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13 KUMAON, 5 Aug 1948 to 5 Aug 2019- TOO YOUNG BUT TOO STRONG

13 KUMAON, 5 Aug 1948 to 5 Aug 2019- TOO YOUNG BUT TOO STRONG

5 Aug 1948 to 5 Aug 2019 is NOT a long journey for a Battalion to achieve laurels that many over 150 years of their existence envy. !3 Kumaon was raised on 5 Aug 1948 at Kanpur. Since I was born in Kanpur too about half a decade earlier this bond is too strong.  More so, living in Gurgaon I studied in DSD College where I had many Yadav /Ahir class fellows. Of course that time it never occurred to me what was the real difference between Yadavs and Ahirs BUT once I joined the Battalion it was clear. All Ahirs are Yadavs BUT all Yadavs are NOT Ahirs. Ahirs belong to Ahirwal region consisting of Narnaul, Kosli, Mahendargarh belt spanning parts of southern Haryana and north-eastern Rajasthan, was once a small principality based from the town of Rewari and controlled by members of the Ahir community from around the time when the Mughal Empire was on decline. So while Mulayam Singh or Lalu Prasad are Yadavs BUT it is only Rao Inderjeet Singh who is Ahir!

The Ahirs are mostly agriculturists and live in the villages. They have strong joint family system and family ties and lead frugal living. After farming, soldiering is their first love. They are mostly vegetarian and eschew alcoholic drinks but these trends are fast changing in the armed forces. In marriages Ahirs are strictly exogamous and thus do not marry into closely related gotras. Widow re-marriage has been traditionally permitted for economic reasons and to keep family ties and simple re-marriage of the widow to the younger brother or cousin of the deceases is encouraged. Ahir women are hardy and work alongside their men in the fields. They, however observe purdah.

 Rao Tula Ram was one of the most important Ahir leaders of the 1857 War of Independence. He was born on 9 Dec1825 in the well-known Rao family in village Rampura in Rewari. He was educated according to the then prevalent customs and knew Persian, Urdu, Hindi and a smattering of English. In November 1839, Rao Tula Ram ascended the throne on the death of his father. Along with Meerut, the people of Rewari under the dynamic leadership of Rao Tula Ram and his cousin Gopal Dev revolted against the Raj in a big way. He fought many battles against British Raj along with the forces of the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah, the Marathas and the Rajput princes. The battle of Narnaul was undoubtedly one of the most decisive battles of the Uprising of 1857 fought by Rao Tula Ram that left English jubilant over their success.  On l7 May 1857, the Rao went to the tehsil headquarters at Rewari with four to five hundred followers and deposed the tahsildar and the thanedar. They appropriated the cash from the tehsil treasury, took all the government buildings in their possession and proclaimed, under the sanction of Emperor Bahadur Shah, their rule over the Pargana of Rewari, Bhora and Shahjahanpur. Their headquarters was in Rampura, a small fortified village, one mile south-west of Rewari. While Tula Ram became the Raja, he appointed his cousin Gopal Dev as his Commander-in-Chief. However, the Britishers sent a 1500 strong column under Colonel Gerrard, an officer of conspicuous merit who on 6 Oct 1857who captured Rampura mud fort after minor skirmishes. On November 16, while Gerrard forces were bogged down in the desert terrain at Nasibpur, a small village two miles North West of Narnaul, the rebel forces under Rao Tula Ram pounced on them. Rao Tula Ram's first charge was irresistible and the British forces scattered before them. The Patiala Infantry and the Multani Horse of the British forces were completely disheartened but the Guides and the Carabineers came to their rescue and saved the situation under intense artillery fire.  But soon the situation took an unexpected turn when Col Gerrand was mortally wounded by a musket ball demoralising the British. Rao Tula Ram took advantage of the situation swooped down upon them forcing them to withdraw. However, though his forces fought valiantly, suffering heavy causalities they could not with stand intense artillery bombardment followed by repeated charges by the British cavalry and infantry and were forced to retreat. The pursuit of the fleeing soldiers was quick and inexorable, and they were very soon driven out of the town. After a little fighting Rao Tula Ram lost the day and, when the sun went down, there remained none in Narnaul except heaps of corpses here and there but Rao Tula Ram managed to escape to Rajasthan and joined Tantia Tope's forces. Since he was refused pardon after the revolt, he escaped to Iran in 1862 and then to Afghanistan in the winter of 1862, where he died of dysentery at Kabul on 23 Sep 1863 at a young age of 38. Gopal Dev also died in oblivion in 1862 and both were dispossessed of their Jagirs. Many raganis have been composed and sung by the Ahirs as folklores glorifying their valour and honour. Like all peasant communities, their music is simple, with minimum of instruments and raganis form their repertoire. In 13 Kumaon ‘Attarah November Basath Ko, Ek Hua Ghor Sangram, Suno Sajjno’ and ‘Rewari Motar Adde Par’ are two such raganis always sung in unison with josh and vigour.

