Brigadier Rajinder Singh || India's unsung war hero who saved Kashmir

Brigadier Rajinder Singh was an officer in the Indian Army. He was the first recipient of Maha Vir Chakra of independent India. He is often called the saviour of Kashmir. If he had not stopped the Pakistani invaders, if he didn’t sacrifice his life, Kashmir may not have been a part of India. In this article, we are going to have a closer look on his life and his contributions to the nation.

Quick Facts

  • He was born on 14th June 1899 in Bagoona village of Samba district, Jammu & Kashmir.
  • He belongs to the Dogra community which is well known for its contributions to the Indian Army.
  • He was martyred on 26 October 1947 while fighting in the Indo-Pak war of 1947.
  • He belongs to the family of General Baj Singh, who sacrificed his life in the defence of Chitral almost a century earlier.
  • His father was Subedar Lakha Singh, who also served the nation.
  • He graduated from the Prince of Wales College in 1921. 
  • He was commissioned in the J&K State Force in June 1921. 
  • He became Brigadier in May 1942, commanded Jammu Brigade, Kashmir Brigade and took over as Chief of Staff J&K State Force from Maj Gen HL Scot on Sep 24, 1947.
  • He was the first recipient of Maha Vir Chakra in independent India. He was awarded the honor posthumously by the then Army Chief Field Marshall K.M. Carriappa on 30th December 1949.
  • His birthplace is now re-named as Rajinderpura in his honour.
  • In 1999, on his 100th birth anniversary, the Indian government released a postal stamp in his honour.
By India Post, Government of India - [1], GODL-India, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74693166

Indo-Pak War of 1947 timeline

21 October 1947

  • Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu & Kashmir declared independence.
  • Pakistan tried to capture Kashmir by force hoping that the Muslim community will support them. 
  • A fierce force of over 5000 men entered Kashmir via Baramulla and targeted Kashmiri pandits and Sikhs and committed crimes like rape and murder.

22 October 1947

  • Maharaja Hari Singh ordered Brigadier Rajinder Singh, who was then serving as the chief of army staff of Jammu and Kashmir to defend the state “till the last man and the last bullet”.
  • He was asked to collect as many men and officers from the Badamibagh cantonment and proceed immediately towards Uri. 
  • He could collect only about 150 men with their obsolete weapons. 
  • There was shortage of petrol as Pakistan had blocked all supplies to Kashmir. No vehicles were readily available as well. So Brigadier Singh and his men used private transport (buses and trucks) and left Srinagar at 6.30 p.m. 
  • The rain, slippery roads and old vehicles slowed their movement but the group managed to reach Uri at 2 am on October 23, 1947.
  • He left one platoon at Uri and then proceeded to Garhi.

23 October 1947

  • At Garhi a fierce battle was fought. 
  • The enemy had far superior weapons and outnumbered us but still in the first phase, heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy. 
  • Brigadier Rajinder Singh realised that in order to stop the invading raiders, it would be better to withdraw to Uri and hold a defensive position. 
  • The raiders managed to enter the settlement and committed all sorts of crimes and atrocities to the people.
  • The small defensive force could found it very hard to save those helpless people. 
  • Reinforcements were called and Captain Jwala Singh along with 70-80 men were sent.

24 October 1947

  • Captain Jwala Singh reached Uri at 3 am.
  • He odered his men to blow up the steep girder bridge over the Uri stream which led to a wide  gap on the far side of the bridge which stopped the march of the enemy for quite some time. 
  • After some time, the enemy launched a massive attack and the tribal raiders seemed to be everywhere. 
  • The defensive force fell back to Mahura for another defensive position. 

25 October 1947

  • The enemy attacked at 7 am. 
  • The defense was so effective that the raiders sent some columns to cross the Jhelum upstream on footbridges to attack the defense from the rear. 
  • Rajinder Singh, sensing the move, asked Capt Jwala Singh to move upstream and blow up the bridges. 
  • The task was completed by 4.30 p.m. but by then some enemy troops had already crossed over to this side. 
  • Again, the Brigadier moved to Rampur to put up a defence near the Pathar ruins.

26 October 1947

  • Enemy firing started from all sides. 
  • The defence was, once again, so effective that throughout the day raiders could not launch an assault. Then they planned to put up roadblocks to block even the tactical retreat. 
  • Brigadier Rajinder Singh ordered a withdrawal to Seri bridge just west of Baramulla to put another halt to the enemy move.
  • As Brigadier Singh and his men fought, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession joining the Union of India as the region was under siege from Pakistani forces.
  • Brigadier Rajinder Singh's car was fired upon by the enemy while retreating and he was declared dead.

Official Maha Vir Chakra citation

Gazette Notification:2 Pres 50, 26.1.50

Operation: 1948 Polo – Hyderabad Date of Award: 1948

Citation: Immediately after the partition of the Indian Sub continent 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 penn-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 the Valley as of the whole State hung precariously on a slender thread.

Brigadier Rajinder 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 dispatched on 23 Oct 1947 to join Brigadier Rajinder Singh with orders from Maharaja Hari Singh, C-in-C as follows:- "Brigadier Rajinder 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 Rajinder 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 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 Rajinder Singh. He made the supreme sacrifice of his life on the night of 26–27 October 1947 valiantly fighting the Pakistani raiders in Uri-Rampur sector.

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