Colonel Panjab Singh, a hero of the Battle of Poonch during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, was cremated with full military honours under pandemic protocols after he passed away Sunday at Command Hospital Chandimandir Monday.
The retired officer, who was awarded the Vir Chakra, the third highest war-time gallantry award, died of post-Covid complications. He had recovered from the infection earlier.
Only last week, on 21 May, his elder son Anil Kumar had succumbed to Covid.
Born on 15 February 1942, the colonel was commissioned into 6th Battalion, The Sikh Regiment on16 December 1967.
He went on to command the prestigious battalion from 12 October 1986 to 29 July 1990. His son-in-law, Lieutenant General D.P. Pandey, is currently the commander of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps.
Col Singh’s legacy
Col Singh had taken part in the 1971 War which earned him the title ‘Hero of Poonch’.
During Operation Cactus Lilly of the 1971 War, the 6 Sikh Battalion occupied 13 km of frontage on the heights above Poonch, covering two strategic points, the loss of which would have directly threatened Poonch.
Singh, then a Major, was commanding a company deployed at Tund, which had been limited to a platoon. A platoon has 25 fighting soldiers while a company has around 100 of them. Several companies make up a battalion, which has around 500 fighting soldiers.
On 3 December 1971, Pakistani forces attacked the position with more than a battalion, supported by artillery and mortar fire.
The next 72 hours was a classical defensive battle fought by the fierce soldiers of 6 Sikh under the command of Singh, an Army officer said.
The Battle account by Col Singh, which is part of the Officers Training Academy (OTA) journal, said the enemy had shouted charge many times during the night but did not carry out an assault.
“Obviously his aim was to make us expend our ammunition and assault us at first light. I therefore ordered strict fire control. No one was to fire without my permission or my JCO (junior commissioned officer)’s permission,” Singh had written.
According to the citation on the Vir Chakra awarded to Singh, the enemy came as close as a few meters to India’s defenses.
“Col Panjab with complete disregard for his safety, moved from trench to trench and ensured that all weapons under his command engaged the assaulting force till the attacking force retreated, leaving behind their dead and weapons,” it reads.
Pakistani forces attacked the position nine times over two nights, all of which were similarly foiled. It was in recognition of this bravery that Singh was awarded the prestigious Vir Chakra on 24 December 1971.
After retirement, Col Singh was the director of the Sainik Welfare, Himachal Pradesh, and was also the vice president, Indian Ex-Service League, Himachal Pradesh of Southern Area.