Subramanya Siva


Pandya Nadu or the southern most part of Tamil Nadu, basically the region covering the districts of Madurai, Theni, Sivaganga,  Ramanthapuram, Virudhanagar, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari.  A region of rich culture, heritage and history.  A land of magnificient temples,  beautiful coastlines, breathtaking natural vistas.

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This land of the Pandyas, has also produced some of the greatest freedom fighters and revolutionaries too.  The legendary Veera Pandya Kattabomman,  the great freedom fighter who had the vision to set up a shipping company, V.O.Chidambaram Pillai , the firebrand revolutionary poet Subramanya Bharati and Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar, one of Netaji’s closest associates hailed from this region. Not as well known as these legends, but equally worthy of respect, was Subramanya Siva, a firebrand revolutionary, and a close associate of V.O.C. Pillai.  In fact along with Pillai and Subramanya Bharati, he was one of the key representatives of the Indian National Congress in Tamil Nadu.  An excellent writer who reached out to the masses with his speeches, poems and articles, motivating them to fight for freedom. He was the author of the journal Jnanabhanu and the books Ramanuja Vijayam and Madhwa Vijayam, on the two great Vaishnava saints.

Siva was born in Batlagundu, a small town in Dindigul district, more well known as the gateway to Kodaikanal, located right at the foothills, to Rajam Iyer and Nagalakshmi on Oct 4, 1884.  He studied in Madurai till High School, and later did his studies in Coimbatore.  In 1906 at  Thiruvananthapuram, he was attracted to the cause of India’s freedom, after listening to the fiery speeches by Arya Samaj leaders there. And soon he was organizing protest rallies, giving speeches in support of India’s freedom. However he was asked to leave Travancore State, which was then under British control.

They could not however prevent the power of Siva’s speeches in influencing the youth against British. He had a close friendship with VOC Pillai and Bharatiyar, and was quite proficient in Tamil, English and Sanskrit. Like most other freedom fighters then, he considered Tilak his political guru and was inspired by the works of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramahansa.  Along with VOC he organized many meetings in Tirunelveli against British exploitation and the importance of freedom.  And soon the British saw him as a major threat,  and in 1904, he became the first political prisoner in Madras Province to be imprisoned for sedition. Given a 10 year sentence , after a trial, it was commuted to a 6 year RI in prison.  However the jail term was a misearable one for him, yoked to the oil press like cattle, he was made to pull it in the hot sun, clean animal hides and skins.  The harsh treatment, unhealthy conditions affected his health and by the time he came out in 1912, he was a totally broken man. His wife Meenakshi died in 1915, leaving him totally alone and distraught. He plunged into the freedom struggle now, also mobilizing workers for better pay and working conditions. He started a magazine called Indian Desantheri in 1919, and took part in the 1920 Non Cooperation movement under Lala Lajpat Rai. He was again put in prison in 1921 and later 1922.

The long prison terms, the harsh treatment and unhygienic conditions made him contract leprosy, a deadly and contagious disease for those times. Though the British forbid him to use public transport, he travelled on foot from place to place, spreading the message of freedom.  He founded an Ashram at Paparapatti in Dharmapuri district on January 23, 1923, however his health deteriorated further, and he eventually passed away on July 23, 1925.  The office of the Dindigul district collector has been named as Thiagi Subramanya Siva Maaligai after him, as also the Batalagundu bus stand.


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Bagha Jatin


When one looks at the history of the revolutionary movement in Bengal, two groups stand out in particular, one the Anushilan Samiti and another the Jugantar party. Anushilan Samiti was founded by a group of local youths from the Akharas of Bengal in 1906. Matter of fact, the name literally means “Body Building Society”, basically a loose coalition of three different societies under a common umbrella. The other one was Jugantar, which again started as a fitness club. Many of them later joined Netaji’s Forward Bloc, or the Communist party, while some ended up with the Indian National Congress. To understand the revolutionary movement in Bengal, one needs to take a look at the societal circumstances post the 1857 Revolution.  Bengal did not take an active part in the 1857 revolt, and during the period of the East India Company, it saw the rise of a large urban educated, middle class. This in turn led to a rising tide of Indian nationalism, in the ending of the 19th century.  The partition of Bengal in 1905, ignited a more revolutionary, violent movement, that believed in the overthrow of the British by force, in a sense inspired by Bal Gangadhar Tilak.  Both Jugantar and Anushilan Samiti were secret societies, whose members were primarily youth and students.


And one of the most prominent of those revolutionaries was Jatindranath Mukherjee, also known as Bagha Jatin, after he killed a tiger with his bare hands, near a village.  Kushtia now in Bangladesh, the ancestral land of Rabindranath Tagore, was where Jatin was born on December 8, 1879 to Sharat Shashi and Umeschandra Mukherjee. Losing his father when he was just five years, Jatin grew up under the care of his mother, a gifted poet herself. Growing up to be a strapping young lad, Jatin was known for his physical strength, as well being a gifted actor, especially in playing roles of Pauranic characters like Prahlad, Hanuman, Dhruva. Driven by a nationalist fervor, he used the dramas to spread the message of nationalism, and urged the singing bards to sing more patriotic songs.

“He owed his preeminent position in revolutionary circles, not only to his qualities of leadership, but in great measure to his reputation of being a Brahmachari with no thought beyond the revolutionary cause.”- J.E.Armstrong, SP

Finishing his studies from Krishnanagar, Jatin joined the the Kolkata Central College( now named after Khudiram Bose to study Fine Arts in 1895. It was here he came in touch with Swami Vivekananda, who influenced his ideology, and he became one of Swamiji’s most ardent devotees. He was one among the youth volunteers whom Swamiji desired with with “muscles of iron and nerves of steel”, and played an active role in assisting the poor and needy, especially during floods and famines. He actively  assisted Bhagini Nivedita, in her service missions and also learnt wrestling.  Fed up with the English education system, he began to write regularly, showcasing the British exploitation of India and the need to have an Indian National Army.  In 1900, he was married to Indubala Banerjee of Kumarkhali, and had 4 children. However when he lost his elder son Atindra, he went on a pilgrimage to Haridwar, where he found inner peace. Returning to his native village, he had that encounter with the tiger, when searching for a notorious man eating leopard. He managed to kill the tiger with a Khukri, but not before being severely wounded himself.  The surgeon Lt Col Suresh Sarbadhikari, who treated him, and removed the tiger nails from his body, published an article, impressed by his bravery.  And that is when he got the title of ” Bagha” Jatin, that also became his more popular name.

