Brigadier Rajinder Singh and his troops presented the first line of defense in the forward areas of Uri against the Pakistani tribal raiders
Kashmir’s integration with the Union of India in 1947 was not possible but for the sacrifices of many brave hearts who fought till their last breath for the unity, integrity and dignity of the motherland. About 75 years ago, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir wouldn’t have been able to sign the Instrument of Accession to India had the local population of Kashmir under the able-guidance of the leadership of the time and the supreme sacrifices by none other than the “Lion of Baramulla” Maqbool Sherwani and that of Brigadier Rajinder Singh and his band of warriors who died defending the Kashmir valley.
Maqbool Sherwani, a Kashmiri Muslim youth and National Conference member, delayed the march of Pakistan invaders in Baramulla in October 1947. He played an important role in buying time for Indian Army’s Sikh Regiment troops who landed in Srinagar once the accession was accepted. Brigadier Rajinder Singh along with his troops presented the first line of defense in the forward areas of Uri. He was martyred the same day Maharaja Hari Singh signed that historic document uniting Jammu and Kashmir with India, a sacrifice that honoured the simple words of that contract.
Maqbool Sherwani and Brig Rajinder
While over the last many years, much attention was given to the contributions of Maqbool Sherwani, rightfully so, somehow I feel similar people in Kashmir need to be made more aware about the sacrifice of Brigadier Rajinder Singh. So both Sherwani and Brig Rajinder, who was the first recipient of the Mahavir Chakra in Independent India, receive the veneration and respect in equal measures without these two great heroes of the soil falling into the dividing binary of Kashmir and Jammu. Both are the brave sons of India, who sacrificed their lives for the honour of the motherland.
After the Independence of India in August 1947 and subsequent partition of the subcontinent, many princely states of British India wanted to remain independent. Maharaja Hari Singh also declared independence for Jammu and Kashmir on 21 October 1947.
Seeing this as an opportunity, Pakistani forces besieged Jammu and Kashmir and tried to take control of the region by force, hoping that the dominant Muslim community would support them. They entered Kashmir via Baramulla and targeted innocent local people, committing rape, murder and arson in a bid to ‘purge’ the land.
But the vigilant and nationalist people of north Kashmir proved the nefarious designs of the raiders wrong. Maqbool Sherwani played a big role here. He misguided the raiders to a wrong path for which he was killed by the raiders. He is considered as a hero and a martyr of Kashmir in India by people, government and the Indian Army.
They Stalled The Progress Of Pakistani Invaders
Under siege, on 22 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh ordered Brig Rajinder, who served as the chief of army staff of Jammu and Kashmir, to defend the state “till the last man and the last bullet”. He gathered 110 soldiers and moved to Muzaffarabad to counter the invading force of over 6,000 militiamen. He 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, Brig Rajinder and his brave jawans hindered the progress of the Pakistani invaders. This may have been the first time in contemporary military history that an army chief personally led soldiers in combat. As Brig Rajinder 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 Brig Rajinder’s brave and redoubtable stand. However, just hours away from his position, he was ambushed at Buniyar and fatally wounded. He had held fort and repelled the invaders long enough for the Indian Army to push them back, saving thousands from a brutal onslaught. He carried out his orders to the letter, setting an unparalleled example of courage and patriotism. “If Brig Rajinder Singh had not stopped the Pakistani invaders, if he didn’t sacrifice his life, Kashmir may not have been a part of India,” said Dr Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh, who later on became the ruler of J&K.
The Brave Sons Of India
For the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Brigadier Rajinder Singh is known as the ‘Immortal Dogra’ and the ‘Saviour of Kashmir’. The youth of J&K, particularly the Dogra people of Jammu, a community deeply entrenched in the armed forces of India for several generations, see a big inspiration in Brigadier Singh. That is why almost every household in the Jammu region has one or two members serving in the armed forces, many defending the border and the Kashmir valley.
Brigadier Rajinder Singh was honored posthumously with the MahaVir Chakra by Army chief Field Marshal KM Carriapa on 30th December 1949.
For the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Brigadier Rajinder Singh is known as the ‘Immortal Dogra’ and the ‘Saviour of Kashmir’. More and more people must be made aware about the sacrifice of Brigadier Rajinder Singh and his soldiers
The citation reads: “Immediately after the partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947, thousands of raiders assisted by Pakistani regulars invaded the State of Jammu & Kashmir all along its border. The Jammu & Kashmir State Forces, stretched along a 550-mile long border deployed in pen-packets with limited arms, ammunition and supplies, without road communications, and heavily-outnumbered, fought tenaciously holding on to their positions. Kohla-Domel garrison fell to the invaders on 22 October 1947.
The fate of Kashmir – in fact the fate of the whole state – hung precariously on a slender thread. Brigadier Rajender Singh, Chief of Military Staff, took over the command of a relief column and proceeded to check the raiders. Another column with all available troops (nearly 100) was despatched on 23 Oct 1947 to join Brigadier Rajender Singh with orders from Maharaja Hari Singh, C-in-C as follows: “Brigadier Rajender Singh is commanded to hold the enemy at Uri at all costs and to the last man. Reinforcement is sent with Capt Jwala Singh …….”
Brigadier Rajender Singh and his band of soldiers carried out the orders of the Maharaja to the letter and spirit. Fighting bravely for every inch of land, they delayed the enemy advance by two crucial days during which important decisions were taken. The Indian Army joined the fight and the J&K State was thus saved for India by Brigadier Rajender Singh. He made the supreme sacrifice of his life on 26 October 1947 valiantly fighting the Pakistani raiders in Uri-Rampur sector.”
Rajinderpura: The Town Named After Brig Rajinder Singh
Both people and governments of J&K have ensured that Brigadier Rajinder lives for eternity and his sacrifice and valour becomes a legend and part of folklore for the generations to come. That is why Brigadier Rajinder’s native hometown of Bagoona has been renamed as Rajinderpura. Also a park in Bagoona, Samba and Canal head Jammu has been named after Brig Singh. It is called the “Brigadier Rajinder Singh Memorial Park”. Jammu city has paid tribute to him by renaming shopping road/street “Rajinder Bazar” in his honor.
Both Brigadier Rajinder’s birthday, 14 June, and day of martyrdom, 26 October, are celebrated by the locals and government functionaries. On 26 October 2018, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Army paid tributes at ‘Brigadier Rajinder Singh Chowk’ in Jammu. University of Jammu has an auditorium named after the Brigadier, while two schools in Samba district are also named after the Brigadier.
Very soon we will have monuments and institutions named after Brigadier Rajinder in Kashmir.