A hero of Battle of Laungewala in 1971 Indo-Pak war and a recipient of the country’s second highest gallantry award, Mahavir Chakra, Brigadier (retd) Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, died on Saturday. He was 78. Brigadier Chandpuri was at Fortis Hospital, Mohali where he was being treated for cancer. His family said the cremation would take place Monday afternoon. He is survived by his wife and three sons.
Brigadier Chandpuri and his company from 23rd Battalion of The Punjab Regiment are famous in the annals of military history for their gallant stance in the Battle of Laungewala in December 1971 when they faced an attack by a Brigade group of Pakistan Army in Rajasthan. The action was immortalised in the movie ‘Border’ in which Sunny Deol played the role of then Major Chandpuri.
An iconic photograph of 1971 war shows soldiers dancing ‘Bhangra’ on a destroyed Pakistani tank in Jaisalmer sector. In many frames, an unassuming Sikh Major can be seen standing by. That was how Brigadier Chandpuri was in real life too. A modest man who wore his laurels easy and a far cry from Deol’s firebrand portrayal of him in Border.
Born in 1940 in Montgomery district of undivided India, his family shifted to Balachaur in Hoshiarpur after Partition. Brigadier Chandpuri joined Army as an Emergency Commissioned officer in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war.
During the 1971 war, 100-odd troops led by Chandpuri stuck to their position braving an attack by a Brigade group of Pakistan Army which included an armoured regiment equipped with tanks. The enemy attack was later decimated by Hunter aircraft of IAF.
A controversy broke out 37 years later when some retired officers questioned the role of Chandpuri and his troops and gave more importance to the role of IAF. Brigadier Chandpuri filed a defamation suit, saying the reputation of his men had been sullied.
He never underplayed the role of the IAF in the defence of Laungewala. His courage lay in rallying his troops to stand fast in the face of a vastly superior enemy force. They fought back with limited means and did not allow the enemy a free run till the IAF aircraft arrived at dawn.