The earliest known attempts in Bengal to promote societies for political or semi-political ends are associated with the names of the late P. Mitter, Barrister-at-Law, Miss Saralabala Ghosal and a Japanese named Okakura. These activities commenced in Calcutta somewhere about the year 1900, and are said to have spread to many of the districts of Bengal and to have flourished particularly at Kushtia, where Jatindra Nath Mukharji was leader.- Daly’s Report

Jatin played a vital role in setting up one of the brances of Anushilan Samiti,  at Dhaka, where he met Aurobindo in 1903,and decided to collaborate with him.  During a procession of the Prince of Wales in Kolkata in 1905, Jatin assaulted a group of English soldiers, who were misbehaving with the Indian ladies, drawing attention of the higher ups.

Along with Barindra Ghosh, one of the founding members of Jugantar, Jatin set up a bomb factory near Deoghar( now in Jharkhand), while Barindra did the same at Maniktala.  He simultaneously developed a loose network of autonomous sleeper cells, which organized relief missions, welfare activities, as well as religious congregations like the Kumbh Mela, and used to celebrate the birth anniversaries of Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Swami Vivekananda annually. By now he was fully under British surveillance, who saw him as one of the biggest threats. Soon he began to spread his activities, setting up branches of the Anushilan Samiti in Darjeeling and Siliguri, apart from being noted for his regular fisticuffs with the British officers.  One such clash led to legal proceedings, and when warned by the Magistrate to behave, Jatin shot back, stating he would not hesitate to do so again for the rights of his fellow Indians. When the British cracked down on the conspirators of the Alipore Bomb case, Jatin was one of those who managed to get away. He soon filled up the leadership vaccum, taking over the Jugantar Party and began to set up it’s units all over Bengal, as well as in Odisha and Eastern UP.

When the British Government struck back with a series of repressive measures, to surpress the revolutionaries, Jatin hit back with a series of actions, most conducted in top secrecy. Assasination attempts were made on the Lt. Governor of Bengal in 1908, bank robberies carried out to raise funds.  Finally on January 27, 1910, Jatin was arrested in connection with the assasination of prosecutor Ashutosh Biswas, and DSP Samsul Alam, but released. Only to be arrested again in connection with the Howrah-Sibpur conspiracy case, along with 46 others on charges of waging war against the Emperor and instigating Indian soldiers in the army.  However the case failed due to lack of proper evidence and in the meantime, he also made good contacts with other fellow revolutionaries in prison.

On release from prison in 1911, Jatin temporarily suspended his revolutionary activities for some time. Having lost his job, he left Kolkata and started doing contracts on the Jessore-Jhenaidah railway line, that gave him ample time to move around and revitalize the units in Bengal.  Going on a pilgrimage to Haridwar, Vrindavan he got in touch with Swami Niralamba, an ex revolutionary Jatindra Nath Banerjee, who took up Sanyas.  He soon coordinated with Rash Behari Bose, and Lala Hardayal in spreading the revolutionary work in the Northern part of India. On his return to Kolkata,he reorganized Jugantar, continuing his relief activities, especially during the devastating Damodar river floods, in Midnapore, Burdwan districts.  Rash Behari too joined him around that time, calling him a real leader of men, and soon began to plan a 1857 kind of revolt, negotation with disaffected Indian army officers at Fort William, the nerve center of the British Indian army then.

Before 1914 we succeeded in disturbing the equilibrium of the government… Then extraordinary powers were given to the police, who called us anarchists to prejudice us forever in the eyes of the world… Dost thou remember Jyotin, our cousin – he that once killed a leopard with a dagger, putting his left elbow in the leopard’s mouth and with his right hand thrusting the knife through the brute’s eye deep into its brain ? He was a very great man and our first leader. He could think of God ten days at a stretch, but he was doomed when the Government found out that he was our head.- Dhan Gopal Mukherji.

Jatin’s fame had spread abroad too, and expat Indian revolutionaries in US, Europe were inspired by him. His emissary Taraknath Das, along with Guran Ditt Kumar was already organizing evening schools for Indian immigrants on the West Coast of US and Canada, most of them migrant Hindu and Sikh worker, at Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco. Apart from teaching them simple English, they were made aware of their rights, and periodicals like  Free Hindustan, Swadesh Sevak( in Punjabi) spread the revolutionary, nationalist thoughts amongst them.  Lala Hardayal meanwhile resigned from his teaching job at University of California, Berkeley in 1913, and travelling along the West Coast, openly exhorted the Indian migrant workers to revolt against the British rule.  It was around this time in November he founded Ghadr, which involved the Sikhs on a large scale in the revolt.

When World War I, broke out, in September 1914, the Berlin Committe was formed by Virendranath Chattopdhyaya that included members of the Ghadr party too.  It’s aim was to foment an 1857 style uprising, in India, as it felt that with the British engaged in the war, it would be the right time to strike.  The German Government supported the mission with arms, ammunition and funds, while a large number of Ghadr party members too began to leave for India.  It was Jatin who carried out the entire mission, leading the Jugantar, while Rash Behari began to execute the plan in UP and Punjab. Called as the German plot or Hindu-German conspiracy, Jatin began to raise funds organizing a series of armed robberies, using taxicabs. With police surveillance intensifying, Jugantar members urged Jatin to shift to a safer spot like Balasore on the Odisha coast, which was also the entry point for German arms into India.

Jatin sent one of his close associates Naren Bhattacharya, who would later become more well known as M.N.Roy, the founder of the Communist party in India, to make a deal with the Germans regarding financial aid and arms. However a group of  Czech revolutionaries, who had infiltrated the network, uncovered Jatin’s plans, and soon the information was leaked out to the higher authorities in Britian and US.  The British sealed off the Eastern coast of India from Chittagong to Gopalpur, as well as the entire Gangetic delta. The British also raided Harry and Sons, which Jatin had set up as a front, for smuggling in the arms, and soon traced his location to Kaptipada village, where he was hiding with his associates Chittapriya Ray Chaudhari and Manoranjan Sengupta.

Jatin was advised to leave his hideout, however his insistence on taking two other associates Niren and Jatish, caused a delay, giving enough time for the police, to reach the area, along with an army unit from Chandbali, cutting off all escape routes. For two days, Jatin along with his companions fled through the thick forests of Mayurbhanj, before reaching Balasore station.  However tempted by the reward for capture of the five “bandits” announced by the British, the local villagers, informed the police.  Finally on September 9, 1915, Jatin and his associates took up position in a small trench at Chashakhand near Balasore. Inspite of Chittapriya, asking him to flee, Jatin refused to abandon his companions and fought back against the British. In an intense gunfight that lasted for 75 minutes, between the five revolutionaries armed with Mauser pistols, and fully armed police contingent, they still managed to inflict a large number of casualties on the British side. Chittapriya died in the firing, Jatin and Jatish were severely wounded, while Manoranjan and Niren ran out of ammunition and were captured.

