris in PoK. Similar to the Bangladeshis in 1971, Pakistan never had and never will truly achieve kinship with the people of Kashmir.

This Independence day, we must remember the will and the sacrifice that has kept the Union of India together. Our history is testimony of how it is a more enduring force than the blind fury of the misguided and the resolve of cowards.

Even as tensions abound in the Kashmir valley, the soil is laden with the blood and spirit of heroes like Rajinder Singh and will never accede to those who would see its beauty burn just to rule over ashes.

(The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-News18. He can be reached at @Jamwalthefirst. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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