The next few days were spent looking at the enemy post from various vantage points but the pine trees blocked our view. The men had nicknamed this enemy post as ‘Badmash10 Post’ because their razakars11 used to come across to our villages across the CFL to trouble our villagers.
The map did not help much except to indicate that the enemy post was on a spur that ran perpendicular to our ridge and that the post was on a knoll at the end of this spur. Out of seven, only three days were left and I did not have enough information to make a good plan.
Early in the morning of the fifth day, I was with my forward post of the picquet at ‘Stand to’, which is the period when the darkness of the night turns to the greyness of dawn and all posts are on extra high alert. While we were watching our front, the forward platoon commander alerted me, pointing to a group of Pakistani soldiers moving on their side of the CFL. They were about a dozen of them wearing their greatcoats which indicated that they had been on an all-night patrol. They had probably laid an ambush and were now returning to their post. Appearing tired and sleepy, they were going back in single file on a track close to the CFL.
While at the IMA I remembered being told something about ‘shadow patrols’ – that if an opportunity presented itself, one could follow an enemy patrol into their own area of operations to get more information in order to launch a subsequent attack.
I was in dire need of information about the enemy post Badmash and an opportunity was unfolding itself in front of me. I felt it would be foolish to ignore it. I shared my intention to follow the enemy patrol into their area with Naib Subedar Narbahadur Gurung, the man known for throwing back enemy grenades at the Battle at Gajna. He readily agreed to come with me. Naik Kharkabahadur, a good NCO was listening to my plan and I told Narbahadur Saab to take him along. I tried talking to the CO on the telephone but the signal exchange replied that the CO was not answering.
Meanwhile, the enemy patrol had come closer. We counted them; they were ten soldiers, all fully armed. I quickly got hold of a sten machine carbine and some magazines and the three of us moved towards the CFL. We took shelter behind a big rock on the CFL itself and waited for the Pakistani patrol to pass. We could hear the crunch of their boots on the track as they came closer. The slightest noise would have given us away. They were ten and we were only three. I could hear the beating of my heart not quite in rhythm with the steady tramp of their feet. They came close to us and veered towards their post from where we were waiting.
They appeared to be very tired and must have been thinking about the mug of hot masala chai that awaited them at the post as they trudged past. After they had gone some distance, we followed in their footsteps to ensure that we would not step on any of their mines or booby traps.
We crossed the CFL, moved across into enemy territory, past their barbed wire, past their mine field, into their post and stopped just about twenty feet short of their langar. Fortunately, there was no sentry at the entry to the post and luckily, there was a low wall behind which we could take cover. The enemy soldiers leaned their weapons against the wall of the langar and began to have their tea talking among themselves, oblivious of our presence. We were quite comfortable because there was no sentry at the entry point to the post so the area behind us was clear.
We were able to get a clear view of the layout of the post and the approaches from the rear and the sides. Narbahadur and I discussed how we would approach the post and where we would place our machine guns to give us covering fire.
Suddenly an alarm was raised. We were discovered!
Unknown to us, a razakar who was cutting grass below the track we had used, had reached the top and had seen the three of us sitting inside their post and thinking there might be many more, started shouting ‘Dushman aa gaya! Dushman aa gaya! Hamla ho raha hai!’ (The enemy has come, the enemy
has come, we are under attack) and ran back down the slope he had come. He had a rifle in one hand and khurpi12 in the other. If he had taken a stand with his rifle, we would have had a major problem dealing with him on one side and the enemy patrol on the other.
The Indian Army wears olive green uniforms and the Pakis wear khaki so we were clearly recognized as the enemy! The three of us jumped up and looked at the patrol – the main source of danger. Their eyes were open wide in horror. They could not believe what they were seeing! They threw away their mugs of tea and reached for their weapons.
We had our weapons with us and their weapons were still leaning against the wall of the langar. We had the advantage of surprise and if we opened fire, we could have caused a lot of damage. The aim, however, was to acquire information and not to have an encounter. We decided that it was time to
leave. After all, a UN ceasefire had been enforced and we had agreed to abide by it.
