Siachen Hero – Bana Singh

On the cold morning of 26th January 2006, the Republic Day march past began with gallantry award winners smartly passing the President’s saluting base on open jeeps. Sub Maj (Hony Capt) Bana Singh, Havaldar Sanjay Kumar and Havaldar Yogender Singh Yadav are the proud recipients of Param Vir Chakra (Param Vir Chakra PVC). They are the three living PVC recipients of highest military honour in India. So far 21 brave men of armed forces have been awarded PVC since Independence. Naib Subedar now  Hony. Captain   Bana Singh from village Kadyal in Jammu is only recipient of the highest military honour   from J and K State.


Bana Singh was born on 6 January 1949 and now lives in R.S.Pura near Jammu. He joined  Indian Army’s  Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK LI) on 6 January 1969 After training at High Altitude Training  School along with his battalion at Gulmarg ,he was posted in Siachen in April 1987 .Pakistan had already occupied a vantage point called   Quaid Post  named after Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. This is the most important and highest post in the area. From  top of this post  one  can see 80 km around.  Entire Saltoro range is visible from here including other posts like the Amar and Sonam which get food and other materials by Indian helicopters. On April 18, 1987, the Pakistan army at Quaid post began firing at the Indian troops. A Junior commissioned Officer and five soldiers were killed at Sonam. It became necessary to gain control over air space for safety of our men and supporting helicopters. It was therefore decided   recapture Quaid Post.


Brief History


After first   Indo-Pak War of 1947-48 cease fire was declared and Cease Fire Line (CFL) was established from Manawar in Jammu to Khor (NJ9842) in Ladakh. No precise line was extended beyond Khor. Under the Shimla Agreement the CFL was redefined and named the Line of Control (LoC). In the late 1970s the Pakistani started showing Siachen area in their maps.  The Pakistanis started sponsoring mountaineering expedition in 1984 Duing 1987 the Pakistanis intruded and established a feature, naming it Qaid Post, at 6452 meters on the Saltoro ridge overlooking the defenses on the Bilafond Pass. From this post they would snipe at Indian Helicopters.


Siachen Glacier is almost 76 kilometres along its length and spreads across a width which varies between 1000 meters to 2500 meters, abutting the high mountainous features varying from 17,000 feet to 22,000 feet.  It is at these heights that the troops of the Indian Army are battling with two enemies, i.e. Pakistan and the environment. (map below)


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The Operation


The operation Code-named Operation Rajiv in honor of 2nd Lt. Rajiv Pande VrC, was conducted in three phases on June 23, June 25 and June 26, 1987. A first platoon was sent under Major Varinder Singh on the 23rd, but unfortunately they had to come back. Two soldiers were killed. The second platoon led by Subedar Harnam Singh with 10 jawans made an attempt on June 25. At that time, there was no problem with the ropes, but due to some communication gap the mission had to be aborted. The third platoon led by Naib Subedar Bana Singh led the attack along with Riflemen Chunni Lal, Laxman Das, Om Raj and Rifleman Kashmir Chand. on 26th June 1987, the final assault on ?Quaid Post’ was launched at precisely eleven minutes after noon.


In an interview Bana Singh has recalled chronology of events


"My Commanding Officer (CO) decided to send a patrol to find out the position of the Pakistanis and how many of them were manning the post. On May 29, a patrol of 8 J&K Light Infantry (8 JAK LI) was sent for a reconnaissance of the possible approaches to the Quaid Post. The patrol leader was Lt. Rajiv Pande. He had 12 men with him. Unfortunately, they were sighted by the Pakistanis commandos. Ten of them, including Rajiv Pande were killed. Only three survived".


"There was a 90? climb on  ice walls. Lt Pande had managed to fix ropes, but due to heavy snow fall, the rope had got completely lost, they had to fix them again. In the meantime, to divert the attention of the Pakistanis, Indian troops had been firing at the Post. "


"A total of 62 people participated in the final operation. Two officers, 3 JCO and 57 jawans were selected. The operation was conducted in three phases on June 23, June 25 and June 26, 1987.


