THE SACRED GROUND WHERE SAVIOURS FELL : FAZILKA AND NAGI
“Where saviours of Fazilka fell is sacred ground” writes Praful Chander Nagpal in an article Published on 14 Dec 2014. He describes the Asafwala War Memorial located 7 km from Fazilka erected by the local residents on private land in the memory of soldiers who attained martyrdom while defending the country in 1971. This memorial stands on a hallowed piece of land where the mortal remains of 226 Brave-hears of the Indian Army who laid down their lives to defend Fazilka during the Indo-Pak War of 1971 were cremated.
The Asafwala Memorial complex houses photographs of martyrs and busts of Maha Vir Chakra recipient Lance Naik Drigpal Singh of 15 Rajput Regiment, Major Narain Singh (Vir Chakra) of 4 Jat Regiment, Major Lalit Mohan Bhatia (Vir Chakra) of 15 Rajput Regiment and Lance Havildar Gangadhar (awarded Vir Chakra posthumously). The ashes of Major Gen RK Suri, who led 4 Jat Regiment, have been preserved in the memorial, as per his wishes. An annual function is held jointly by the Army and the local residents to commemorate the heroic deeds of the Indian Army. Another such memorial has been erected at Nagi near Ganganagar which saw a fierce battle to evict an intrusion on 28 Dec 1971. The valiant soldiers of 4 PARA (SF), 9 PARA FIELD REGIMENT, and 410 (I) ENGINEER COMPANY fought this battle on 27-28 Dec 14, finally evicting the intruders with 19 martyrs laying down their lives for the nation in this action.
A memorial function is carried out every year at the shrines and the battlefields come alive with participation of the civilians and the Indian Army. The above photograph shows the wreath laying on 28 Dec 2014 by Lt Gen PM Hariz, then GOC of Chetak Corps under whose aegis this function is carried out annually as per an SOP issued for the same. This photograph was also published in the Sainik Samachar of Feb 1-15, 2015. A similar photograph for the next function was published in the Ministry of Defence press release, as well as the Army Facebook, Twitter pages on 28 Dec 2015 and in the Sainik Samachar of 1-16 Jan 2016.
These memorials have become revered shrines as they immortalise the noblest human virtues and values – that of unconditional devotion to duty and willingness to unflinchingly make the supreme sacrifice for the sake of the nation and safty of one’s countrymen. The functions in Dec 2014 were also made part of the Sapta Shakti Student Outreach Campaign by involving local schools and colleges as also by suitably cleared Curtain Raiser, Pre and Post event press releases which were carried by many newspapers and magazines including Force, Outlook, Times of India, Indian Express, Dainik Jagaran, Hindustan Times, ADGPI Facebook page and several local newspapers .
Saving Fazilka from falling into Pakistani hands came at a very high cost – 11 Officers, 10 Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and 185 Soldiers embraced martyrdom while 19 Officers, 11 JCOs and 334 Soldiers were wounded on the battlefield. For displaying conspicuous gallantry, a total of one Mahavir Chakra, six Vir Chakras and four mention-in-despatches were awarded. During the battle of Nagi, 3 Officers and 18 Soldiers laid down their lives. The Christian Soldiers’ graves are at Karanpur and Asafwala where separate memorials have been made and wreaths are laid at these cemeteries also every year.
While the valiant actions of our soldiers demonstrated that when it comes to thwarting aggressive designs of the enemy and ensuring safety of their countrymen, no sacrifice is too great for the Indian Army, the construction of a memorial by the local population to honour the martyrs speaks volumes about their profound respect and gratitude for the sacrifices made by the Army. The propagation of a suitable Perception Managment theme to portray the Army in a positive light, and spread an environment of goodwill & support amongst populace both during war and peace was conceived to build on these functions in 2014 and 2015. In addition, these themes served to nurture the support base to ensure steady intake of suitable & motivated youth to volunteer for joining the defence services. The events were well covered and the photographs of Nagi Day 2014 below were hosted on the ADGPI Facebook page where Lt Gen PM Hariz, SM, VSM, GOC, Chetak Corps presented a souvenir to Maj Gen TS Handa (retd) of 4 PARA (SF) at the end of the function.
The battle field scene came alive with the emotions which the veterans narrated the war story on 28 Dec 2014. Lt Col CK Singh (retd), who was the mortar Pl Cdr of 4 PARA during the war, narrated how in face of intense enemy arty firing his Pl carried out effective domination of Pak Arty which allowed the battle to progress as it did. He remembered offrs & men who lost their lives that day. He was given a thunderous applause by the local population as he narrated the warmth with which the civil population looked after them during the war. Brig Jamwal who was then an Engr Pl Cdr of 410 (I) Engr Sqn became nostalgic and narrated how in the thick of battle, he along with his 8 men braved intense enemy Arty shelling to create a safe lane without any equipment associated with modern day mine breaching. He became emotional recalling the event and paid homage to his fallen comrades. One could feel the local population sharing his grief for losing his comrades while equally acknowledging the achievement of his men.