September 10, 1915- The man who had fought a tiger bare handed, led a long revolution against the British, passed away due to the bullet wounds.  Bagha Jatin was no more, the tiger of Bengal had fallen silent.  Such a hero, that even Charles Tegart, the British intelligence chief who had set out to capture him, said “Though I had to do my duty, I have a great admiration for him. He died in an open fight”.  Tegart also claimed that had Jatin Da been an Englishman, his statue would have been next to Nelson’s at Trafalgar Square.

“I could not forget the injunction of the only man I ever obeyed almost blindly, Jatin Da’s heroic death must be avenged. Only a year had passed since then. But in the meantime I had come to realise that I admired Jatin Da because he personified, perhaps without himself knowing it, the best of mankind. The corollary to that realisation was that Jatin da’s death would be avenged if I worked for the ideal of establishing a social order in which the best in man could be manifest.”- M.N.Roy.


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V.O.Chidambaram Pillai

The year 1915,  Mahatma Gandhi was visiting Chennai, he was already popular thanks to his exploits in South Africa. One man from Tirunelveli was eager to meet him and wanted a private meeting. Though the Mahatma was initially sceptical he finally agreed.  The man was actually quite a prosperous merchant at one time, who had lost all his wealth. Some people in South Africa, had collected money for him, and sent it through Gandhi.  However an inordinately long period of time, passed back and fro, though Gandhi had agreed to help with the amount, though he kept on delaying it.  Finally a year later, he received the amount of Rs 347, though which he could settle his debts.


That man was none other than Valiappan Olaganathan Chidambaram Pillai, or more popularly known as V.O.C.  He was also called as Kapalottiya Tamizhan( The Tamil Helsman), one of the foremost freedom fighters of Tamil Nadu. It was ironical that the man who had to continously pester Gandhi with letters for an amount of Rs 347, had launched India’s first indigenous shipping service, was a succesful businessman once.

Ottapidaram is a small town in Tuticorin district, famous for it’s Amman temple, and the fort of the legendary Tamil warrior Veera Pandya Kattabomman just 3 km away at Panchalankurichi.  It was here on September 5, 1782 that V.O.Chidambaram Pillai was born to Olaganerohathan Pillai and Paramayee Annal.  He grew up learning about Shiva from his grandmother, and the Ramayana from his grandfather. Another teacher of his Subramanya Pillai, taught him on the Mahabharat.  Like any other child of his age, he loved playing games in the outdoor like goli, kabbadi, silambattam and was equally good at chess.

At the age of 14 he went to Thoothukudi to continue his studies at the Caldwell High School and later at Hindu College High School in Tirunelveli. He worked as a clerk for some time, before his father sent him to Trichy to study law. He passed his law exam in 1894 and returned to Ottapidaram the next year to practice as a pleader. He was influenced by the ideology of Swami Vivekananda to do something for India, and at Ramakrishna Math, met the great poet Bharatiyar, who became his very close friend.

Plunging into the freedom struggle, VOC became one of Tilak’s ardent followers, influenced by his ideology.  Along with Subramanya Siva and Bharatiyar, he emerged as one of the prominent faces of the freedom movement in Madras Presidency.  Following the partition of Bengal in 1905, he joined the Indian National Congress, and was part of the extremist faction headed by the Lal, Bal, Pal trio. A succesful entrepreneur he set up many institutions like the Yuvanesh Prachar Sabha, Desibhamana Sangam,Madras Anglo Industrial Society Ltd. His biggest achievement though would be setting up India’s first ever indigenous shipping service.

Those days the British had a monopoly over the shipping services, specifically the British India Steam Navigation Company, that ran all the services from India.  He started India’s first ever swadeshi shipping company in 1906, to break the stranglehold of the British on India’s shipping sector. With a capital of 10 lakh rupees, VOC registered the Swadeshi Shipping in October 1906, the director was Pandi Thurai Thevar, an influential Zamindar of the area and founder of Madurai Tamil Sangam. The company initially did not have any ships of it’s own, and had to take them on lease from Shawline Steamers. When British India Steam pressurized Shawline to cancel the lease, VOC realized the need of having their own fleet.

Travelling across India, he raised money for the ships, by selling the company’s shares.  “I will come back with ships, else I will perish in the sea” he swore and finally managed to purchase SS Gallia and later the SS Lavo both from France.  British India Steam tried to undercut his firm, by offering fares of Rs 1 per head, however VOC struck back by offering fare of 50p( 8 Annas).  The British tried to buy his company out, however he flatly refused the deal, and soon the first ever Indian shipping service commenced between Tuticorin and Colombo.

When workers at the Coral Mill in Thoothukudi struck work on February 23, 1908, VOC gave a speech in their support along with Subramanya Siva, and also led the strike in demanding higher wages, better working conditions. The management finally agreed to the demands, and Aurobindo praised both Chidambaram and Shiva in his Vande Mataram daily. By now the British were concerned about VOC’s growing popularity, and a British official Winch asked him to give assurance that he would not take part in any political revolt.  When VOC refused, he was arrested with Shiva on March 12, 1908 and placed in detention.

Thirunelveli erupted in protest against VOC’s arrest, with schools, shops and colleges shut down, while a massive strike was observed in Thoothukudi. Four people were killed in police firing, and rallies were taken out denouncing VOC’s arrest. Charged with sedition, he was confined in the Central Prison at Coimbatore from July 1908 to December 1910. The judgement was widely denounced, with even the British media claiming it was unjust.  On subsequent appeal, the sentence was commuted to 4 years in prison and 6 years in exile.


Interned in Coimbatore and later Kannanur, VOC was not treated as a political prisoner, rather he was treated as a convict, and made to do hard labor. Yoked to oil press in place of bullocks, he was made to work in the hot sun, beaten up.  The hard labor and the torture he suffered in prison, took a toll on his health.

Released on December 1912, VOC’s life however was totally ruined. His shipping company was liquidated by the British, who also acquired his shipping fleet. His law licence was stripped from him, and he was not permitted to return to Tirunelveli.  Almost in penury, he moved to Chennai with his wife and two young sons, where he ran a small provisions store just to survive.  It was around that time he had that long winded exchange with Gandhiji regarding the money that was a dire necessity for him.

