It is often said that the real cost of war is known to the soldier who fights it. Forty-eight years after he killed a Pakistani Major in hand-to-hand combat in the Chhamb sector, Col (retd) Virendra Kumar Sahi still wistfully wonders if he could have met the “tall, handsome” enemy officer under better circumstances. The Army officer had written a bravery citation for the Pak officer after the battle.
One of the lesser-known acts of gallantry of the 1971 Indo-Pak war surfaced at the National Convention of the War Decorated India (WDI) at Western Command headquarters in Chandimandir where Col Sahi, a recipient of the third highest gallantry award, Vir Chakra, recounted how he killed a Pakistani Major in a hand to hand combat. More than 60 wartime gallantry awardees have gathered here in the triennial meeting of their association.
A company commander at the time with 8 Jammu and Kashmir Militia, now known as 8 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, Col Sahi, then a Major, was defending positions in Laleali in the hill sub-sector of Chhamb sector, ahead of Akhnoor near Jammu. His position came under severe attack by a Pakistani infantry battalion and it was in this action that he killed the Pakistani Major who, incidentally, was the company commander too of the opposing battalion.
“My forward position came under heavy attack on the intervening night of December 6 and 7, 1971. I left my position with some soldiers and managed to get behind the Pakistani soldiers in order to surprise them. We challenged them with abuses in Dogri language and rushed at them,” he recalled, speaking to The Indian Express.
Col Sahi says the Pakistani officer had a Light Machine Gun in his hands and as one of his Sahi’s troops rushed to tackle him, he fired and killed him. “My stun gun jammed as I tried to fire at him and I had no option but to pounce on him. I threw him to the ground. I again tried to fire but the weapon was jammed. I then stabbed him with the bayonet (sharp knife) attached to my weapon,” he said.
But the fight had not gone out of the Pakistani Major. “He kept shouting Pakistan Paindabad (Pakistan forever) and Pakistan Zindabad (Long live Pakistan) even as I was stabbing him. I then used the wooden butt of my gun to hit him on his face and silenced him forever,” recalls Col Sahi. It was a fair battle between two company commanders, he adds.
Later, when the enemy attack had been thwarted and beaten, various personal effects of the Pakistani Major were found. “I found his insurance documents, which he had filled up, a letter that he had written to his wife and which was not posted. I was very impressed with his bravery and when his body and personal belongings were returned I wrote a citation for a gallantry award for him. I hope it was honoured by Pakistan Army,” he says.
When asked how he remembers the fateful encounter, Col Sahi, now settled in Jammu, says, “I feel I wish I had met him in any other circumstances. A tall and handsome man. A brave warrior. And anybody who adores or loves bravery would love a brave man”.