On release of Mufti Mohammed’s elder daughter by local dissenters, as-quid-pro quo for this, some of the terrorists in Indian jails were released. This led to, large scale jubilations in the valley. Amongst released terrorists was also one who later high-jacked Air India aircraft to Khandhar. As a fall out of release of these terrorists, hundreds of boys from J&K crossed over to Pakistan and later after training in use of arms etc were coming back in small batches, with the help of Pak army. Some of these groups returning through 25 Div Sector were neutralized.
During this period Pak army became a bit aggressive. In the Poonch sector, near a village called Kirni, it built a ‘Sanghar’ about 500 meters inside Indian territory. I was then GoC 16 Corps. I visited the place and instructed demolition of the Sanghar and to intensify patrolling of the area.
A few weeks later Pak established a post, around 500 meters across the LoC in the area of a Lonely Hut (called Gilani’s Hut) which was some distance from ‘Kirni’ village. That set alarm bells all the way to Army Headquarters (AHQ).
I was asked to come to Command Headquarters (HQ), where I was queried as to how this happened and was instructed to evict the enemy from this post immediately. I told the Army Commander, that there are wide gaps between our posts on the Line of Control (LC) and the enemy can exploit such gaps unhindered and establish a post on the Indian side of the LC. I also told him that I will evict the enemy but will not hustle troops into action without proper planning and preparation. Lt Gen Gurinder Singh was the Army Commander and knew me well from Junior Command course days and Ex Brass Tacks, where he was my Corps Commander. So he did not press for immediate action.
It was my assessment that Pak army would expect that sooner or later Indian army will evict this post and therefore, reinforce this sector with more artillery (arty) to deal with the attacking troops.
I instructed the Division (Div) to completely ignore this Post (and the area) and focus attention on an another sector, where we were dominating one of the Pak army post. This was to divert enemy’s attention away from this post it had established across the LC.
In this sector we deployed more arty in a manner that enemy would know of this reinforced deployment. In addition a lot of movement of troops etc was shown in this area and helicopter landing in that particular Brigade (Bde) HQ three times, indicating that Corps Commander was visiting the Bde to finalize plans for the attack.
While the enemy’s attention had been drawn away from the area of the encroachment where the Post was established across the LC, we put in a silent night attack on this enemy post in Gilani’s Hut area. Enemy was taken by surprise and evicted. It left behind body of one soldier and of one officer (Lieutenant), along with a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) and other weapons.
I instructed the Div to call for a flag meeting and tell Pak army that we would like to hand over the two Pak soldiers killed in action at Poonch. This was agreed to. I instructed the Div that, at the time of handing over the mortal remains of the Pak soldiers, we must observe full religious rites of Muslims and ‘lay-on’ elaborate military drills in honour of the slain soldiers. A few thousand men from Poonch and Pakistan assembled to witness this handing over of these two slain soldiers and the attendant embellishments.
We established a temporary post in the Gilani’s Hut area (from where Pak had earlier been evicted.) Now this area of Gilanl’s Hut was at the end of 3 kms long gradual slope, coming down from PoK side. So for Pak army to retake this Post was easy. Area was devoid of all cover, except rocks and low grass.
I had an intuition that after this drama of handing over of those two dead bodies of soldiers and the attendant humiliations in front of Pak civilians, Pak Army might try to take back this Post and collect few dead bodies of Indian soldiers so as to repeat what we did. It just required Pak troops to roll down to this post. So I moved two ‘Meera’ Night Sights from one of the anti-tank missile battalions to the area of this post. With Meera night sight one can see upto 2 kms on a dark night.
Two nights later, at around 3.30 am, I got a call from the Div Commander to say that Meera Night Sight Observation Post (OP) is reporting assembling of enemy troops for an attack on this Post and asked for orders. I told the Div Commander to open up with everything. Seven fire units of arty went into action, catching the attacking troops in the Forming Up Place (FUP) itself. This volume of fire on one small target was never brought down, even during various wars in J&K. In fact Pak army had the impression that Indians require permission from Delhi to open arty fire.
May be Pak Army thought that it was perhaps a fluke and the next night tried the same, from another angle and met with the same fate. Quite a few Pak casualties could be seen lying in the open and our arty would go into action the moment Pak made any effort to evacuate casualties or lift dead bodies. So the Pak Director General Military Operations (DGMO) was desperately trying to contact own DGMO for a ceasefire. It is only late in the evening that our DGMO came on the line and ceasefire was agreed to. According to RAW, Pak lost 200 troops during these two nights and the Pak Bde commander was sacked.
Now own arty started beating its drum in Delhi, as to what it had done and that it had deployed night sights. (GOC of the Div was a general cadre gunner officer) Soon I got a call from the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) – also a gunner – asking me to write a Demi-Official (DO) letter to him to highlight what all the arty did in this action. Of course arty did a great job, which is expected of them and is their normal task. However I did not like the COAS asking for such a DO letter. So I never wrote that DO letter. After this Pak Army too was believed to have selectively deployed night sights.
Soon after that I received a letter from Command HQ, signed by the Chief of Staff (CoS), instructing that I should put up new posts in the gaps between existing posts. I wrote back explaining in detail the implications of such a step of depleting existing posts to establish new post in the gaps. I noted that in case Pak ventures to establish any post across the LC in these gaps I will evict him. I ended my letter by stating that I will not establish any posts in these gaps.
This amounted to direct confrontation of orders. I went home and started packing my baggage. I was alone, as my wife was in Delhi. I awaited my sacking and continued with packing my baggage. My ADC asked me as to why I was doing this. I told him that I had nearly completed my tenure and posting could come any day!
For one month I stayed fully packed-up, but nothing happened, so I unpacked my baggage.
It was not the only time that I was on the very brink of being sacked.
That apart, during my tenure as the Corps Commander for another one year, complete peace prevailed along the LC.