Today is Asal Uttar Day: The Battle of Rohi Nala that saved the day in 1965

Major General Goverdhan Singh Jamwal (Retd)

Today is the Asal Utttar Day, Battle Honour Day of my Battalion 9 JAK Rifles (Rudra Shib Nabh) that saved Khemkaran in 1965. It is important to remind the coming generations after 57 years of the biggest tank battle at Asal Uttar, which has become synonymous with the heroic valour of Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid, who was posthumously decorated with the Param Vir Chakra. Lt Teja Singh Dhadwal, later Colonel, was also the hero of Rohi Nala. He was the first Vir Chakra of 4 Mtn Division for Rohi Nala battle

The battle of Asal Uttar is real Military History. It is the true story of valour and supreme sacrifice of our brave soldiers and should be passed on to the coming generations. Similarly, the valour of all Dogras who saved Kashmir also needs to be etched in the minds of all, especially every Dogra youth.

During the 1965 War, Pakistan had launched a massive offensive with its 1 Armoured Division and 11 Infantry Division in the Khemkaran sector. Their aim was to reach the bridges on the Beas river for the final march towards Amritsar, Jullundur, and then Delhi.

Battle of Asal Uttar, 1965 War [fig courtesy: Scholar Warrior; spring 2014]

By stopping the enemy at Rohi Nala, Punjab was saved and this was exactly like what had happened in the Battle of Garhi on 23 October 1947 and the Battle of Uri on 24 October 1947 under Brigadier Rajendra Singh that saved Kashmir. The defeat of the Pakistani forces at Asal Uttar had changed the course of the 1965 war in India’s favour.

Captain Prithi Singh, Hero of Garhi who helped Brig Rajendra Singh to save Kashmir in1947.

Capt Prithi Singh, Hero of Garhi-1947

It was all due to the bold action of Capt Prithi Singh, who was with 1 JAKRif (Raghupratap at Garhi)) and later transferred to 9 JAK Rifles (Rudra Shib Nabh). He was leading the advance towards Muzaffarabad with only 60 Dogras in search of the enemy in 1947 when suddenly he saw 300 vehicles coming with 6000 Pakistanis. He took an extraordinary bold action by attacking the leading vehicle and driving it to his own side but because of the Pakistani markings our own troops fired so extensively that the vehicle was nocked off and all its tyres had burst. Even three of our boys were killed. Capt Prithi Singh, who was also wounded in heavy firing, maintained his wits and tying his white vest on the bayonet signalled that it was now a friendly vehicle and thus the situation was saved. This vehicle could not be moved nor bypassed and it was kept under heavy fire by our troops with the result that there was no move forward till after they had killed all our boys under Subedar Duni Chand, who was a great leader and had served with 4 JAk Rifles in Burma and was now facing the enemy in a different situation. He was accompanied by ND Jamwal who has recorded this in his book. He was taken prisoner and later repatriated with Brigadier Ghansara Singh Jamwal. He then joined Police and has written two dozen books. He has also been awarded the Padam Shri.

Brigadier Rajinder Singh

Had the gallant Dogras under Brigadier Rajendra Singh not blocked and delayed the enemy at Garhi, Uri Bridge could not have been blown on 24th and the enemy would have been in Baramula by 23rd itself. It was Garhi which made Uri possible and it was Uri which saved Kashmir just like Rohi Nala and the battle of Asal Uttar that saved the day in 1965.

Capt Prithi Singh and Subedar Duni Chand, along with many others, deserved the Mahavir Chakra but hardly any Award was given to them. In fact we did not find this account in the history of J & K Operations published by the Ministry of Defence, Government of India in 1987! These are the real distortions in the History of the Regiment, the Dogras and the State.

Battle of Asal Uttar was a master stroke which had to be explained and understood. I was able to explain its importance to the Western Command during an Exercise in Pathankot organised by the Army Commander Lt Gen KJ Singh as a part of Golden Jubilee Celebrations. He was so impressed that he took me to Asal Uttar and also introduced me to the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was briefed about the great battle. On that occasion, Mr Badal presented me a special Memento.

The author, Major General Goverdhan Singh Jamwal, had remained on duty fully armed as a commissioned officer of J&K Army to defend the Srinagar cantonment and blunt the attack by hordes of invaders from Pakistan in 1947. He became a lieutenant, an officer of the State Force that became part of the Indian Army after 26 October 1947. He was enrolled in the Independent J&K State from 15 August to 26 October 1947 and was on training in uniform at Badamibag cantonment at Srinanagar in August 1947. He knows all that has happened between 1947 and today. He took part in the Bangladesh War, Commanded a Division in Arunachal Pradesh in 1977-78, a Brigade in Jammu and was also the Military Secretary to the President of India in the late 70s.

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