The memorial at Nagi was renovated with the help of the local administration in 2014. In addition the villagers of Karanpur guided us to the graves of the Christian soldiers which were at the village cremation ground. The initial preparation of the graves had been done long ago and a need was felt to have a separate wreath laying function here also after the Nagi Memorial function. With the help of the civil administration and local leaders a suitable cemeterty was constructed so that the memorial service could be conducted.
At Fazilka the people of the District joined the Army in great numbers to celebrate Fazilka Vijay Diwas with great patriotic fervour and pay homage to the martyrs of 1971 Indo Pak War whose supreme sacrifice saved Fazilka. The highlights of this week long celebration included a Presentation on Battle of Beriwala and Battle Field Tour for the youth of Fazilka, a unique and first of its kind ‘Victory Parade’ in 2014 through the heart of the town in which entire Fazilka town participated and a Light & Sound Show to bring alive battlefield of 1971. The grand culmination of events at Asafwala War Memorial included National Unity Marathon Run, Wreath Laying Ceremony, Patriotic Cultural Programe by School Children and Community Lunch. The events were graced by Mrs Urmila Bhatiyal, w/o Late Maj Narayan Singh, VrC (4 JAT) and Mrs Santosh Rana, w/o Late Maj KS Rana (15 RAJPUT) who laid down their lives defending Fazilka during 1971 Operations, both of whom were invited for the function. They had visited the place where their husbands made the supreme sacrifice for the first time due to the special afforts made by the formation. They were honoured during the sound and light show as also during the Victory March when local population spontaneously showered flowers and petals on the war widows and war veterans who were part of the procession to the Clock Tower. The NCC Cadets, veterans and officials of local administration also participated in this Victory Rally.
The presence of serving and retired personnel of the units which took part in the operations of 1971 lent an added sense of belonging and involvement which added a personal touch to both the memorial functions. The popularity of the coverage on the Army Facebook page indicates the success of the events.
Whenever possible this model of honouring our martyrs, war widows and war veterans at the place of the actual battles could be considered by concerned units and veterans as against restricting the battle honour celebrations to the present location of the unit. The civil administration responds very well and the enthusiasm of the local population is overwhelming. The veterans can feel a connect with the battlefield as well as the people in the area of action. Seeing the large turnout and sentiments of the people in these memorial functions of 2014 and 2015 , one was reminded of the famous lines -
“Shaheedon ki chitaon par lagenge har baras mele
Watan par mitne waalon ka yehi baaki nishan hoga !”
(Fairs will be held every year where the martyrs were cremated-
And that is how their martyrdom will be celebrated)
Links to articles:-
www.tribuneindia.com/news/kaleidoscope/where-saviours-of-fazilka-fell-is-sacred-ground/17888.html Published on Dec 14 2014 12:18AM
http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/amogh-division-commemorates-fazilka-vijay-diwas-115121600356_1.html published on 16 Dec 2015
http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=LW4Q0P63MUU1&preview=article&linkid=22492bb4-7fdb-4ea5-9bf8-fc593fe87c0b&pdaffid=BfRWdrKlI24Dq%2bCwAjkstw%3d%3d Curtain Raiser article of 12 Dec 2014.
http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=6SIER7BOGI98&preview=article&linkid=f7684129-f916-4287-a41b-ab0ed472836e&pdaffid=BfRWdrKlI24Dq%2bCwAjkstw%3d%3d published on 17 Dec 14.
https://twitter.com/adgpi/status/681360690821468160 Twitter post by ADGPI, MI Directorate of Indian Army. https://www.facebook.com/Indianarmy.adgpi/posts/447278572135444 facebook post by ADGPI/ MI Directorate on 27 Dec 2015 which received over 29,000 likes.
https://www.outlookindia.com/newswire/story/indo-pak-face-off-at-nagi-sand-dune-commemorated/874819 article by Outlook India
http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=133959 Ministry of Defence Press release for Nagi Day on 28 Dec 2015
http://sainiksamachar.nic.in/englisharchives/2016/jan01-16/h16.htm article in Sainik Samachar 01-16 Jan 2016
http://www.indiandefencereview.com/commemorating-indo-pakistan-war-1971-freedom-comes-with-a-price/ Article on Nagi Day in Indian Defence Review
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