Know your heroes: Havildar Fateh Singh
Col Dilbag Singh Dabas (Retd)
Havildar Fateh Singh, son of Bharat Singh, a Jat farmer of Malik Gotra, was born on February 24, 1920, at Karsola village in Patiala and East Punjab State Union (PEPSU) in undivided Punjab.
The village now forms a part of Jind district of Haryana. He was the eldest among four brothers. Against his father’s wishes, he preferred being a soldier than a farmer. He could not get a formal education since there was no school nearby. So, whatever he learnt was while serving with the 10th Battalion of the Jat Infantry Regiment, in which he was enlisted on June 3, 1939.
During World War II, Fateh Singh was part of the battalion during live action in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq), Turkey, Middle East, Java, Sumatra, Burma and Singapore. After Independence, the battalion was re-designated as the 3rd Battalion of the Jat Regiment and deployed around Zozi La in Jammu and Kashmir to evict Pakistani raiders and secure areas up to Dras and Kargil.
By the time Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, the Pakistani regulars in the garb of Lashkars had infiltrated deep inside the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the north, Gilgit, Skardu and Muzaffarabad had fell to the raiders, Poonch and Rajauri garrisons were under siege and with the capture of Dras and Kargil, the lifeline to Leh and Ladakh region was severed.
With the fall of Kargil and Dras, the entire northern front of Jammu and Kashmir theatre of operations appeared gravely threatened. Intruders were heading towards Bandipur from Gurais and Rajdhani pass and by securing the Zozi La, had cut off the road leading to Leh. An attempt to retrieve the situation through a left hook attack on Dras and advance through Zozi La had failed. After a deliberate thought and planning, the 77 Parachute Brigade planned a breakthrough at Zozi La by a frontal attack. As per the attack plan, the 3 Jat was to capture Chabutra hill and five Marathas were tasked to capture Mukand hill on the left and right of the main track beyond Zozi La. Both hill features were strongly held by the enemy.
It was during the attack on well-fortified Chabutara feature by the 3 Jat, that Havildar Fateh Singh of A Company for his conspicuous bravery, dogged determination and exceptional camaraderie, was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra.
After 28 years of meritorious service in the Army, Havildar Fateh Singh, the second Maha Vir Chakra awardee from the Jat Regiment, retired from the Army on June 3, 1967, in a well-deserved rank of Honorary Captain (Hony Capt). After retirement, Hony Capt Fateh Singh, MVC, served for five years as Assistant Secretary Zila Sainik Board, Rohtak, wherein he did his best to ensure that the ex-servicemen and their widows are looked after well by the district administration.
Hony Capt Fateh Singh, MVC, has one son and two daughters. He wanted his son to serve the Army and that too in the 3rd Jat, his own battalion. But that did not happen since there being only one male child in the family, the village elders did not approve of his decision. As a result, his son could not carry forward the legacy of his illustrious father.
The account of his bravery reads...
"At 9:30 pm on September 13, 1948, the 3 Jat launched an attack on Chabutra hill with A and D Companies simultaneously. Havildar Fateh Singh was with the No. 2 platoon of A Company. When the attacking platoon was about 50 yards short of the objective, the enemy, who had been holding fire for tactical reasons, suddenly opened up with all available automatic weapons and caused unimaginable casualties. The attack by 3 Jat was repulsed and Havildar Fateh Singh, along with the remaining survivors from his platoon, was ordered to move to a safer position near the battalion tactical headquarters. At that time, the bodies of around 20 jats could be seen lying on the spurs. At 3 pm on the very next day, Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Ran Singh Ahlawat ordered Havildar Fateh Singh to move down a flat spur along with two sections from his platoon to bring back the wounded and their weapons. While reaching the lower slopes, he was shot twice by the enemy, but he kept moving forward undeterred. Though seriously wounded by the enemy fire, he and his men collected four wounded, and also the weapons of the deceased. While returning, he encountered 15 hostiles moving up the spur collecting weapons and killing the wounded. Though seriously wounded, Havildar Fateh Singh kept the hostiles away by lobbing hand grenades at them. In that encounter, he killed three of them, while the remaining withdrew. Later, he along with Jemadar Misri Lal retrieved all casualties and brought them back to the camp. For his exceptional camaraderie and gallantry against all possible odds, Havildar Fateh Singh was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra"
About the award
- The Maha Vir Chakra was established by the President of India on January 26, 1950, with the awards effective from August 15, 1947.
- It is awarded to the officers, men and women of all ranks of the Indian military, para-military and members of the nursing services of the Armed forces.
- Is awarded for the conspicuous act of bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice in the face of the enemy on land, at sea or in the air. The decoration may also be awarded posthumously.
- The award of the decoration carries with it the right to use MVC as a post-nominal abbreviation of the Maha Vir Chakra.
- A provision has also been made for the award of a Bar for second (or subsequent) award of Maha Vir Chakra. To date, among six Bar to Maha Vir Chakra awardees in the country, Squadron Leader Jag Mohan Nath is a living legend from Rohtak in Haryana
- Among 218 Maha Vir Chakra awardees till date, 25 are Haryanvi brave-hearts
(The writer is a veteran Gunner, 6 Field Regiment)
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