Resigning from the Congress in 1920, over ideological differences with Gandhiji, he put in more time in writing and establishing labor unions. With meager income, he petitioned the court to give him permission to practice law again,which was finally granted.  He once again began his law practice at Kovilpatti in 1927, and also rejoined the Congress at Salem. However once again he quit the party disillusioned by their approach.  He moved back to Thoothukudi in 1932, where he spent the rest of his time in writing, which included a commentary on the Thirukural and Tolkapiyam. Another well known book of his was Meyyaram, where he laid down the conduct of a righteous life and his own autobiography too.

Finally on November 18, 1936, V.O.Chidambaram Pillai passed away in relative obscurity. The man who defied the British, launched India’s first shipping service was no more. However he lives on in the hearts of Tamil people as Kapalottiya Thamizan and Chekkiluththa Chemmal- the great man who pulled the oil press for the sake of his people. The Tuticorin Port has been named in his honor, while his statues are there in Chennai, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi. Freedom fighter, thinker, nationalist, writer, entrepreneur V.O.Chidambaram Pillai was indeeed one of the great leaders of the Independence movement.

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Baji Rao 1

When one looks at the history of the Maratha Empire, the Peshwa era is one of the most significant one, specifically from Balaji Vishwanath(1713-1720) to  Raghunath Rao(1773-74), before Nana Fadnavis effectively became the defacto power behind the throne. Technically speaking Peshwa was equivalent to the Prime Minister in the Maratha Empire,  starting out as subordinates to the Chattrapati, in later years they became the actual ruling power, starting with Balaji Vishwanath. Technically speaking Moropant Pingle,  Shivaji’s revenue minister, was the first ever Peshwa, though Shivaji referred to him as Pant Pradhan.  The rise of the Peshwa was more an effect of the internal conflict between Tara Bai and Shahu, and the latter’s victory saw him appointing Balaji Vishwanath as the Peshwa.  It also marked the ascendancy of the Chitpavan Brahmins, Vishwanath played a major role not just in Shahu’s victory over Tarabai, but also the battles against Aurangzeb, that left the Mughal emperor totally broken and dispirited.  And later on supported the Sayyid brothers in deposing the Mughal emperor Farrukshiyar.


Baji Rao was born into the Bhat family on August 18,  his younger brother Chimaji Appa, would prove to be an equally renowned warrior. He grew up in Saswad, now a suburb of Pune and their family’s personal fiefdom too. Accompanying his father on various military campaigns, made Baji Rao, a battle hardened warrior in his teens itself. And when his father passed away in 1720, Shahu appointed Baji Rao I as the Peshwa, he was just 20.  It was not a bed of roses for him, for starters most of the senior officials at court, like Anant Ram Sumant, Shripatrao Pratinidhi, did not take too kindly to his appointment. The fact that they were senior to him, and overruled by him, added to the resentment further.  Baji Rao, hit back, by appointing younger people, like Malhar Rao Holkar, Ranoji Shinde, the Pawar Brothers, most of them barely out of their teens. More important they were not from the powerful Deshmukh clans, that traditionally dominated the Maratha court.  Holkar was a Dhangar,  Ranoji Shinde was a village Patil, the Pawar brothers were Marathas not related to the Deshmukh clans.  \

On the other hand,  the influence of the Maratha Empire was not as pervasive as it was earlier. The Siddis of Janjira controlled the Konkan coast, the nobles in the newly gained territories of Malwa and Gujarat were a law unto themselves, while former Mughal Governor Asaf Jah I,  broke away and founded the Nizam dynasty. And then you had Sambhaji II of Kolhapur staking his claim for being the Chattrapati, getting into a fight with Shahu.  Basically the Marathas were split among the rival camps of Satara and Kolhapur, much to the advantage of Nizam-Ul-Mulk.  Baji Rao, felt that only a Hindu Pad Padshahi was the solution to the internal rivalries, and for that the Maratha empire had to expand beyond the Deccan. With the Mughal Empire shrinking and in terminal decline, he felt it was the right time for the Marathas to occupy the space.

“Let us transcend the barren Deccan and conquer central India. The Mughals have become weak, insolent, womanizers and opium-addicts.  It is time to drive from the holy land of Bharatvarsha the outcastes and the barbarians. Let us throw them back over the Himalayas. Strike, strike at the trunk and the branches will fall off themselves. Listen and I shall plant the saffron flag on the walls of Attock.”

Again, though most of the Maratha Sardars were opposed to Baji Rao’s idea of expansion beyond Deccan, Shahu gave him the go ahead. And that began, a 20 year campaign towards North, where Baji Rao 1 struck terror into the hearts of his enemies.

Campaign against the Nizam

Baji Rao initially met the Nizam at Chikalthana, on January 4, 1721 to settle the disputes peacefully. He in fact initially supported the Nizam in his revolt against the Mughal emperor, and carving out his own kingdom in the Deccan. However the Nizam responded by clearing out all the Maratha revenue collectors, and he also took good advantage of the internal rivalry among the Marathas between Shahu and Sambhaji II, by refusing to pay chauth or sardeshmukh.  In the meantime the likes of Parashuram Pratinidhi and Chandrasen Jadhav, who had no love lost with the Bhat family, began to support the Nizam and Sambhaji II, against Shahu.  The Nizam in the meantime invaded Pune and installed Sambhaji II as the Chattrapati.  Baji Rao struck back, and in the Battle of Palkhed,  on February 28, 1728 routed the Nizam using  a series of lightning fast attacks, that left the Nizam totally clueless. Years later, Field Marashal Bernard Montogomery called this “A Masterpiece of strategic mobility” in his book A History of Warfare. In fact he rated Baji Rao on par with the US Civil War General Sherman, in usage of the light and fast attack tactics. The Nizam was forced to sue for peace, recognized Shahu as the true Chattrapati as well as the Maratha’s right to collect taxes in the Deccan.  Baji Rao also moved to Pune in 1728, and laid the foundations for what was to become a great city.  The construction of the iconic Shaniwar Wada began during his time.

Malwa was easily ovverun by Baji Rao 1 in 1723, with help of Malhar Rao Holkar, Shinde, Pawar brothers, who established their own kingdoms later.  While Holkar ruled from Indore,  Shinde founded the Scindia dynasty in Gwalior, while the Pawar brothers would found the kingdoms of Dewas and Dhar.  He also foiled an attempt by the Mughal emperor to recapture Malwa, routing his army at the Battle of Ajmehra, aided by his brother Chimaji Appa, and able generals like Holkar, Shinde and the Pawar brothers.  By February 1729, the Marathas had captured the entire Malwa and reached the southern part of Rajasthan.  He also avoided direct conflicts with the Rajputs unlike his predecessors and ensured friendly relations with most.

