Blessed are Those Soldiers who Fight and Die for a Noble Cause.
Sikhs in Armed Forces
When Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji created Khalsa on the Baisakhi day of 1699, he transformed his followers
into brave soldiers. All the historians agree that the Guru injected a new dynamic force into the arena
of Indian history. Th e brave Sikhs of the Guru aft er they were baptized possessed so much strength and
courage that they could dare the lions in their own den and challenged the dreadful Mughal emperor of that
time in such a way that his empire was shattered. Since then valour has been a signifi cant characteristic of
the Sikhs. When Banda Singh Bahadur won victory aft er victory in Punjab and established the Sikh Empire,
the bravery of the Sikhs in the battle fi eld became well known. Th ey saved the country by preventing the
foreign invaders to enter and pushed them back to their country. History provides ample evidence as how
the Afghans coming to India time and again were ultimately pushed back to Afghanistan and during the
period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh even Afghanistan was snatched from them. Th e Britishers realized that they
could not defeat the Sikhs without using unfair method of dividing them. When the battle of Sabhraon was
fought by Sham Singh Atariwala, the Britishers could not win except as Cunningham says by the shameless
treason and by a discreet policy adopted by them Lord Gough has described Sabhraon as the waterloo of
India. Th e same was true of Chilliawala battle fought on 13th January 1849 for which Lord Dalhousie has
said that "another such victory shall certainly spell our ruin".
Heroic battle of Saragarhi
Aft er the annexation of Punjab a large number of Sikhs were taken by the Britishers in their army. Th ey
had full faith in their loyalty as well as valour. Th e 21 Sikhs who had fought with thousands of Pathans at
Sara Garhi had proved that Sikhs were among the bravest people. Th at is why the British Parliament in their
special session had remembered the daring of Sikh soldiers, and had observed "the English as well as Indian
subjects are proud of 36th Sikh Regiment and it is no exaggeration to record that the armed forces which
possess valiant Sikhs cannot face defeat in war". Such a tribute has never been given to any other people by
a Parliament and that too of a Ruling country.
Sikh role in World Wars
When the British were feeling humbled by the Germans, they sent the Sikh troops to France (Marseilles)
As the Sikhs reached there, the French and the Britishers felt emboldened. Th e 47th Sikhs fought the battle
of Ypres then at Law Basse and fi nally the battles of Neuve Chapple and showed exemplary courage and
dedication. It need to be mentioned here that when the third centenary of the creation of Khalsa was
celebrated all over the world, a monument was unveiled at Hollebeek in memory of these brave soldiers. Th is
monument was unveiled on April 4, 1999. Th e city of Ieper together with the European Sikh community
organized a celebration of peace on that date at cloth hall in Ieper, Belgium. Sardar Bhupinder Singh, the
main person behind this show and his other companions reminded the people of Sikh martyrs, who had
spent hard times in an alien place and faced diffi cult weather, ununderstandable language, and killing gas
used by the Germans. However, they maintained their glory by following the tradition of bravery and loyalty.
A signifi cant battle of the First World War was fought by the Sikhs at Gallipoli in the fi rst week of June
Th e task given to the Sikhs was highly arduous. Th ey were required to capture two Turkish trach lines
named as J-11 and J-13. A fi erce battle was fought wherein a number of Sikhs were killed. In view of the
bravery of Sikhs, Ishar Singh became the fi rst Sikh to be honoured with Victoria Cross. In the Second
World War also, Sikhs were honoured for their exemplary courage, spirit and dedication. S. Nand Singh
was honoured with Victoria Cross for his wonderful encounters with Japanese wherein he had displayed
valour and resolution of a very high order. Another winner of the Victoria Cross was Naik Gian Singh of
the Sikh Regiment who had killed a number of Japanese and destroyed their anti-tank gun crew, capturing
the weapon single handed and getting the enemy positions cleared, while fi ghting on Kampe-Myingyan
area in Burma. His bravery is exemplifi ed by the fact that when in the course of his action he was ordered
to the regimental aid post, he requested permission to continue leading his men until the whole action was
completed. Th e permission was granted.
Wars with Pakistan and China
Immediately aft er the independence of our country, Pakistan attacked us in Kashmir on 27th October
1947. Th e Sikhs again rose to the occasion and defeated the Pakistan fi rst aggression by capturing the
Richhmar Gali on 27th October. Th is day is now celebrated every year as "Infantry Day" by the Indian
Army, In commemoration of those intrepid Sikh soldiers who added golden pages to their glorious history.