A first platoon was sent on 23rd but unfortunately they had to come back. Two soldiers were killed. The second platoon with 10 jawans made an attempt on June 25. At that time due to some communication gap with us, the mission had to be aborted. The next day, on 26th I got the green light to go ahead. Though it was day time, because of the heavy snowing we could not say if it was day or night. The Pakistanis must have been   knowing that something was going on because our troops were firing at them from the base camp (to divert their attention). When we reached the top, there was a single bunker. We had been trained for such a fight. I threw a grenade inside and closed the door. At the end, a total of six Pakistanis were killed. We brought back their bodies which were later handed over to the Pakistanis authorities during a flag meeting in Kargil. Some must have escaped towards the Pakistani side, perhaps over the cliff. I think that I have bayoneted three or four persons, I don’t remember now."


For this act of valor Bana Singh was awarded Param Vir Chakra.and was presented the Param Vir Chakra on January 26 1988.The Quaid Post was renamed as Bana Post after its liberation by Bana Singh.


Siachen has taken many a lives of brave soldiers of Indian Army in this highest battle zone in world. An Inscription on the memorial for the war dead at Siachen Base camp at Dzingrulma in India reads:


Quartered in snow,
Silent to remain,
When the bugle calls,
They shall rise and march again


Sad Soldier


Today some twenty years of liberating Quiad Post and earning PVC Bana Singh is sad man, because of indifferent attitude of J&K Government as reported in national dailies on 1st Dec 2007.J&K Govt pays him paltry Rs 166 per month whereas neighboring state of Panjab,HP and Haryana pay much higher amounts to PVC winners. He said while in Punjab a PVC winner gets Rs 12,500 every month, in Haryana it is Rs 10,400 and in Himachal Pradesh it is Rs 10,000. The Jammu and Kashmir government had agreed to bring it at a par with the Himachal government a few months ago. But nothing has come out till date.


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Naib Subedar Bana Singh, born in Kadyal, Jammu on 6 January 1949, was enrolled in the Indian Army on 6 January 1969 into the Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK LI). During June 1987, the 8 JAK LI, was deployed in the Siachen area. It was then found that a large number of Pakistani infiltrators had intruded in the Siachen Glacier. The ejection of these infiltrators was considered difficult but necessary and a special task force was, constituted for the purpose. Naib Subedar Singh volunteered to join this force.


The Pakistani intrusion had taken place at a height of 6500 metres. The enemy post was virtually an impregnable glacier fortress with ice walls, 457 metres high, on either side. Naib Subedar Bana Singh led his men through an extremely difficult and hazardous route. He inspired them by his courage and leadership. He and his men crawled and closed in on the adversary. Lobbing hand-grenades, charging with a bayonet and moving from trench to trench, he cleared the post of all intruders. Naib Subedar Bana Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal, for conspicuous bravery and leadership under most adverse conditions.


CITATION  


NB SUB BANA SINGH  
8 JAK LI (JC-155825)
  


Naib Subedar Bana Singh volunteered to be a member of a task force constituted in June 1987 to clear an intrusion by an adversary in the Siachen Glacier area at an altitude of 21,000 feet.  The post was virtually an impregnable glacier fortress with ice walls, 1500 feet high, on both sides.  Naib Subedar Bana Singh led his men through an extremely difficult and hazardous route.  He inspired them by his indomitable courage and leadership.  The brave Naib Subedar and his men crawled and closed in on the adversary. Moving from trench to trench, lobbing hand grenades, and charging with the bayonet, he cleared the post all intruders.  


Nb Subedar Bana Singh displayed the most conspicuous gallantry and leadership under the most adverse conditions.


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Ramesh Lalwani, New Delhi

Author: Ramesh Lalwani- New Delhi