Pir Saiyid Fazal Shah was a towering mass of rock. The Punjabis stormed it around 1700 hours after 25-pounders, howitzers and aircraft had pounded it. The enemy used every weapon with it to stop the Punjabis. Even big boulders were rolled down the hillside, but they kept advancing, their bayonets fixed. The sight of cold steel perhaps unnerved the enemy and it disappeared, leaving behind many weapons and some dead. The next day, the Rajputana Rifles cleared the enemy from Point 6210, the last enemy stronghold on Bhimbar Gali. The hill commanded an excellent view of an enemy camp at Turti, South of Mendhar. About a thousand of its men were there, with their mules out in the open: a perfect target for the gunners. The camp was shelled with very good results.
By this time, 5 Brigade had taken its objectives on the right (Points 6911 and 6980). The two brigades now consolidated their positions at Bhimbar Gali in preparation for the attack on Mendhar. The 29-kilometre advance from Rajauri had been pretty fast. The enemy had 175 killed and 20 taken prisoner. Large quantities of stores and equipment, including. standard and paratroop rifles, were captured.
“¦the enemy had taken good care of its defences at Jhhika Gali by covering them with two 25-pounders and eight howitzers. The brigade failed to carry the position despite heavy fighting.
The two brigades resumed their advance on 13 November. Mendhar was dominated by high hills in the North as well as the South. The pass in the South, Jhhika Gali, was overlooked by Point 5732 and the mission of capturing it was given to 19 Brigade. The right flank was again made the responsibility of 5 Brigade and it was ordered to seize Point 4394. Unfortunately for 19 Brigade, the enemy had taken good care of its defences at Jhhika Gali by covering them with two 25-pounders and eight howitzers. The brigade failed to carry the position despite heavy fighting.
To avoid unnecessary casualties in future attacks on Jhhika Gali, Atma Singh decided to bypass it. He discovered that the approach from the right flank was easier as 5 Brigade had taken its objective without difficulty. He therefore decided that the main thrust should be made by way of Topa, a hill North of Mendhar. To deceive the enemy, one battalion 43 of 19 Brigade was ordered to keep engaging the enemy at Jhhika Gali, while the remaining units were switched quietly to the right flank to reinforce 5 Brigade. To fool the enemy further, dummy air-drops were arranged behind the position occupied by the battalion facing Jhhika Gali. The change over was completed by the morning of 18 November.
Topa was made the objective for 5 Brigade. This hill was known to be strongly held. Instead of attacking it frontally, the brigade commander44 decided to outflank it as the first step. He ordered 5 Rajputana Rifles to capture a hill North of Topa and then exploit Southwards. At the same time 1/4 Gorkha Rifles was told to attack an adjoining hill and thereafter move North-East for a link-up with troops from the Punch Brigade.
These operations could naturally be undertaken only after his troops had been reinforced and the lines of communication improved.
By the morning of 20 November, 5 Rajputana Rifles had taken its objective. 1/4 Gorkha Rifles too had by then captured its hill and despatched a platoon towards Point 6793, where troops from Punch had already established themselves. At noon the link-up was achieved, though Mendhar was yet to be taken. It was necessary to take Topa and Jhhika Gali before the town could be occupied. In the first Punch link-up 1 (Para) Punjab had captured Topa. Taking advantage of the battalion’s acquaintance with this feature, it was ordered to tackle it, and by 1500 hours (20 November) the Punjabis had completed their mission.
After the fall of Topa, the enemy began to pull out of Jhhika Gali also and 2 Rajputana Rifles took it in the early hours of 23 November. Some of the enemy still lurking in the hills North-West of Jhhika Gali were taken care of during the day. At 1600 hours Mendhar was entered, and the two commanders — Yadunath Singh and Pritam Singh—shook hands to mark the final link-up with Punch (see Fig. 3.8). The last phase of the link-up operation was the construction of a road to Punch. The Engineers had been laying a jeep track as the troops advanced from Rajauri and now they took up the task of building a proper road.
The shelling continued till 17 December, when two enemy battalions advanced against the positions held by the Dogras and the Gorkhas. After their heavy pounding, the Pakistanis perhaps expected to find them abandoned.
As the year 1948 was drawing to a close, there were still large areas of Jammu & Kashmir under Pakistan’s control. Cariappa had prepared preliminary plans for liberating these areas. The operations proposed by him included the capture of territory from Urusa to Muzaffarabad, and the Bhimbar-Mirpur-Kotli bulge. These operations could naturally be undertaken only after his troops had been reinforced and the lines of communication improved. In any case, no mission of importance could be undertaken till the spring of 1949. Indian and Pakistani forces in Jammu & Kashmir were by now evenly matched.45 The latter had the additional advantage of shorter and better lines of communication.
Negotiations for a cease-fire had been going on ever since the arrival of the United Nations Commission. In August 1948 this body had suggested a Cease-Fire Agreement. The Indian Government accepted it, but Pakistan was not prepared to agree without attaching certain conditions, which were unacceptable to the Commission. However, good sense ultimately prevailed and the Pakistan Government changed its mind. Indian successes in the Kargil-Leh and Rajauri-Punch sectors may have played their part in the change of heart. The Pakistanis, however, continued offensive action even when the negotiations had reached the final stage.
They chose 14 December for launching their biggest artillery attack of the campaign. At 1100 hours that day, Naoshera and other localities within a radius of 11 kilometres were subjected to fire from every available Pakistani gun. Medium guns, 25-pounders, 3.7 -inch howitzers, 4.2-inch mortars and anti-aircraft guns fired some 2,000 shells in nine hours. A total of 5,000 shells had fallen on Indian territory before the Indian Gunners’ counter-bombardment dampened the Pakistanis’ ardour. The main Pakistani effort was directed against 4 Dogra and 1/9 Gorkha Rifles holding the Chhawa Ridge and the ‘Punjab Hill’, South of Naoshera. The bridge at Beri Pattan also received a good deal of attention and was damaged. The Pakistanis later brought up Sherman tanks. The shelling continued till 17 December, when two enemy battalions advanced against the positions held by the Dogras and the Gorkhas. After their heavy pounding, the Pakistanis perhaps expected to find them abandoned. Unfortunately for them the two battalions had held on to their positions and effective fire greeted the Pakistanis, after which they withdrew.