• Thursday, May 23, 2019

A touching tale of '71 War

Discussion in 'Members Club' started by third eye, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    I am reproducing an article whose links I cannot provide which some readers here may have read before, I do this to highlight the fact the despite all the chest banging during war, those of us in uniform remain Gentlemen. Speaks well of the Pakistani Birgadier.


    Brig ML Khetrapal father of 2 Lt Arun Khetrpal,PVC died recently. The narration is a very touching one. I salute the father & son.

    " My son goes to Sanawar, a school up in theHimalayas. It used to be a Military school (154 years old) and like any old school, Sanawar has its fair share of heroes amongst its old students. One such hero from that school that I want to write about is 2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, son of Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal. He was born on 14 October 1950, in Pune, Maharashtra. He was commissioned in
    the 17 Poona Horse on 13 June 1971, just a few months before the Indo-Pakistan 1971 war"

    The story of his heroism is as follows:

    The Event

    During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the 47 Infantry Brigade, with the 17 Poona Horse under command, was ordered to establish a bridge-head across the Basantar river in Shakargarh sector. The 47 Inf. Bde.completed the task by 2100 hours on December 15th. It was now for the engineers to breach the Pakistani mine-fields and make a safe lane for the induction of the 17 Poona Horse in support of the bridge-head.

    While the engineers were half way through their task, the Indian troops at the bridge-head reported alarming activity of the Pakistani
    armour.

    They requested immediate tank support. But the mine-field had been cleared only partially by that time. At this critical juncture, the 17
    Poona Horse decided to push through the mine-field come what may. By first light on December 16th, the regiment established a link-up between the armour and the infantry at the bridge-head.

    At 0800 hours, the Pakistanis made a counter-attack with an armoured regiment, under the cover of a smoke-screen. The target was the regimental pivot at Jarpal. As the Indians troops were heavily outnumbered, the Commander of 'B' Squadron requested reinforcement. At that time, 2nd Lt. Khetarpal was positioned close to the squadron with his troops in two tanks. He answered the call and moved out to face the Pakistani attack. On the way, his troops came under fire from Pakistani strong points and recoilless gun nests, in the bridge-head zone.

    2nd Lt. Khetarpal fiercely attacked these strong-points, over-ran Pakistani defences and captured many Pakistani soldiers and recoilless
    guns at gun point. During one of these attacks, the commander of his second tank was killed on the spot leaving him alone. But he continued attack on the Pakistani strongholds single-handed, until all the Pakistani positions were overwhelmed. He then raced to the 'B'
    Squadron position. By the time he reached there, the Pakistani tanks were on the retreat. He pursued and destroyed one of these tanks. The 'B' Squadron Commander could persuade him to fall back in line after great difficulty.

    The Pakistanis soon reformed for a second attack. This time they chose the sector held by 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal and two other Officers, for the main attack. The Pakistani employed a complete armoured squadron against these three tanks in order to achieve a breakthrough. A fierce tank battle followed. As many as ten Pakistani tanks were destroyed and of these 2nd Lieutenant Khetarpal alone destroyed four.. In the thick of the battle, two of the three Indian tanks became casualties-one was hit and another suffered mechanical failure.

    The third tank, which was 2nd Lt. Khetarpal's tank, also received a shot and burst into flames. The Commander of the tank troops ordered 2nd Lt. Khetarpal to abandon the burning tank. But realising the useful role of his tank in preventing a breakthrough he communicated the following message to his Commander: "No Sir, I will not abandon my tank. My gun is still working and I will get these guys."

    Then he set about destroying the remaining Pakistani tanks. The last Pakistani tank which he shot was barely 100 metres from his position.

    At this stage his tank received a second hit. The brave Officer met his death denying the Pakistani the intended breakthrough. For his
    conspicuous gallantry in the face of the Pakistani, 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal was honoured with the highest wartime gallantry medal, the Param Vir Chakra, posthumously.

    He was the youngest Indian to win this highest award. The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, nearly 38 years ago is history for most of
    us.

    The Sequel

    However a strange sequel was to follow for the Khetarpal family.Many years later, India and Pakistan established 'people to people' contacts between both the nations. This was also known as 'Twin Track Diplomacy'.

    Brigadier M..L. Khetarpal, father of 2nd Lt. Khetarpal started receiving messages that a certain Brigadier from the Pakistani army
    was keen to meet him. However since he did not know this particular Brigadier, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal did not do anything to encourage
    the meeting.

