The year was 1947. India and Pakistan had just gained independence from the British, yet cross-border relations were anything but amicable. The wounds of Partition were still fresh, and neither party was heading any close to a compromise.
What further provoked the already ailing relationship between the countries was when Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir decided to seek refuge and merge with India.
By the end of the year, many border fronts were already ravaged by the Pakistan army and began costing India many of its soldiers through surprise offensives.
One such front was Taindhar in the Naushera sector, whose capture would have meant a strategic win for Pakistan, due to its proximity to the Srinagar airfield. However, Indian commanders knew what was imminent and gave the enemy forces a taste of their own medicine by deploying the 50 Para Brigade in February 1948.
Not only was the army regiment successfully able to defend Taindhar, but it also managed to inflict heavy casualties on the Pakistani army, leaving them with no option other than to retreat.
While it was an important achievement, their success was short-lived because the next offensive by Pakistan came exactly a week later with open fire by the pickets on the Taindhar ridge.
Caught by surprise and heavily outnumbered, it would have taken India a long time to recover from the unexpected and sneaky blow had it not been for the legendary exploits of one soldier—Naik Jadunath Singh, a native of Khajuri village of Shahjahanpur district in Uttar Pradesh.
Born on November 21, 1916, Jadunath was one of eight children of a poor farmer, Birbal Singh Rathore, and his wife, Jamuna Kanwar. Because of his father’s financial position, Jadunath could only study till class four at his village school, and often lent a hand at the field to help his family.
In 1941, life changed for Jadunath when he enrolled at the 7th Rajput Regiment of the British Indian Army at the Regimental centre in Fatehgarh. As soon as he completed training, he was deployed to the 1 Rajput Battalion and even fought in World War II. The young soldier definitely proved his mettle here, and after six years of service, he was promoted up the ranks to Lance Naik.
On December 1947, the entire 1 Rajput unit, including Jadunath, was deployed to Jammu and Kashmir to retaliate against Pakistan after it had attacked Kashmir in October. While the infantry regiment managed to successfully hold fort all this while, the real test came when Pakistan decided to proceed with its slew of offensives across every possible border front in the Naushera sector on February 6, 1948.
Starting with the pickets of Taindhar ridge, the mayhem and destruction caused by enemy forces was enormous. The entire region and surrounding hills were blazing with gunshots and mortar fire, as they made their way to the Indian pickets and launched successive attacks to capture the post.
What they didn’t know was that the second picket line had Naik Jadunath, who along with his small troop of men, tackled their offensive with remarkable bravery and profound leadership.
Even though four of his men were injured by then, Jadunath not only managed to force the enemy to retreat in confusion but also reorganised his men for yet another attack.
However, by this point, Jadunath was not just injured himself but was also severely short of uninjured men. One of the remaining frontline soldiers, who was handling the Bren gun, was also severely injured. But Jadunath wasn’t one to back down and took over the light machine gun, while his men watched over the post.
When the second attack came, the fall of Taindhar seemed inevitable. But the way in which Jadunath single-handedly drove the Pakistani troops to retreat yet again was nothing short of heroic.
Sadly, he was the last man standing at this point; every other soldier guarding the post had succumbed to their injuries due to the successive attacks. The Pakistani troops weren’t one to back off that easily and came back with a third attempt to capture the post.
Wounded and alone, Naik Jadunath could have just given up, and he charged the enemy, armed only with a Sten gun.
This sudden act of daredevilry not only caught the enemy troops completely unawares, but they were also severely decimated by Jadunath’s offensive.
Unfortunately, the exchange also resulted in Jadunath getting shot in his head and chest, and he was martyred at the battlefield — but not before successfully saving Naushera.
Naik Jadunath Singh was posthumously honoured with the Param Vir Chakra for his bravery and sacrifice for the nation. On his 102nd birth anniversary, we remember this unsung soldier of the Indian Army, without whose selflessness and gallantry, the outcome of the battle of Naushera would have probably been very different.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)