One of Baji Rao’s biggest victories was against the Mughal general Bangash Khan, when he came to aid of Veer Chhatrasal, the Bundelkhand ruler who had carved out his own kingdom. Surrounded by the Mughals and Rohillas,  Chhatrasal pleaded with Baji Rao 1, “Jo gati bhayi Gajendra ki, wahi gati hamri aaj, baaji jaat bundel ki baaji raakhiyo laaj”, a reference to the Gajendra Moksham story, where the elephant pleads with Vishnu to help him.  He made a lightning strike on the Mughal Army, Bangash Khan fled from Bundelkhand, and Chattrasal was restored as the ruler, who in turn out of gratitude ceded a large amount of territory to Baji Rao 1, and also gave his daughter Mastani from a Muslim mistress to him.

 Trimbhak Rao, the senapati  of Chattrapati Shahu from the Dabhade clan, had virtual monopoly over Gujarat, and felt threatened by Baji Rao gaining control over his fiefdom. He allied with other Maratha sardars in Gujarat, and Bangash Khan, as well as the Nizam and Sambhaji II. However the entire alliance was once again routed by Baji Rao at the Battle of Dabhol, Trimbhak died on the battlefield.  The long standing dispute with Sambhaji II was resolved by the Treaty of Warna in April 1731, which demarcated Satara and Kolhapur, while the Nizam too promised not to interfere with the Maratha campaigns.

The Siddis of Janjira had grown rapidly post Shivaji’s death and were in full control of the Konkan coast. When a war of succession broke out in 1773 among the sons of Yakut Khan,  Baji Rao supported one of the sons Abdul Rehman, and later signed a peace treaty with the Siddis, giving them control over Janjira, Underi while the Marathas would keep Raigad, Rewas with them. However when the Siddis began to attack the Maratha territories in Konkan, Baji Rao sent his brother Chimaji Appa, who launched a surprise attack at Rewas and routed the Siddis, forcing them to sue for a peace treaty.

Baji Rao’s final push was to the seat of the Mughal power itself, Delhi, when he sent an army under Malhar Rao Holkar, Pilaji Jadha, when he began the march on November 12, 1736.  The Marathas under Holkar marched right up to Delhi, capturing the entire Doab region, and on March 28, 1737  decisively routed the Mughal army at the Battle of Delhi.  The Mughal Emperor’s plea to Nizam and the Nawab of Bhopal was in vain, as the combined forces were once again routed in the Battle of Bhopal on December 24, 1737. Nizam-Ul-Mulk was forced to ceded the entire Malwa to Marathas, and the Mughals had to pay indemnity, a total victory for Baji Rao 1. Chimaji Appa also ran a succesful campaign against the Portuguese on the West Coast, defeating them in a pitched battle at Vasai,  as well as capturing Salsette and Ghoribunder fort.

Finally on April 28, 1740 Baji Rao 1 passed away near Khargone, but he had taken the Maratha Empire to the greatest heights ever. If one has to see the effect of Baji Rao a look at the two maps below tell it all.




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Vikram Sarabhai


Ahmedabad, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi Science Institute.

Two students in a room, very pensive, and nervous at their head coming inside. An electric meter had just gone out of order, as they had passed too much current while doing an experiment. And they were wondering how to break the news to him, who was also the founder of the rather modest lab, that had begun a year back.  It was a time,when such electric meters were difficult to get, and important experiments could be suspended for a month or even more.  As the students nervously broke the news, the man displayed neither the slightest trace of irritation or anger. Instead in a rather comforting tone he told them.

“Is that all? Don’t mind it too much. Such things do happen when students are learning. If students don’t make mistakes, how can they learn? It is enough if you learn to be more careful in future.”

The man here was none other than Vikram Sarabhai,  the father of India’s space program, regarded as one of the greatest scientists of modern India. And who also made a signficant contribution to the nuclear program.

Vikram Sarabhai was born on August 12, 1919, to Ambalal Sarabhai, a well known textile industrialist in Ahmedabad, and Sarala Devi. It was an auspicious day of Garuda Panchami. When the Sarabhais wanted to educate their children, they were not satisfied with the existing schooling system.  And so they set up a school at home, hired some of the best teachers for both science and arts. Vikram as well as his 8 siblings were a big beneficiary of the home schooling, and up to matriculation they studied at home only. With his father being an influential man, many famous people would visit the Sarabhai’s house in Ahmedabad, among them were Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore , J. Krishna Murthi, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Maulana Azad, C. F. Andrews, C. V. Raman. And Mahatma Gandhi stayed in their home for some time while recovering from an illness. This interaction with such great minds, influenced Vikram’s thought process and character too.  Like most other boys of his age, he loved to play, do tricks on the bicylce, was mischievous and used to go for boating.

He was absolutely brilliant at mathematics and science, and with his hard working nature, managed to be at the top of the class always. He went to Cambridge after completing his college education in India and in 1939, he passed the Tripos in Physics, considered to be one of the toughest exams then. On his return to India, he joined the Physics Department in IISc that was then headed by the renowned C.V.Raman. His counterpart was another renowned physicist Dr.Homi Bhaba who was doing research on Mesons and Cosmic Rays.

Cosmic Rays

Typically every substance on earth has 3 fundamental particles- the electrons( -ve charge), protons(+ve charge) and neutrons( neutral). However it has been discovered that there are other particles in space, beside these,  called as mesons.  And these mesons are formed by cosmic rays as per most scientific theories. Over 600 such cosmic rays pass through the human body every year, and they can penetrate the hardest rocks too.

Vikram’s first scientific paper was on periodical variation of cosmic rays intensity, in which he did extensive research. This research helped him to study further on interplanetary space, relation between sun and earth and the magnetic phenomena on earth. It was during this time he got the idea of establishing a cosmic ray research institution. When he went to the Himalayas in Kashmir, 1943 for study of cosmic rays at high altitudes, he got the idea of establishing a research center at such a height.


After the end of the 2nd World War, Vikram once again went to Cambridge in 1945 to continue his study on cosmic rays, where he also got his PhD.  Vikram’s work on cosmic rays in Kashmir was at Apharwat, on the banks of  Alpathari lake, a regular family outing spot very summer. Located at 13,000 feet above sea level, this is where he decided to set up a future research institute.

Vikram set up the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad in 1948, with Dr. K.R.Ramanathan as it’s first director. Starting off with just few students and some lab assistants, it soon grew into one of India’s premier institutions. Even when he got busy in  his later years, Vikram still maintained close contact with the institution he founded.  Starting off as Professor, he later became the Director in 1965.  It sponsored a cosmic ray research institute at Gulmarg in 1955. And when DAE( Dept of Atomic Energy) established a full fledged high altitude research center in Gulmarg, Vikram’s long standing dream became a reality. Later on similiar such centers were opened in Kodaikanal and Thiruvananthapuram.

