Laungewala battle hero Brig Kuldip Singh Chandpuri passes away at 78

CHANDIGARH: Brig Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra for gallantry in the 1971 Indo-Pak war and a well-known city resident, passed away at a local hospital on Saturday morning after battling cancer. Survived by wife and three sons, the war hero would have turned 78 on November 22.

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 17

Brig Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra for gallantry in the 1971 Indo-Pak war and a well-known city resident, passed away at a local hospital on Saturday morning after battling cancer. 

Survived by wife and three sons, the war hero would have turned 78 on November 22. His mortal remains will be consigned to the flames with full military honours on Monday after close family members return from abroad.

Brig Chandpuri was awarded the nation’s second highest gallantry award for his role at Laungewala, a remote outpost in the deserts of Jaisalmer, where a relatively small group of Indian soldiers held off a massive Pakistani attack through the night in the early days of the 1971 war.

A huge picture of Indian soldiers dancing atop a captured Pakistani tank to celebrate their victory dominates the living room of his residence here.

“We were given a choice to stay put and defend the position or go in for a tactical retreat. We chose to stay put and fight,” Brig Chandpuri, once told this reporter.

The first attack by Pakistani troops at night was stalled through anti-tank weapons. Reserve fuel drums kept atop tanks were exploded, throwing enough light for our gunners positioned on high ground, while their own smoke blinded their troops.

“Though we were outnumbered and surrounded, Pakistani infantry was unable to advance. We held them till dawn when the IAF came in,” he added.

When the operation ended, 22 Pakistani tanks had been destroyed.

The citation for his award reads: “Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was commanding a company battalion of the Punjab Regiment occupying a defended locality in the Rajasthan Sector. On December 5, 1971, in the early hours of the morning the enemy launched a massive attack on this locality with infantry and tanks. Major Chandpuri exhibited dynamic leadership in holding his command intact and steadfast. Showing exceptional courage and determination, he inspired his men moving from bunker to bunker, encouraging them in beating back the enemy till reinforcements arrived. In this heroic defence, he inflicted heavy casualities on the enemy and forced them to retreat leaving behind 12 tanks. In this action, Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri displayed conspicuous gallantry, inspiring leadership and exceptional devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Army.” 

Chandpuri passed out from the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, in 1963 and was commissioned into the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment. He took part in the 1965 war in the western sector and, thereafter, served in the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) at Gaza in Egypt for about a year. He also served twice as an instructor at the Infantry School, Mhow.

The Battle of Laungewala, one of the Army’s most celebrated campaigns that was considered a turning point in the 1971 war, was later immortalised by the award winning Bollywood film 'Border', produced by JP Dutta in 1997, with Sunny Deol playing the character of Chandpuri.

A third-generation soldier, Brig Chandpuri was born in 1940 at Montgomery in the Punjab region of undivided India. His family then moved to their native village, Chandpur Rurki in Balachaur, and he passed out from Government College, Hoshiarpur, in 1962 before joining the Army.

A teetotaller and a vegetarian with an amiable personality, he was highly active in social life, pursuing the cause of soldiers and dealing with welfare and civic issues of the locals. Besides actively participating in regimental affairs, he was also on the board of The War Decorated India, an association of gallantry awardees.

Brig Chandpuri was also nominated as a councillor in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation.

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