Tuesday 20 November 2018, 11:42 AM
Zojila Day reminds superiority of Indian army over Pakistan
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 10/26/2018 4:40:48 PM
Zojila Day reminds superiority of Indian army over Pakistan

The Indian Army celebrates Zojia Day on 1st November. The day is celebrated to mark the capture of Zojila, a high mountain pass while defending Jammu & Kashmir from the Pakistani raiders and army. During the battle, Indian army used tanks at a height of 11,500 feet, atop the snow clad mountains in the Ladakh region. 

The capture of Zojila was perhaps one of the most important operations of the Indian Army during the Kashmir war 1947-48. Called operation Bison, had it failed, all of Leh and Ladakh had been lost and perhaps Srinagar as well. The Indian capture of Zojila in November 1948 was just in the nick of time. A month later on night 31 December, the cease fire came into being. The Ceasefire prevented the Indian and Pakistani Army from advancing further. 

The tanks of the 7 cavalry that rumbled in at 11,500 feet high Zojila, perhaps helped shape the geography of the nation  and maintained the Indian hold over the strategically vital, Ladakh, Siachen Glacier  besides the Kashmir valley. Pakistan had occupied parts of Zojila in middle of 1948. Since April 1948 fiercely fought battles had ensued. Indian troops though severely outnumbered had held back the Pakistani’s and caused great losses to them.

On  November 1, 1948, in spite of another raging snow storm, Maj General KS Thimayya gave the order to attack. Beneath a leaden sky, with snow flakes swirling all around them, the tanks rumbled across with Thimayya in the leading tank, the infantry attacked from the flanks and on the shoulders of the pass. The poor visibility and atrocious weather actually aided surprise as the enemy did not expect an attack in these conditions. With the infantry moving along the flanks, the tanks sprayed the pass with machine gun and high explosive fire. The sight of the tanks unnerved them and in a panic the enemy fled, leaving behind their dead and dying and vast stocks of equipment. 

Tanks and infantry swept through the pass, the tanks firing into the bunkers and caves, the infantry clearing the shoulders. By the next evening it was all over and on November 2, the tri-colour was raised once again on the wind-swept pass.

The appearance of tanks at these heights shocked the enemy and was perhaps the most important factor for the victory. Never have tanks been used at such altitudes – then or after and it was a masterpiece of innovative tactics. The rejuvenated troops surged forward in sub-zero temperatures in some of the worst terrain imaginable, and on 16 November captured Drass. On 23 November the leading troops entered Kargil, and the same day linked up with Leh. The long isolation of Leh was over. Leh and Ladakh were saved.

The fierce battles before the tanks 

However, before the tanks came in, fierce battles were fought by the infantry. On May 10, 1948, the J&K State Force detachment at Kargil was overwhelmed by invading Pakistani forces. Drass  --located west of Kargil -- was soon under siege and on June 11, 1948 it was in the hands of Pakistanis. Pakistan was trying to wrest Zoji La the entry point into the Kashmir valley from its eastern flank. The Pakistani plan  was to cut the lines of communications at Zojila and infiltrate into Sonamarg Valley, Pahalgam and Anantnag in order to intercept with lines of communications between Jammu-Srinagar.

On May 13, 1948 --- 1 Patiala ( now known as 15 Punjab) arrived on the scene. For a month or so intense battles, including hand to hand fights and bayonet charges,   were fought with 1st Patiala holding on the heights and holding back repeated attempts by Pakistan. The gallantry awards of one MVC and six Vr.Cs hold testimony to the 1st Patiala. 

By June the 1st Patiala was already overstretched on the ground, it had no alternative but to take up defensive positions around and, as far as possible ahead of ZojiLa. During first half of June 1948 a series of harassing raids took place against the Indian pickets.  For almost 19 days -- June 18 to July 6 -- Pakistanis made continuous and sustained attempts and ended up losing 200 men.

On July 6, the 1st Patiala, running out of  resources, was asked withdraw from  forward of ZojiLa base, and guard against any possible enemy infiltration from ZojiLa to Sonamarg. 

 

Tags:

Indian Army,celebrates,Zojia Day,strategically,vital,Ladakh,Siachen Glacier,Pakistan

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