When Homi Jehangir Bhabha, died in an aircrash in 1966, many wondered who would take over AEC. It was a large void to be filled, however Vikram Sarabhai more than proved to be equal to the task, he did his work quitely to the best of ability and guided India’s fledgling nuclear program in the right direction.  One of his greatest achievements would be in the foundation of ISRO, when he convinced the PM, Jawaharlal Nehru of the need for India’s own space program.  Aware that India did not have the resources to undertake something like a manned mission to the moon or to planets, he felt that space technology could be used for multiple applications like earth mapping, satellite TV, which were more relevant to Indian needs. INCOSPAR( Indian National Committe for Space Research) was set up in 1962 by Nehru on his reccomendation,  and this eventually become ISRO in 1969.  This is what he had to say about India’s space program.

There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.

Vikram got good support from Homi Bhabha to set up India’s first ever space station at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram. Being very close to the Earth’s magnetic equator, it made it the ideal location for scientists to conduct atmospheric research.

Nov 21, 1963- The first rocket launch took place from Thumba, the efforts of Vikram Sarabhai had borne fruit.  One of the members present at the launch was a certain APJ Abdul Kalam, who would go on to become an equally distinguished scientist himself. SITE or Satellite Instructional TV was once again the result of his interactions with NASA in 1966, to have such a program in India.  The project for the first Indian satellite was started during Sarabhai’s time, and Aryabhatta in 1975 was due to his efforts again.

His legacy was vast, IIM Ahmedabad was the result of his dream to have a world class management institute in India.  The first market research organization in India, ORG was again founded by him.  He also set up the AITRA, to provide support and guidance to Ahmedabad’s booming textile industry. Sarabhai Community Science Center in Ahmedabad was set up by him to popularize science education.  It was not just the sciences, along with his wife Mrinalini he founded Darpana Academy of Performing Arts to promote culture.  Some other institutions established by him include

  • Faster Breeder Test Reactor  in Kalpakam
  • Variable Energy Cyclotron Project in Kolkata
  • ECIL in Hyderabad
  • Uranium Corporation of India Ltd in Jharsuguda, Jharkhand.

He was pretty much a hands on person, could often be seen at late hours in the lab working on solutions. As a teacher, he believed in being a guide to the students, engaging in continous discussion with them on their research, encouraging them. As a human being he was a gem of a person, down to earth, humble. He believed in using science as a tool for India’s development and progress after independence, and his thoughts were always in that direction.  Inspite of his busy schedule, he devoted equal time to his family, and also his family’s industrial group.  He would often take time out to listen to every one, and people would often pour out their woes to him.  When some one asked why he is wasting time listening to all that, this was his reply

In our vast land people come from many backgrounds. Not every one is lucky enough to have the education we have. So, we have to listen to everything they say to understand what is in their mind.

 He treated every one as his equal without any class distinction, helped others in need. His belief was simple, every person in the world is worthy of respect irrespective of their class or status.  He was truly a man of simple living and high thinking.  On Dec 30, 1971 Vikram Sarabhai passed away at Kovalam,of a sudden heart attack, on one of his visits to Thumba. One of the greatest scientists of modern India was no more, and yet the legacy he left behind- ISRO, IIM, and the chain of institutions all over India, would ensure he would never be forgotten.
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Khudiram Bose

May 2, 1908

The railway station at Muzaffarpur was crowded to see the boy. He was just 18, but looked so determined. The boy walked to the waiting police van, took his seat and loudly cried out “Vande Mataram”. There was no fear in his eyes, just a calm sense of fortitude, as if he was fully prepared for his fate. He knew he would be hanging from the noose soon and yet he had accepted it stoically.


The young lad was none other than Khudiram Bose, one of the youngest martyrs in the struggle for freedom, born on December 3, 1889 in a small village, Habibpur near Midnapore. His father Trailokyanath Basu was the revenue agent for Nadazol province, and Khudiram was the 4th son in a family of 3 daughters.  As he was the only son, two others dying in infancy, his mother Lakshmipriya Devi, as per the prevailing custom, symbolically sold him to her eldest daughter Apurupa for 3 handfuls of “Khud” or foodgrain.  This in a way gave him his name, and he was later bought up by his eldest sister, after his parents passed away when he was just 6 years old.  He was admitted to the Hamilton High School in Tamluk by his brother in law Amritalal Roy.

Even before reaching adolescence, Khudiram had the reputation of being a dare devil rebel.  The speeches of Aurobindo and Bhagini Nivedita, in 1902 and 1903, when they  visited Midnapore, fired him up with a burning desire to join the revolutionary activities, when he was just 12. When his brother in law was transferred to Midnapore, he enrolled at the Medinipur Collegiate School, and that proved to be a turning point in his life.  He became part of the akhara that was active in socio political sphere, and earned every one’s appreciation for his enthusiasm, adventorus spirit. He was also inspired by his teacher Satyendranath Bose, as well as the teachings of the Gita. At just 15 years he became a volunteer distributing pamphlets against British rule, and at 16 he took part in setting up bombs, targetting Government officials. Angered by  Lord Curzon’s decision to partition Bengal in 1905, he was one of the many who got caught up in the revolutionary fervor and joined the Jugantar.


Douglas Kingsford, the chief Magistrate of  Alipore’s Presidency court, was the one who ruthlessly targeted Jugantar Patrika, had overseen the trial of it’s editor and sent him to prison. The editor of Jugantar Patrika, Bhupendranath Datta was none other than the youngest brother of Swami Vivekananda, and a close associate of  Aurobindo and Barindra Ghosh. The arrests made Jugantar Patrika much more defiant and it struck back with more stinging editorials against the British Raj.  Jugantar became widely popular and also helped to spread the Anushilan Samiti’s ideology of revolutionary nationalism, especially among the youth in Bengal. Kingsford earned more ire, when he ordered a young revolutionary Sushil Sen to be flogged in public.  He now became the target of the revolutionaries.  In the meantime one of Barindra Ghosh’s associates Hem Chandra Kanungo, had learnt about bomb making from the Russian revolutionary Nicholas Safranski in Paris, and he returned back to assist the other rebels.

The first attempt was made on Kingsford was through a book bomb that Hemchandra had made, packed into a section of Herbert Broom’s book Commentaries on Law ironically.  However he narrowly managed to escape the attempt, and was transferred to Muzaffarpur by March 1908, to keep him out of danger. However the Anushilan Samiti, tracked him to Muzaffarpur, sending a two man reconnaisance team, that included another revolutionary Prafulla Chaki.  Hemchandra once again provided a larger bomb, with 6 oz of dynamite, and this time Khudiram Bose accompanied Prafulla to Muzaffarpur.

