The First Special Forces Surgical Strike Inside Pakistan : The full story

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”Megh I am planning an operation in next few days to capture RAJA Post and CHAND TEKRI Post opposite my brigade. Therefore I want you to ensure that during our attack, the enemy is not able to rush any reinforcement to these Posts from its major base in area Dwaradi. Even area Bandi Gopalpur is having many administrative echelons. You are going to help me out by disrupting his road communication between DWARANDI and BANDI GOPALPUR. So plan your time and routes of infiltration and exfiltration etc and let me know” thus spoke Brigadier Zora Singh, Commander of Poonch Brigade on 30 August 1965 at his HQ.

Lt Col Megh Singh

Though Major Megh Singh had selected Poonch as the area of operations for the Meghdoot Forces, he had never served in this sector. Therefore to gain detailed information of the terrain, he visited all our Posts west of Poonch as these gave a good view of the routes leading to Bandi Gopalpur and the road coming from Bandi Gopalpur towards Dwarandi.

He then planned his infiltration route through one of the nallah inspite of the fact that the Nallah was dominated by a number of enemy Posts on either bank and also frequented by enemy patrols.

This route was extremely risky but the fact that enemy would never even in his dream expect someone to infiltrate through this well-guarded route was likely to achieve complete surprise. However, this kind of audacity required good field craft, stealth and a bit of luck.

After last light o1 Sep 65, Meghdoots left their base and moved to the Cease Fire Line. Soon with 2/Lt N K Mukherjee in the lead, one by one the Meghdoots entered the selected Nallah and started crossing into POK. A total of 03 Officers, 02 JCOs and 63 Other Ranks.

The force was self-contained for three days and was also carrying about 100 kg of TNT explosives. It was for the first time that a determined band of Indian Soldiers were going for a planned commando mission deep inside the enemy held territory. Every sense on the alert, with nerves on the edges, just a bit of unexpected sound and everyone would promptly go to the ground.

It took time to get the column moving again. Losing contact was quite frequent. (and believe me, knowing that every finger within your vicinity is on the trigger, and fully tensed, making recontact in pitch darkness is really a terrifying prospect).

The going was very slow……it would take a few more years of training when men of 9 PARA would transform into expert fast moving, noiseless mountain/jungle creatures. So prior to first light, on reaching a suitable area, the entire force established a commando base or simply put went into hiding.

The Hide was about 9 Kms behind the enemy lines. They rested for the whole day and discussed the entire situation including fault finding with various drills employed. Thereafter at last light Major Megh Singh decided to proceed ahead only with 03 Officers, 01 JCO, 13 Other Ranks including two Sappers. The rest of the force under Subedar Dil Jan was to remain in location and protect the route back.

The progress of this small band of 17 was quite fast, though barking of dogs from, isolated houses/villages nearby their route, was quite scary. On hearing such barking they always went to ground before resuming their move. This ultimately proved a boon. During one such halt, they decided to rest for 10 minutes.

Suddenly the dogs started barking once again. However this time it was indicating approach of a fairly large number of men from the opposite direction. Probably warning of an incoming enemy patrol. Through the binocular Mukherjee spotted the enemy Patrol about 15 strong heading towards the Meghdoots.

Quickly, maintaining absolute stealth the Meghdoots shifted position and froze to the ground. They had more important task than ambushing this Patrol. They let the Patrol pass through their location. This incident gave every Meghdoot full confidence in his fieldcraft and in his capabilities.

Megh Singh and his 16 Meghdoots reached area Bandi Gopalpur, the administrative base of the enemy, around midnight 02- 03Sep. There were several administrative installations and artillery positions. In fact, guns were intermittently firing towards Poonch.

Each time the guns fired, Megh Singh and his men had feeling of acute indignation but they were too small in numbers to raid and destroy the guns. So they moved towards Dwarandi parallel to the road. Suddenly headlights of three vehicles were seen in the distance coming from Bandi Gopalpur side.

A quick ambush position was taken but soon the vehicles switched off their headlights and must have halted somewhere along the road. After an hour, Megh Singh decided to move again and commenced proceeding towards Dwarandi. After about 4kms came a big culvert about 30 to 40 m long and so located that no diversion off the road was possible.

This was an excellent location to completely disrupt the enemy’s road communication links. However, there was a big house looking like a barrack located quite near to the Culvert and overlooking a good portion of the road.

Prior to blowing off the Culvert, it was necessary to first tackle the barrack and eliminate the enemy if any. Mukherjee was given this task. His party crawled to the target and reported that the house was totally empty. His party was then asked to set up a roadblock position towards Dwarandi. Megh Singh himself with a small party took position towards Bandi Gopalpur.

Lt Mohinder Singh’s party along with Subedar Hamid Khan and the two sappers were tasked to blow up the culvert. All the explosives were then placed at appropriate points on the structure as advised by the sappers (expertise in explosives too would come to 9 within a few years). It was a strong concrete Culvert and there was a lingering doubt in the minds of the officers regarding the success.

Once the safety fuse was lit, everyone waited with bated breaths. Then suddenly there was a tremendous loud explosion as nearly 100 kg of TNT went up in a flash. The culvert had nearly vanished and with this the road communication between Dwarandi– Bandi Gopalpur was completely paralyzed till reconstruction of the culvert.

Now with all the enemy positions in and around the area fully alerted, the difficult task of getting back alive began. Men who till date had been conventional soldiers were feeling extremely nervous, so many kms deep behind the enemy lines.

There were no flanking friendly troops, no supporting force behind nor any Mortar or MMG to give fire support. To fall back to safety you had to be prepared to fight it out. So they quickly took stock of everything and scooted from the area. Megh Singh decided to follow the shortest and quickest route back.

He therefore with his men moved along existing tracks through the villages and maize fields instead of the treacherous nullah. They counted on the biggest advantage that villagers were unlikely to suspect that these men so deep inside were not from Pakistan Army. The only danger was a head-on encounter with a returning enemy Patrol.

The audacity paid off and no enemy Patrol was encountered enroute and without any mishap Megh Singh and party reached the Hide Location. Then they quickly took off towards the cease-fire line and were back into own territory at dawn of 03 Sep.

The news of the success spread like the proverbial wildfire within the Brigade Sector. It boosted up the morale of all ranks and also enhanced the reputation of MEGHDOOT FORCE in the entire 15 Corps Zone of that time ie entire J& K.Within no time brigade HQ received a large number of requests from volunteers to join this Force for subsequent operations.

Brigadier Zora was extremely happy to have this Force in his Sector. Thus ended the first operation, a clean simple baby step. Now it was just DIL MANGE MORE. Brig Zora had already planned the next one …….but readers will have to wait for the next story.

The Article is Written By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Veteran Special Forces