When China war was fought in 1962, the Indian position was very bad. Although India could not win
this war, the bravery with which the Sikhs fought became memorable. Lt. General Bikram Singh, who was
conducting operation in Ladakh was the biggest killer of enemy soldiers. Th e battle of Walong presented
some of the best portraits of courage of the Sikhs. Lance Naik Gurdayal Singh, Jamadar Pritam Singh and
S. Kewal Singh were among the bravest fi ghters who had killed the Chinese in a big number. Th e Sikhs
also captured their weapons. It is on record that during this tenacious battle lasting for nearly three weeks,
the Chinese arms captured by the four Sikhs are perhaps the only seized by Indian Army. When we talk
of the wars with Pakistan fought in 1965 and 1971, we are reminded of brave Sikhs like Major General
Rajinder Singh sparrow (Hero of the battles in Lahore and Sialkot), Major General Rajinder Singh Dayal
(who captured Hazi Peer Pass) and Major Bhupinder Singh of 1965 War. Lt. General Harbaksh Singh was
the Principal Architect of the India's victory in this War. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister
was so impressed by the bravery of Sikhs that he said that more persons like Lt. General Harbaksh Singh and
Major Bhupinder Singh were needed. On the death of Major Bhupinder Singh he had stated "A precious
hero of the country has passed away aft er fulfi lling his duties to the nation. Great is his mother who gave
birth to a supreme warrior hero. India will be always proud of him. So long as we have warriors of the caliber
of Major Bhupinder Singh, India's borders are in safer hands."
Th e 1971 War with Pakistan was a clear victory as Lt. General Jagjit Singh Arora secured a surrender of
90000 Pakistani on December 16, 1971. Th ere are many other Sikh soldiers who displayed their valour and
won honours in this war. To name some of them, Major Amarjit Singh Bal, Lt. Col. Sukhjeet Singh, Subedar
Mahender Singh, and Major Gen. Kulwant Singh Pannu (all these four persons won Mahavir Chakra).
Major Gen. Pannu (born on 6th March 1932) will always be remembered for his conspicuous gallantry.
He had led 2 Para in the famous Tangial Airdrop to capture the Poongli Bridge over the River Jamuna on
11th December 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War. Th e battalion was airdropped near Tangail
(now in Bangladesh) and tasked to cut off the 93 Brigade of Pakistani Army which was retreating from
the north to defend Dhaka and its approaches. Another unforgettable offi cer of this war was the hero of
Longewal battle Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri, whose bravery has already been shown on the Indian
screen through a feature fi lm 'Border'. Th is brave soldier of the 23rd Punjab Regiment won Mahavir Chakra
for his dynamic leadership and gallantry. So far Air Force is concerned the Sikhs have a distinguished record
in that force also. Th e fi rst Indian to possess an Aero plane was Maharaja of Patiala S. Bhupinder Singh.
Th e fi rst Indian to have a Solo fl ight was S. Manmohan Singh who had completed a two years course in
Flying and Aeronautical engineering in England. S. Hardit Singh Malik displayed his fl ying skill in an aerial
combat on Western Front during the 2nd World War. Sardar Malik, born on 23rd November, 1892 was the
very fi rst Indian to fl y by joining the Royal Flying Corps. He had joined the RFC as a Cadet at Alder slot as
early as in 1917 and became the fi rst Indian in any fl ying service in the world. Sardar Malik also served in
the Indian Civil Service and remained Indian High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to France.
Whereas before independence the other marvelous Sikh fl yer included S. Amarjit Singh, S. Bhupinder Singh,
S. Harjinder Singh, S. Kartar Singh and S. Mahinder Singh Puji, a distinguished fi ghter pilot, who showed
his excellence while fl ying hurricanes intercepting German bombers and reconnaissance aircraft during the
2nd World War, there were many Sikhs in Indian Air Force who held high positions aft er independence.
S. Lal Singh Grewal, S. Pritpal Singh, S. Shivdev Singh, S. Prempal Singh, S. Pritam Singh Ben and S. Surjit
Singh Malhotra became Vice Chief of the Air staff . Air Marshal Arjun Singh and Air Marshal Dilbagh
Singh became the Chiefs of the Indian Air Force. Air Marshal Arjun Singh when retired aft er a long period
was given the rank of Marshal of the Indian Air Force and he continues to hold it even today. So far the
gallantry of Sikhs in Indian Air Force is concerned, we have lot of valourous stories in this regard. When
aft er independence the fi rst confrontation with the Pakistani infi ltrators took place, the Air Force again rose
to the occasion to play a crucial role. Baba Mehar Singh, who had already shown his bravery while fi ghting
against the Japanese for which he was awarded Distinguished Service Order, acted daringly in fl ying men
and material to those Himalayan heights where it was not possible to reach by any other method. His eff orts
were mainly responsible for enabling our country to get the valley vacated by the Pakistanis.
Who can forget S. Nirmaljeet Singh Sekhon who had shown the sublime heroism, supreme gallantry,
fl ying skill and determination in the 1971 War and was awarded Paramvir Chakra for his action and sacrifi ce?
Sikhs have also played a vital role in the Indian Navy. One of the Sikhs has recently retired as the Deputy
Chief of the Naval Forces. He fi nds a mention among the role-models appearing in the subsequent pages. As
the Sikhs are now living in a large number of foreign countries, they are always eager to join the Armies of
those respective countries as to serve their adoptive nations. Some years back, they were not supported by
the foreign Governments for joining their armed forces because of their diff erent identity. However, their
struggle for religious freedom has made them victorious in various countries and now those Governments
have allowed them to serve their armies with Sikh identity including wearing their turbans. Some such
persons serving in the armies of those countries have also been included among our role-models.