Attempt on Kingsford

By now the police suspicious of the Anushilan Samiti  activities, began to track their movements, and the Kolkata police alerted the SP of Muzaffarpur. Four men were assigned to guard Kingsford’s home, while Khudiram and Prafulla Chaki, taking up the aliases of Haren Sarkar and Dinesh Chandra Roy, took residence in a dharamshala in Muzaffarpur run by Kishorimohan Bandopadhyaya.  After closely tracking the movements of Kingsford, over the next couple of days, they were ready to execute their plans, and choose the evening of April 29. They began to survey the park opposite the British club in Muzaffarpur where Kingsford was a regular visitor, and were promptly noticed by a constable. However they managed to evade the police and intelligence officials for over 2 weeks.

April 30, 1908, 8:30 PM

Kingsford finished his bridge game at the club, and left in a horse drawn carriage. However in another identical carriage, the wife and daughter of Pringle Kennedy, a leading lawyer of Muzaffarpur had left earlier. And both Prafulla, Khudiram mistook this one to be that of Kingsford’s.  As the carriage neared the home of Kingsford, they ran towards it and threw the bombs.  It was a terrible explosion destroying the carriage, and leaving both mother and daughter with severe injuries to which they succumbed later in in the hospital.

By now the entire town was agog with the news of the attack, and the police were on full alert.  Khudiram made his escape through the countryside on foot, and after walking non stop for 40 km, he reached a station called Waini on May 1, 1908 morning, exhausted and tired.  His appearance immediately alerted two constables Fateh Singh and Sheo Pershad Singh,  and when he asked for some water, he was caught. The frail Khudiram had no chance against the two burly constables, and his struggle to escape was in vain. 37 rounds of ammunition, a railway map, Rs 30 in cash was found, his fate was sealed.

Meanwhile Prafulla Chaki after trudging around the countryside,  was totally exhausted that too in the peak of summer.  A Government official Trigunacharan Ghosh, noticing him totally exhausted, suspected he was the same one involved in the Muzaffarpur incident.  He however took pity on him, took him home, gave him some food and clothes, a bath and arranged for his safe return to Kolkata. However destiny played a cruel trick here, in the same compartment in which he was travelling, a SI, Nandalal Banerjee was also travelling, in normal clothes. Suspecting him of involvement in the Muzaffarpur incident, he struck up a conversation with him, and got out the details from Prafulla, who was unaware of his identity.  He immediately sent a telegram to Muzaffarpur police station to arrest him. When Prafulla was about to disembark at Mokamghat station to change to Howrah, he saw Nandalal along with a group of police ought to arrest him.  Realizing he had been led into a trap, and had no chance to fight them, he attempted to escape from the platform, and when cornered, shot himself than surrender to the British.


May 1, 1908- The handcuffed Khudiram Bose was bought to Muzaffarpur, where the entire town turned up to see him.  He was taken to the house of the DM, Mr.Woodman, and not knowing that Prafulla was dead, took the entire responsbility of the operation upon himself, to protect his fellow conspirators.

The trial began on May 21, 1908 where Khudiram was tried along with two others, Mrityunjay Chakraborty and Kishorimohan Bandhopadhyaya, who had accomodated them in Muzzafarpur. Two fellow Indians, Nathuni Prasad and Janak Prasad, were appointed as members of the jury, while Corndoff was the Judge.  While Mannuk and Binodbihari Majumdar were the prosecutors, eminent lawyers like Kalidas Basu, Upendranath Sen and Kshetranath Bandopadhyay  took up Khudiram’s defense. They were joined later by other lawyers like Kulkamal Sen, Nagendra Lal Lahiri and Satischandra Chakraborty,  not one of them took up any fees. All these lawyers stood up for Khudiram Bose, and the nation.

Khudiram  was forced to sign a statement to the magistrate E.W. Bredhowd, denying any involvement or responsibility in the attack, on the advice of his lawyers. However just on June 13, an anonymous letter that one more bomb attack was due and this time it would be the Biharis who will carry out the plan.  And this influenced the Judge to pronounce the death sentence on Khudiram. All the efforts of his lawyers to save him, were in vain. Khudiram just smiled in response, leaving the Judge astounded, who asked him if he knew what it meant.  When the judge asked him if he had anything else to say, Khudiram just smiled back, saying he wished he could have taught him the art of bomb making.

Though Khudiram, was prepared for his death sentence, his defense lawyers persuaded him to file an appeal to commute it to life imprisonment. The High Court hearing once again took place on July 8, and this time it was Narendra Kumar Basu who came to Khudiram’s defense. By now he had become a hero for the entire country, and the trial fired up the nation. Narendra challenged the verdict on the following grounds, as per Article 164 of IPC, the accused had to submit his statement in front of a first class magistrate which Woodman was not.  He also pointed out that the accused was not questioned in his native language, Bengali, which was a violation of Art 364. Finally he contended that since Prafulla Chaki was the actual bomb thrower, and the one who committed suicide,  Khudiram was only an accomplice, and hence his sentence could be commuted.

Sadly on 13th July, 1908, inspite of Narendra Kumar’s best efforts, the Judges conferred the death penalty on Khudiram Bose.  Even a request to the Governor General was turned down, and his hanging was confirmed for August 11, 1908. Kolkata erupted in protest, especially the students and youth taking to the streets, against the hanging. Predictably Mahatma Gandhi did not approve of Khudiram Bose’s act, stating such violent methods are of no use.

August 11, 1908, 6 AM. Crowds swelled around the prison to have a last glimpse of Khudiram Bose, his close associate Upendranath Sen, a lawyer and journalist,  was at the front, to make all the funeral arrangements.  Khudiram walked to the gallows with a smile on his face, and as the noose fell around his neck, one more brave hero, had given up his life for the sake of India’s independence.

Neither the Jubilee murder of 1897, nor the reported tampering of the Sikh regiments had produced so much commotion, and the English public opinion seems inclined to regard birth of the bomb in India at the most extraordinary event since the mutiny at 1857.- Kesari.


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Operation Gibraltar

( This article was originally published by me here Operation Gibraltar  at Offprint)
August 5, 1965- Darra Kassi, near Gulmarg

A young Gujjar lad  Mohammed Din, tending to his flock of cattle is approached by two strange looking men , and offered money for information on the deployment of Indian troops. The boy immediately reported the matter to the local police station at Tanmarg, following which an Army patrol was despatched and seven infiltrators were killed. There was a similar encounter at Galuthi in the Mendhar sector, and 3 days later on August 8, two POK officers were captured at Narian. As the Indian Army officers began to interrogate the captured POK officers, astounding facts started to come out, about massive infiltration going on in the Valley. 