The 13th Battalion has the distinction of being the first raising in the Regiment after Independence on 5 August 1948 at Kanpur under Lt Col HC Taylor the composition being Kumaonis and Ahirs in equal proportions. Within a year of its raising the Battalion was ready to take its place and was of 202 Infantry Brigade in Barrackpore. A couple of months later it moved to Fort William (Calcutta) with operational task to man India’s border with what was East Pakistan. It was called out to deal with disturbances in Calcutta in February 1950 to April 1950. Thereafter, it moved to Bangaon in July 1951 and placed under 9 infantry Brigade. In February 1952 it was ordered to move to Kashmir under 19 (Independent) Infantry Brigade. Three months later, it moved under 80 Infantry Brigade, relieving 6/5  Gorkha Rifles, taking over the defences at Pir Thil Nakka, Susiloti Dhar, Bagla, Point 3327 and Darhal Fort with major task to  prevent infiltration from across the Cease Fire Line (CFL). On return from Kashmir, 13 Kumaon moved to Ramgarh where it did not stay long and moved to Ranchi in February 1955. Later, they did stint at Fazilka and Sulemanki Headworks. Then  came the call to Naga Hills and while headquarters was at Wokha in Lotha area, the battalion set up a number of posts with strength ranging from a platoon to a company, the most important being at Koio, Yekhum, Kotsenyu and Lungsa. Most of the battalion transport was at Kohima while the rear dump was at Dimapur airfield.

Since the Naga trouble was brewing faster, rebel leader Phizo had slipped in Pakistan in December 1956 to internationalize the Naga issue.  The major difficulty in dealing with the rebel Nagas was that they frequently shifted their areas of activity and when chased from one place, they merely shifted to another. It was decided to simultaneously clean-up the entire tribal territory, and towards that end ‘Operation Jhoom’ was launched on 24 April. Both 13 and 15 Kumaon took part in the operation appreciable degree of success was achieved in locating and destroying the hostiles. Some hostiles and large quantities of arms and ammunition were captured but the top leaders escaped the dragnet. The patrols sent by the battalion had frequent encounters with the hostiles. After successful tenure in Naga Hills, Battalion on 24 April 1960 moved to Ambala to form part of 48 Infantry Brigade.

There was a promotion block for Ahirs due to their small representation in the battalions. In January 1959, Army Headquarters decided that 13 Kumaon be converted to 100% Ahir unit. This was to be effected by transferring its Kumaonis to 2nd and 6th Battalions with their Ahirs to 13th and in the process 2nd and 6th also became 100% Kumaoni battalions. It is commendable that changeover was completed smoothly while 13th was operationally committed in the Naga Hills.

13 Kumaon as the part of 48 Infantry Brigade arrived at Belgaum from Ambala to on 5 December 1961 and took part in ‘Operation Vijav’ in liberation of Goa. The Portuguese surrendered wit in 36 hours and Goa was free after four and a half centuries of foreign rule. The Battalion was tasked to guard the Portuguese detenues and government buildings, collecting the arms and ammunitions of Portuguese troops and removal of booby traps at Ponda, Panjim and Velha Goa. And it was in the third week of February 1962 that the battalion could return back to Ambala.

The Chinese invasion of India in the fall of 1962 came with a bewildering suddenness. Many consider that the border dispute that preceded it was merely a pretext for the attack and the real motive of the Chinese was to oust India from the leadership of the Afro- Asian countries while the others felt the Chinese motive was to humiliate India and discredit country’s leadership and its democratic system. The Battalion was then mobilized from Ambala to Baramula and further to Leh. The Battalion reached Chushul on 02 Oct 1962.Under the trying conditions, harsh climate, shortage of arms, ammunition, equipment and winter clothing, Brave Ahirs donned on them the responsibility to save the Chushul Airfield & Ladakh. The Ahirs saga of grit, determination, savage courage, death and destruction against insurmountable heavy odds has been compared by many military historians with the famed battles of Thermopylae and Saragarhi unfolds in the succeeding pages.

13 Kumaon again created history by routing Pakistani 1 PUNJAB plus a Company of 10 PUNJAB in a multi-directional day light attack with almost no artillery support in Longewala desert in the Rajasthan sector in 1971 Indo- Pak War under the dynamic command of Lt Col (later Brig RV Jatar) where Maj DS Shekhawat (Shekhu) and Hav Laxmi Narain were decorated with Sena medal each.  

On 26 Sep 1994, Subedar Sujjan Singh from Kanina had the unique distinction of being awarded Ashok Chakra-the highest peace time award posthumously while fighting Pakistani sponsored militants in Kupwara district in the Kashmir valley. 13 KUMAON thus earned the most prestigious title of ‘The Bravest of Brave Battalion’ having won the Param Vir Chakra and the Ashok Chakra in its short checkered history for its excellent services in the defence of the country and was awarded 'The Bravest of the Brave' Trophy by the then COAS General NC Vij.

 

‘How can a man die better?

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the Temples of his gods.’

                                   Macaulay

The Battalion under the able command Col Kamal Misra, with Sub Maj Ashok Kumar is presently located in the NCR and celebrates its Raising Day today with pomp and show despite its busy schedule with nostalgia.  The War Cry of the Battalion is ‘Dada Krishan Ki Jai’

So this is how the story of Ahirs of 13 KUMAON goes on and on and on till eternity motivating generations to come....

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