May 23, 2007
The oral history of Kashmir
By Dr A.N. Banerjee
International military observers from different countries of the world came to the site of the battle. In the history of warfare, tanks were never used at such a high altitude. The battle of Zojila thus created a world record. The enemy panicked and was in headlong fight.
Now it was Biju Babu’s turn to fly to Kashmir. RSS volunteers had already defended and kept the airstrip outside Srinagar ready for the Indian Air Force to land. The Indian Air Force, though in a state of high alert and in readiness to move at once, could not move without order from the Ministry of Defence.
Narrations of oral history can neither be proved or disproved due to the inaccessibility of documents or any other evidence. Only the recording to the narration can be done with veracity and fidelity. We have taken this care. Now we proceed to record some facts which were narrated orally by eye-witnesses. Our record is presented below:-
After the withdrawal of the British from the Indian subcontinent the Maharaja of Kashmir had the option to accede either to India or Pakistan. Pakistani raiders aided by military personnel in disguise attacked Kashmir even before the Maharaja had taken any decision. The raiders came in hordes, looting, burning, killing and pillaging the countryside irrespective of the caste, creed, race, language and religion of the victims. Women and minor girls were raped, kidnapped and murdered. The Maharaja in hot haste acceded to India and asked for protection. At this time the raiders were at the outskirts of Srinagar itself. In their lust for rape and loot they delayed the occupation of Srinagar as well as the airstrip at the outskirts of Srinagar. A few civic minded Kashmiri citizens under the leadership of a Muslim journalist called Sherwani organised a stubborn resistance. This martyr Sherwani laid down his life while resisting the raiders. The Indian security forces had still not received any movement order due to red tape. This delay would have been fatal to us. Fortunately another Indian patriot, like Sherwani, came just in the nick of time to save the situation. He was none other than the internationally famous aviator Biju Patnaik, lovingly called Biju Babu by his Indian admirers. Biju Babu belonged to an aristocratic family of Orissa. He had distinguished himself in the Second World War as an officer in the Royal Indian Air Force. His senior officers rated him highly. After the war was over, he left the Air Force, but not his love for aviation. He bought his own private plane and flew whenever and wherever he liked. At this time Sukarno, the freedom fighter of Indonesia, was wrongfully confined in a Dutch jail in Indonesia. Biju Babu took a serious view of this crime. So in a daring air raid he flew to Indonesia to rescue Sukarno. Biju Babu after rescuing the Indonesian patriot wanted to land in India. But the Indian government refused him permission to land in India. Biju Babu had inadequate fuel; he could not go beyond India. This daring pilot never accepted defeat. Somehow, from somewhere he obtained fuel and the people of Britain welcomed him to Britain; and forced the British government to permit Biju Babu along with his companion Sukarno to land in London. Biju Babu and Sukarno both proved that fate bows before a man who defies it. They also proved that prophets are honoured away from their homes.
Now it was Biju Babu’s turn to fly to Kashmir. RSS volunteers had already defended and kept the airstrip outside Srinagar ready for the Indian Air Force to land. The Indian Air Force, though in a state of high alert and in readiness to move at once, could not move without order from the Ministry of Defence. The MoD was caught in red tape, the order to the Air Force move had still not come, although the RSS volunteers were still guarding the airstrip and waiting to welcome the Indian Air Force. To their utter pleasant surprise instead of Indian Air force Biju Babu, armed with his private revolver, in his private plane droned in. The raiders panicked mistaking Biju Babu’s plane to be that of Indian Air Force. The raiders were in headlong fight. Srinagar was thus saved by the private enterprise of Kashmiri patriots like martyr Sherwani, RSS volunteers and Biju Babu. These people had saved precious time and helped the Indian Air Force, the Indian Army, the state forces of the Maharaja of Kashmir, the para-military forces and the local police to fight with their customary valour and discipline. His Majesty the King of Nepal also offered any assistance which India may require. We were grateful for the offer but we already had the services of His Majesty’s subjects through the Gorkha troops who were serving in the Indian Army and police forces of India.
As soon as the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army arrived they went into action. They chased the Pakistani raiders up to Zojila. At Zojila on a high mountain peak, the raiders again built up fortifications and defied any attack. General Thimmaya too arrived there. He ordered a contingent of Maratha Light Infantry to dislodge the enemy. This contingent consisted of veterans who had distinguished themselves in North African desert, in fighting against the famous Afrika Korps of Field Marshal Rommel. These veterans, however, suffered from a logistical handicap. The enemy was entrenched at such a height that the supporting fire of our troops could not reach them. General Thimmaya himself inspected the battlefield and devised his own tactic. He could at once see that it was impossible to dislodge the enemy by an assault by infantry alone. General Thimmaya was undaunted. He declared, “I will make the enemy shit in his pants.”
General Thimmaya decided to bring tanks from Ahmednagar although there were no roads to bring tanks. So he decided to bring the tanks, after dismantling these tanks, by air. There was also no landing ground, therefore, he decided to hastily prepare a landing ground. Then a workshop had to be set up for the engineers to assemble the dismantled tanks immediately. There were no roads, therefore the engineers were to come on foot. All this planning had to be done secretly and in the shortest possible time. General Thimmaya meticulously planned this complicated operation. The date and timings were set down. There could be no mistake in carrying out the operation. On the appointed day the attack was made. Tanks rolled up to the summit of the Zojila, with decimating fire upon the enemy. Those who were at the ground level saw a rain of enemies’ dead bodies falling from the summit. Zojila was ours. International military observers from different countries of the world came to the site of the battle. In the history of warfare tanks were never used at such a high altitude. The battle of Zojila thus created a world record. The enemy panicked and was in headlong fight. General Thimmaya had remained on the battlefield, for the whole night. When the operation was successfully over just before the break of dawn General Thimmaya jokingly told his local commander, “Well, my dear you had a busy time but you performed well. Shabashl! my boys. Now let us all have our bed tea here in the battlefield itself.” Within a few hours General Thimmaya would have chased the remnants demoralised enemy to the right side of the Indo-Pakistan border. He proposed to the local commander to arrange for a gala lunch with the troops on the Pakistan border. If this plan had gone ahead as per schedule there would have been no Kashmir problem.
In the meantime, unknown to these victorious warriors, the western powers, within closed doors, met an ambitious Indian in the corridors of power and offered Nobel Prize for Peace to anyone who could stop General Thimmaya and his troops from going beyond Zojila. The conspiracy of the western powers worked. The United Nations imposed cease fire upon Kashmir and the LoC came into existence. International military observers said that India snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. General Thimmaya, the architect of the victory, was a frustrated soldier. He died of heart attack soon after, much to the delight of our enemies.
(The author is a Ph.D. (Criminal Justice), formerly of the Indian Police Service, ex-Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles, qualified Professor of foreign languages, (Ministry of Defence Government of India, New Delhi). He can be contacted at 32 Sagar Tarang CHS Ltd. 15/A, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Road, Worli Seaface, Mumbai-400 030.)
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