    In 2001, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal now 81 years old felt a strong desire to visit his birthplace, at Sargodha, now in Pakistan. It was a
    wish that he thought that would never materialize, but when he voiced it to some friends engaged in the Twin Track Diplomacy, they arranged all his papers, visas, travel and staying arrangements in Pakistan so that he could go for the visit.

    At Lahore airport, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was met by Brigadier Khawja Mohammad Naser, who took it upon himself to be Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal host and guide. Brigadier Naser really went out of way to ensure that Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal had a satisfying and nostalgic
    visit to his old house in Sargodha. Upon his return to Lahore he was once again the guest of Brigadier Naser for three days.

    Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was overwhelmed by the extreme kindness deference, courtesy and respect bestowed upon him by Brigadier Naser, all the members of his family and his many servants. As the countdown for the departure progressed, the bonds of friendship between the guests and the host grew stronger and stronger. However Brigadier Khetarpal felt that something was amiss but could not make out what it was. Was it the long silences that punctuated their animated conversation or was it the look of compassion in the eyes of the women in the family. He could not make out..

    However what was certain was that he would always remember the hospitality, warmth and affection of this Pakistani family who treated
    him as someone very very special.

    Finally at the last night before Brigadier M.L.. Khetarpal's departure, Brigadier Naser said 'Sir there is something that I wanted to tell you for many years but I did not know how to get through to you. Finally fate has intervened and sent you to me as an honoured guest. The last few days we have become close to one another and that has made my task even more difficult. It is regarding your son who is of course a national hero in India. However on that fateful day, your son and I were soldiers, unknown to one another, fighting for the respect and safety of our respective countries. I regret to tell you that your son died in my hands. Arun's courage was exemplary and he moved his tank with fearless courage and daring, totally unconcerned about his safety. Tank casualties were very high till finally there were just two of us left facing one another. We both fired simultaneously. It was destined that I was to live and he was to die.

    It is only later that I got to know how young he was and who he was. We are trained to fight and kill without mercy or remorse. We do in war what we have to without thinking too much about it. However we are humans too and sometimes war takes a personal turn and makes an impact on the inner self..

    I had all along thought that I would ask your forgiveness, but in telling the story I realize that there is nothing to forgive. Instead
    I salute your son for what he did at such a young age and I salute you too, because I know how he grew into such a young man. In the end it is character and values that matter."

    Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was silent as he did not know how to react.To be faced with the person who killed his son, and also to be
    enjoying his hospitality and being his guest is a confusing feeling.
    However Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal immediately realized that Brigadier Naser was genuinely wanting, in some way to compensate for something that he did only in the line of duty. The soldier must do what he has been trained to do unhesitatingly, and with full resolve and determination.

    Both the Brigadiers retired for the night deep in thought. There are never any victors in war, both sides lose and it is the families that
    have to pay the price and suffer the most. As someone once said ' Wars are created by politicians, compounded by bureaucrats and fought by soldiers.

    The next day photographs were taken and Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal returned back to Delhi. Later the photos reached Delhi along with a
    note from Brigadier Naser that said:

    With Warmest regards and utmost sincerity, To: Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal, father of Shaheed Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, PVC,
    who stood like an unsurmountable rock, between the victory and failure, of the counter attack by the 'SPEARHEADS' 13 LANCERS on 16 December 1971 in the battle of "Bara Pind' as we call it and battle of "Basantar' as 17 Poona Horse remembers.

    Khawja Mohammad Naser, 13 Lancers
    02 March 2001
    Lahore, Pakistan
     
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  2. fatman17

    fatman17 PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    [B]There are never any victors in war, both sides lose and it is the families that
    have to pay the price and suffer the most
    [/B]

    very moving indeed - what fate! - a stark reality which our politicians must heed to!
     
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  3. Wingman

    Wingman FULL MEMBER

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    Very touchy...Which area of sargodha has the old house of Brig.M.L. Khetarpal ??
     
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  4. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    Most appropriate.

    Those in uniform have the " Charge of the Light Brigade' mindset of - Not to reason why - but to do & die.

    Later, in saner moments the finer sentiments take over.

    My dad after the '65 war got into trouble for having ' met' old comrades across the Ichogill Canal after the ceasefire.