The Pakis had no such inhibitions. However, to give them their due, they were under threat. They had no way of knowing there were only three of us. They opened up with their rifles, when they spotted us as we headed back, then with their light and medium machine guns, then with their mortars and finally with their artillery. Strangely, we were not followed.
By the time we had reached close to our picquet, artillery rounds were falling around us setting off our mines and throwing up great mounds of earth and rocks. There was smoke and fire and the Johnnies were waiting anxiously for our return. All our company posts were now being plastered by enemy artillery fire.
The CO was having breakfast down below at the Battalion Headquarters when the sounds of the enemy artillery reached him. He hurried to his bunker and put in multiple calls to all the company commanders. They all confirmed that their posts were under enemy artillery fire. On being asked why the enemy was firing, they all said that they did not know. The CO asked for me. I was not there to take his call. My company 2ic however answered.
The CO asked him where I was. He told the CO that company commander Saab had gone inside Badmash Post and had not yet returned. The CO could not believe what he was hearing.
‘Why has he gone there?’ the CO asked.
‘I don’t know,’ replied my company 2ic.
The CO left instructions that I was to call him as soon as I got back.
Meanwhile, the Brigade Commander had gone for his morning walk, when he heard the sound of the guns. He hurried to his headquarters and was met by the Brigade Major.
‘What’s the matter? Who is firing and why?’
‘The Pakis are firing, sir. Don’t know why! Heavy artillery firing in the sector of the Gorkhas.’
‘Are our guns in position and all units alert for any counter action?’
‘What is the cause? Put me through to the CO of the Gorkhas.’
‘I have tried to speak to the CO Sir. He is busy dealing with the situation but I will have you put through to him as soon as I can.’
After I returned, I was put through to the CO and I explained the whole situation to him.
‘Why did you not take my permission before you did something as stupid as this?’ he asked.
‘Tried to get through to you sir, but there was no response and I could not wait.’
‘Are you aware that our Prime Minister is in Russia negotiating a peace agreement with Pakistan. And here you are starting another war?’
‘No sir. I did not know sir. Sorry sir.’
In the meantime, the Brigade Commander had got through to the CO, who explained to him what had happened.
‘Has your company commander gone mad? The whole division sector has come alive. Questions are pouring in from the division, corps, command and the UN Observer Group.
What do I tell them? All that is left is for the Chief to call and ask me whether I am starting another war! Are you aware that the Prime Minister is in Tashkent negotiating a Cease Fire Agreement with the Pakistanis?’
‘Where is Cardozo now? What did he do to start this incident? Did he raid the Pakistani post? Are there any casualties? Any evidence left behind?’
‘He is back sir. No evidence left behind. The artillery firing has stopped. No casualties so far. However, I will check again.’
‘Anyway, why did he go across in the first place?’
‘Well sir, he says that he needed information about the approaches to the Pakistani picquet to make the plan you had ordered him to submit by this weekend.’
The Brigade Commander was aghast.
‘What?’ He shouted. ‘Is he blaming me?’
‘No sir. He is not blaming you. He is just saying that he could not get enough information about the approaches to the Pakistani post, so he decided to go across to get it.’
‘Has the world gone mad? Send him to me immediately.
How much time will he take to reach me?’
‘About two hours, sir.’
‘Send him to me at once.’
The CO called and asked me to come down immediately. He was sending an officer to take command of my post, but that in the meantime, I should hand over to my 2ic.
What we did not know at that time was that the Brigade Commander was due for promotion. He had done well in the war in command of another brigade and was sent specifically to command this brigade after his predecessor had been removed. This incident would show him in poor light, particularly if it was discovered that he was the one who ordered me to make plans to raid the Pakistani post in question and it was this order that had prompted me to go across. If this incident gained momentum, then somebody’s head would roll and it could be his and all of us down the line!
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Get our latest book recommendations, author news right to your inbox