The code name for the operation, that involved settling large number of infiltrators in the Kashmir valley and fomenting a large scale insurgency against the Indian state.  The operation was so named, as the 8th century Ummayad conquest of Hispania began from that British Overseas Territory located at the Southern most end of Spain.


India had suffered a humiliating rout in the 1962 War against China, and was still coming to terms with it. Jawaharlal Nehru had passed away, the new incumbent Lal Bahadur Shastri was still yet to be tested. In the meanwhile Pakistan, signed a border agreement with China in 1963, where it handed the Shaksgam Valley to make the alliance stronger. Pakistan felt that with India in a demoralized state following the 1962 rout, it was the best time to launch an attack. The Indian Army was still rebuilding post 1962, it was not militarily as well equipped as the Pakistani Army was, then supported by the US. The Indian and Pakistani forces had earlier clashed in the Rann of Kutch during February.

Pakistan felt emboldened following it’s clash in Rann of Kutch, with India, that gave it a strategic advantage of sorts. The Indian Army struck back during May 1965 capturing three important posts in Kargil sector, and forcing a ceasefire of sorts on July 1, 1965. The Pakistani forces under estimated the capablity of the Indian Army, and began to work on a master plan to liberate Kashmir from what it considered Indian occupation.

Field Marshal Ayub Khan was the mastermind behind this plan to liberate Kashmir and he put Gen Akhtar Mallik in charge of this operation. Inspite of Chief of Army Staff Musa and a few senior Army officers disapproving of the plan, Ayub Khan went ahead with it. The key here was the backing given by Z.A.Bhutto, then foreign minister in the Pakistan Govt.  Bhutto and most senior officers felt that India was not really in a position to sustain a long conflict, and this indeed was the right time to strike.

The plan was to create large scale disturbances in Kashmir by sending around 80,000 Pakisntani soldiers and irregulars or the “mujahideen”  as they were called.  In the words of Akhtar Mallik, the aim was to defreeze the Kashmir problem, weaken Indian resolve, and bring India to the conference table without provoking general war. The entire operation was planned in  phases. In Phase 1, it was planned to launch raids on selected targets, creating shock and panic, cause chaos, and foment an uprising. Once the civil uprising was ignited, the second phase was to merge this with the actual military infiltration.  It would be a war for India on two fronts, one with the Pakistan Army and another with the local populace, absolutely hard to win for even the most professional army in the world.

The plan was to make the Indian Army get bogged down in Kashmir, creating a Vietnam like scenario, which would force the world to notice, the UN to rush in and bring India to the negotiating table. The preparation for this started around May 17, 1965 itself, with Akhtar Mallik adopting an all-out aggressive approach. The fact though is the Pakistani Army vastly overestimated itself and  underestimated the Indian military capability.


The infiltration was to be done through 10 task forces, each assigned for a particular sector in the Valley.  These units were named after well known Muslim rulers, Salahaddin, Babur, Ghazni, Khilji,  and they were as follows.

  • Salahaddin-Sringar Valley
  • Ghaznavi-Mendhar-Rajauri
  • Tarig- Kargil-Drass
  • Babur- Nowshehra
  • Qasim- Bandipura
  • Khalid- Naugam
  • Nusrat- Tangdhar
  • Sikandar- Gurais
  • Khilji- Minimarg
These units were primarily made up of officers and men from POK, for better command and control. Almost 70% of the force was made up of Razakars living in POK,mostly civilians living close to the border. Each task force had 5-6 units under it, and commanded by a Pakistani Army major. Each company was commanded by a Pakistani Army Captain and comprised of JCOs, Razakars, personell from POK battalions, and it’s strength was around 120.

The units were armed on a large scale, with a huge amount of rifles, Sten carbines, LMGs, while some of the companies had 2-3″ mortars too. The personell were all asked to dress in the traditional green mazari shirt, salwar along with jungle boots to avoid suspicion. They were also given fake ID cards, Indian currency to make purchases, rations to last enough for the operation.

During the 2nd week of July, all the Force commanders assembled at Murree, where Ayub Khan addressed them. Akhtar Mallik addressed the forces on August 1, 1965, where he exhorted them to do their best, stating this was the best chance to liberate Kashmir. The plan was to ensure the infiltrators mingled with the locals, incite them to revolt. In the meanwhile Pakistan Army would launch a series of guerilla attacks to destroy bridges, tunnels that would cut off communications, target airfields as well as logistic installations. All the areas targeted were in the Valley, and that too along the LOC.

However with the Indian Army getting prior intelligence, the much touted operation ended up in a major fiasco. The major factor was that the infiltrators received no support from the locals, except in Mandi, Narian and Budhil. Also they were thinly spread across to actually achieve any meaningful outcome. On August 13, the infiltrators managed to attack a Kumaon military base at Naugam, killing the Commanding officer, however the situation was quickly retrieved. The Indian Army set up a separate HQ for dealing with the infiltration, Maj Gen Umrao Singh was put in charge of the operations, while 19 Infantry Division moved back to Baramulla to plan for offensive operations. In the meanwhile 17 Punjab, captured critical posts at Kargil on Aug 14, however the military post at Dewa was destroyed by shelling, killing most of the men in charge there including the Brigade Commander.

On August 17, the Chief of Army Staff Gen J.N.Chaudhuri, Western Comand in Charge Lt. Gen Harbaksh Singh met in Jammu, to chalk out a plan of further action. By August 21, Lt.Gen Kashmir Singh Katoch, GOC 15 Corps, assesed that six columns were operating in Jammu and Kashmir, and soon it was decided to go on an all out offensive against them. Lt.Gen Harbaksh Singh, decided that apart from eliminating the infiltrators it was necessary to capture the Haji Pir pass to counter it. He directed the 15 Corps to take Hajipir into control. The capture of Haji Pir, Kishanganga Bulge and Kargil, meant that India had a firm control now, and the infiltrators could not really break in. The Pakistani plans had been foiled, Akhtar had to postpone his much vaunted Operation Grand Slam to September 1, but by then Indian Army had fully secured the Kashmir Valley, and most of the infiltrators were killed, and all the routes choked off.

Operation Gibraltar was the biggest challenge India faced after 1962, and considering it was in a rebuilding mode, the way it countered it, should rank as one of the great miitary victories. The credit due to Lt.Gen Harbaksh Singh, who read the situation correctly, and ensured Haji Pir Pass was captured that made all the difference.

Source –

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