    They would have gladly shot each other a few days ago but later they met as long lost friends - something they actually were.

    It takes courage & sterling qualities of head & heart to commend an enemy.
     
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  5. vsdoc

    vsdoc BANNED

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    Brought a lump to my throat.

    Cheers, Doc
     
  6. jaunty

    jaunty SENIOR MEMBER

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    Thank you third eye for sharing this very touching tale. ..

    The citation for the Param Vir Chakra awarded to Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal---



    On 16 December 1971, the Squadron Commander of ‘B’ Squadron, the Poona Horse asked for reinforcement as the Pakistani Armour which was superior in strength, counter attacked at Jarpal, in the Shakargarh Sector. On hearing this transmission, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal who was in ‘A’ Squadron, voluntarily moved along with his troop, to assist the other squadron. En route, while crossing the Basantar River, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and his troop came under fire from enemy strong points and RCL gun nests that were still holding out. Time was at a premium and as critical situation was developing in the ‘B’ Squadron sector, Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, threw caution to the winds and started attacking the impending enemy strong points by literally charging them, overrunning the defence works with his tanks and capturing the enemy infantry and weapon crew at pistol point. In commander of his troop was killed. Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal continued to attack relentlessly until all enemy opposition was overcome and he broke through towards the ‘B’ Squadron position, just in time to see the enemy tanks pulling back after their initial probing attack on this squadron. He was so carried away by the wild enthusiasm of battle and the impetus of his own headlong dash that he started chasing the withdrawing tanks and even managed to shoot and destroy one. Soon thereafter, the enemy reformed with a squadron of armour for a second attack and this time they selected the sector held by Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and two other tanks as the points for their main effort. A fierce tank fight ensured ten enemy tanks were hit and destroyed of which Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal was severely wounded. He was asked to abandon his tank but he realised that the enemy though badly decimated was continuing to advance in his sector of responsibility and if he abandoned his tank the enemy would break through, he gallantry fought on and destroyed another enemy tank, At this stage his tank received a second hit which resulted in the death of this gallant officer.

    Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal was dead but he had, by his intrepid valour saved the day; the enemy was denied the breakthrough he was so desperately seeking. Not one enemy tank got through.

    Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal had shown the best qualities of leadership, tenacity of purpose and the will to close in with the enemy. This was an act of courage and self-sacrifice far beyond the call of duty.
     
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  7. XiNiX

    XiNiX BANNED

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    Its due to them that we r sitting with our Lappies n making merry (in Peace )...
    They r unforgettable.
     
  8. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    Just adding a few snippets I learnt of recently..

    TRIBUTES:

    1. Indian Army has produced many brave officers who have laid down their lives in the line of duty. But the bravery of Khetarpal has indeed been the highest point in the history of the Army. His bravery is deeply embeded in the ethos of the Army and is evident from the numerous buildings named after him at IMA and NDA, higher than any other officer of the Indian Army.

    2. The IMA has its auditorium named Khetarpal and the all passing out officers take oath in front of this building.

    3. The IMA also has one of the main entrance gate named Khetarpal.

    4. The main ground at NDA is named Khetarpal Ground.

    5. The tank of Arun Khetarpal was called Famagusta Jx 202. It was restored after the war and is kept in the Armoured Corps School, Ahmed Nagar.

    6. Famagusta's crew was Sowar Prayag Singh, the driver. Sowar Nand Singh, the Radio Operator. Sowar Nathu Singh, the Gunner and 2/lt Arun Khetarpal, the commander.

    7. Nand Singh was first to die. This was just before the fatal encounter with Major Nasser. Then Arun sccumbed to his injuries. Both Prayag Singh and Nathu Singh were badly wounded but survived and retired from the army as Hon. Captains.

    8. Arun Khetarpal's mother did not get the news of his death till the 26th of December. She had got his motorcycle serviced and his room decked up after hearing that the war was over on the 17th December.

    9. He was cremated on the 17th of December near Samba dictrict. All his family got was his ashes in a small handkerchief.

    10. Mrs Indira Gandhi met Mrs Khetarpal, Arun's mother, after the war and told her 'Aap Dhanya Hain' - You are blessed..with moisture in her eyes.
     
  9. third eye

    third eye ELITE MEMBER

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    I wonder how many of us here who seek war as an answer to all problems realise that - No body wins.
     
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