Every year on October 27, the Indian Army commemorates 'Infantry Day' honouring thousands of infantry soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. On this day in 1947, the 1st Battalion of the Sikh Regiment landed at Srinagar airbase and became a shield, thwarting the wicked intentions of the Pakistan Army, which had invaded Kashmir with the help of tribal raiders.

Here’s the tale of courage and sacrifice portrayed by Indian soldiers, leading to the day (October 27) being remarked as Infantry day.

The events leading to the deployment of army facility in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir-

Pakistan had deployed thousands of regular soldiers and volunteers from the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) into Jammu & Kashmir on October 22, intending to forcibly capture the state and integrate it into Pakistan. The state forces of Jammu & Kashmir provided the initial resistance to the invaders.

Fast forwarding to October 26, 1947, Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir at the time signed an agreement called the 'instrument of accession', making his realm a part of Indian dominion and paving the way for Indian soldiers to be deployed in the state to fight the external aggression.

Why is Infantry Day commemorated on October 27th?

1 Sikh, commanded by Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai was the first Indian battalion to land in Srinagar by air on October 27. 

The battalion was stationed at Gurgaon at the time, but two of its four companies were sent out from Gurgaon to assist civil authorities in dealing with post-independence communal violence. 

On October 26, the battalion received orders late at night to report to Palam airport in New Delhi in order to be airlifted to Srinagar the next morning. Because 1 Sikh only had two companies, it was given one battery of the 13 Field Unit- an artillery regiment, to serve as infantry.

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Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai arrived in Palam with his troops at around 3 a.m. on October 27. Major S K Sinha briefed him on the task his unit would be performing. Sinha recalls Rai being completely cool and calm about the orders he was given, and that this struck him as a hallmark of a confident commander. 

Seven Dakota aircraft were gathered at Palam airport, each planned to fly two sorties to transport the troops of 1 Sikh and their equipment. Only two of the seven Dakotas belonged to the Indian Air Force; the other five belonged to private airlines, notably Biju Patnaik's, who would later become the Chief Minister of Odisha.

The Dakotas took to the skies shortly after daylight, carrying the first Indian infantry troops and an artillery unit into Jammu & Kashmir, where they would make history by saving the Srinagar airfield from Pakistani invasion.

Need for troop deployment in Srinagar on October 27

There were two reasons. First, the Pakistani invaders had advanced on Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital. Second, inducting the troops via the connecting road would have taken too long, which would have resulted in the valley falling into Pakistani hands. 

Witnessing the seriousness, on the night of October 26, an emergency meeting was held and troops were dispatched to Srinagar after receiving approval from then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The saga of sacrifice

The airfield would have fallen into the hands of Pakistani invaders if 1 Sikh had not been airlifted into Srinagar on time. Because the road link was so tenuous, bringing Indian forces into Srinagar would have taken a long time, allowing Pakistan to reinforce their invaders through the air and thus seize the Valley.

Lt Col Dewan Ranjit Rai, comprehending the gravity of the situation, first secured the Srinagar airfield before rushing to Baramulla to confront the invaders and stop them in their tracks.

He was able to stall the invaders' progress on Srinagar, and the extra time he gained allowed him to dispatch more soldiers to Srinagar through air.

However, when fighting the invaders near Baramulla, the valiant Commanding Officer of 1 Sikh laid down his life. For his gallantry, he received the Maha Vir Chakra.

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