(The views expressed are his own)
We all know what happened in the Laungewala area during the '71 war.
And I'm not talking of the movie 'Border' here.
My Battalion was close to where Brig KS Chandpuri (then Maj) was, and he and his men took the term 'holding the fort' to new heights. With sheer grit and determination, this company of Punjab Regt held on and being in the area, we knew it was no easy task.
The controversy emerged after the release of 'Border' where Sunny Deol played the role of Chandpuri. Certain people started comparing reel with real life. Chandpuri never claimed the movie to be a true depiction of what actually happened, in fact if I remember correctly, the movie contained a disclaimer that it was inspired by the events at Laugewala and was not a true blow by blow account. Of course there had to be exaggeration of facts if the movie was to become a hit.
That we all know that in the movie the Army had a centre stage and this rankled certain Air Force and Air OP officers but the mudslinging campaign against the gallant men of 23 PUNJAB in media orgs recently was uncalled for. They in 2008 called the battle a 'fake' and claimed that not even a single round was fired in Laungewala. Nothing could have been more untrue and they have done disservice to the lives lost in the area buckling down to the greed of sensationalism. Many men were lost in Laungewala and here were people saying that there was no evidence of fire in the area ! The least they could have done was consult people who had served in the region during those times. I met Brig CHandpuri - he may not remember me, but I've never seen a war hero more humble in my life. The man is a grounded person and son of the soil and it pained me and the defence community a great deal to see his humiliation in the media whereas he maintained a dignified silence. It was also unfortunate that the Army did not come to his rescue by issuing any official media statement.
But now, when I opened my paper this morning, I felt very happy and relieved. The humble farmer-soldier has decided to fight a war again after 37 years. He has filed a case in a Chandigarh Court for redeeming his honour and you know how much he has sought as damages – Rupee 1/-. A great man and a great step. May the lord be with him and the souls that were lost that night in Laungewala.
Brig Chander Bhanot
Reproduction of Enclosure of Brig Bhanot's guest post :
The Tribune :
Brigadier sues Air-Marshal, Maj-Gen for disputing history
Seeks damages of just Rs 1
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 19
The controversy generated over the authenticity of the Battle of Laungewala, fought on the western frontier during the 1971 Indo-Pak War, took a new twist with a decorated brigadier suing two former senior officers, who had recently disputed the standing history of the battle.
A local court today issued notices for July 26 to Air Marshal M.S. Bawa (retired), Maj-Gen Atma Singh (retired) and eight others on a petition filed by Brig Kuldip Singh Chandpuri (retired), who was then at the centre of the battle and was decorated with the Mahavir Chakra.
In February, Maj-Gen Atma Singh, an artillery air observation pilot, had claimed that the Army had hoodwinked the nation with false tales of valour and it was air power rather than ground action that had crushed the enemy. Atma Singh, who was then commanding No.12 Air Observation Post and was decorated with the Vir Chakra for his actions at Laungewala claimed that no ground battle was fought and the Army had merely rehearsed it on a sand model after the ceasefire to cover up the incompetence of senior commanders.
Two days later, Air Marshal Bawa, claimed that the ground operations at Laungewala were faked and the military leadership had schemed to glorify the Army's role. At the time of the battle, Bawa was an Air Commodore commanding the Jaisalmer airbase from where the IAF Hunter aircraft had operated.
According to the official history, Pakistani forces, backed by armour, had crossed into the Indian territory on the night of December 4-5 and made repeated attacks to overcome the Laungewala post, which was being defended by a company from 23 Punjab under the command of Chandpuri, then a Major.
Through the night, men of 23 Punjab held their ground against overwhelming odds, beating back the enemy. As many as five soldiers were killed and five seriously wounded from the company and the battalion was awarded the Battle Honour Laungewala.
The battle is a part of the curriculum taught to senior officers in the higher command course at the Army War College and has been immortalised by the Bollywood superhit Border.
Terming the claims of the aforementioned officers as slanderous and libelous, Brigadier Chandpuri has contended that the defendants have tarnished his image and reputation.
In his petition, he has stated that Bawa has contested the remarks on the operation made by his own chief, Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal, who in his book, 'My Years with the IAF', has written, "Maj Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, the company commander who took the brunt of the attack and fought with great grit, courage and determination, was awarded a very well-deserved Mahavir Chakra."
Seeking declaration to the effect that the articles published by the defendants are libelous, malicious, scandalous and frivolous because they are based on incorrect facts, the plaintiff has sought permanent injunction restraining the defendants from reiterating their claims regarding the Battle of Laungewala. While seeking compensatory damages of just a single rupee, the petition has sought award exemplary cost in favour of the plaintiff, which would be utilised for the benefit of the Laungewala war veterans.