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Indian Army remembers fallen heroes of 1971 Battle of Basantar

Thursday December 16, 2010 03:50:59 PM, Sarwar Kashani, IANS

Mathura (Uttar Pradesh): The Indian Army Thursday remembered its fallen heroes in the 1971 war with Pakistan by celebrating a hard-won victory in a fierce tank battle of Basantar in western sector.

The next of kin of two winners of the Param Vir Chakra - the highest war-time gallantry award - were felicitated at the ceremony in the army's Strike 1 Corps headquarters in this Uttar Pradesh garrison town.

Eightyfive-year-old mother of Second Lieutenant Arun Khetrapal, killed in the battle between the armoured regiments of the Indian and Pakistani armies, was the guest of honour at the ceremony. She was given a memento citing the "supreme sacrifice" of her son who died fighting at the age of 21.

The son of Colonel Hoshiar Singh, who was also killed in the battle on the western front, was also given a memento on the occasion.

Earlier, Lt. Gen. S.R. Gosh, heading the Western Command, and Lt. Gen. A.K. Singh who heads the Strike 1 Corps, laid floral wreaths at the war memorial in the army cantonment here, erected in memory of the fallen heroes.

The Indian Army had won the battle to secure the area in the Punjab-Jammu sector.

A coffee table book summarising the history of Strike 1 Corps was also released on the occasion.

The battle of Basantar, also known as the battle of Barapind, fought Dec 4-16, was one of the vital victories for India in the 1971 war in the western sector of India.

Basantar is a tributary of the river Ravi that flows in the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The battle took place in the Shakargarh sector, a bulge of Pakistan boundary in the Indian territory.

The point was strategic for both sides as it comprised road links to Jammu from Punjab which, if cut off by Pakistan, could have led to snapping of a key link to Jammu and Kashmir.

According to war records, Pakistan had an advantage of having an army base in Sialkot close to the battle zone, but the Indian Army maintained a base at Pathankot, nearly 300 km from Shakargarh.

Kheterpal, who served in 17 Poona Horse, a cavalry unit, fought the battle on a T-55 tank after he was ordered to establish a bridgehead across the Basantar river, covered with deep minefields.

He fiercely attacked and overcame the enemy defences along with his tank troop, and destroyed nearly 10 Pakistani Patton tanks before his tank was also hit and burst into flames. The gallant officer was mortally wounded.

Remembering the dead lieutenant, Maheshwari Khetrepal said her son had done "nothing extraordinary" by offering his life. "This was his duty and he had joined the army to protect the nation. He did me proud. I'm an equally brave mother," she told IANS in a choked voice.

Major (as he was then) Hoshiar Singh was a 3 Grenadiers Regiment officer, who led his troops to capture Jarpal in the Shakargarh sector during the battle. Singh met with fierce resistance from the Pakistan Army but he went from trench to trench and repulsed the enemy attack along with his company. He was seriously wounded, but Singh refused to be evacuated till ceasefire.

He retired as a colonel before he died Dec 6, 1998.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at




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