There is no war or conflict which hasn’t been a turning point. In India’s scuffle against Pakistan in 1971, the Battle of Longewala was that turning point. The battle, fought between the Pakistani offensive forces and the Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala in Thar Desert of Rajasthan, was the first major engagement in the Western Sector during the war of 1971. In the battle, not only were the assaulting Pakistani attack foiled and dented, the Pak forces were forced to withdraw when India launched an offensive attack against them thereby winning the decisive battle that changed the face of the Indo-Pak war forever. There are many enthralling facts about the Battle of Longewala, but to make the happening more vivid for readers, we have listed out 8 most significant facts that every Indian should know and feel proud of.
1. The defensive mode:
It was simply a miracle that Indians won the battle of Longewala. Led by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri (Commanding Officer) in 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, the Indian army was on the defensive mode when the Pakistan army attacked the Longewala post on the night of 4 December 1971. Sensing trouble, Chandpuri immediately got in touch with the battalion headquarters requesting urgent armours and reinforcements. Battalion headquarters informed that reinforcement wasn’t possible before dawn.
2. Courage in face of adversity.
Major Chandpuri was left with two options: one, to attempt and hold out until reinforced, or, two, to command a tactile on foot retreat of his company to Ramgarh. Displaying exceptional courage in the face of adversity, a courageous and determined Chandpuri decided not to back down and, running from bunker to bunker, he inspired his men to beat back the enemy.
3. Fighting the odds.
Major Chandpuri had demanded aerial assistance from the Indian Air Force, which, sadly, was turned down because they did not have fighter jets with night vision in the fleet. This had left Chandpuri and his battalion of 120 odd soldiers (comprising 23rd Punjab Regiment (Sikhs) and handful of Indian Border Security Force (BSF Rajputs), to defend the post of Longewala despite heavy odds from the strong Pakistani Army of 2000-3000 men. The Indian troops battled the Pak army with all their valour and held the the enemy at bay through the night till the Indian Air Force arrived at the break of dawn.
4. Unmatched fire power.
The Indian troops, without the artillery to match the enemy and seriously outnumbered, managed to put a strong fight against the Pakistani army and kept them engaged at a fair distance from the post until the air cover arrived and demolished the enemy. Chandpuri and his men only had a section of MMG’s, 2 Recoil-less Gun detachments and 81mm Mortars with which they kept Brig. Tariq Mir-led army of 2000-3000 Pak soldiers equipped with 50+ Sherman and T-59 China-made tanks at bay for good six hours of the night.
6. Air power.
At the crack of dawn, India Air Force was back in action. It sent HF-24 Maruts and Hawker Hunter fighters to assist the Longewala post and, in no time, the fleet led by Air Controller (FAC) Major Atma Singh in a HAL Krishak turned the battle into India’s favour. With no air support from Pakistan Air Force, the Pak tanks and other armoured vehicles were sitting ducks to shoot at for the IAF.
7. Enemy runs for life.
With Indian offensive from both land and air, the Pakistani attack was first halted and then driven back.
8. The aftermath.
Courtesy their valour and great defensive advantage, Indian soldiers managed to inflict heavy loses on Pakistani army. At least 200 Pak soldiers lost their lives against only two Indian martyrs. Pakistanis also lost about 34 tanks and over 500 other armoured vehicles.
The Battle of Longewala was immortalised in the semi-fictional movie, ‘Border’/