1971 war gallantry award citations destroyed

1971 war gallantry award citations destroyed

The Central Information Commission (CIC). File photo

The citations of gallantry awards conferred on the commandos of the Army's elite 10 Para (Special Forces) battalion during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war have been destroyed, the unit has said in response to an RTI query.

The elite 10 Para (Special Forces), eponymous as 'Desert Scorpions', was raised by splitting the 9 Para unit of special forces in 1967 and faced its first action within four years.

The 1971 war was convincingly won by India, carving out Bangladesh from Pakistan, and the members of the elite unit were awarded Battle Honours and gallantry medals, including a Mahavir Chakra to Brigadier Swai Bhawani Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur, aka Tiger, who led it.

During the war, the unit had successfully conducted surgical strikes 80 km inside Pakistan, capturing four strategic towns without suffering any loss.

In response to a query seeking the details of the awardees, the CPIO gave the list but said the relevant record of citations have been "destroyed as per policy in vogue" and hence not available, Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha noted in order.

He passed the order after the applicant approached the Central Information Commission (CIC), saying the list has no meaning without the citations.

A citation, in this context, is a brief summary of the valour shown by a soldier during the war which is read out when he is being accorded the gallantry award.

During the two hearings at the CIC, the highest adjudicating body in RTI matters, the CPIO remained absent, which irked Sinha.

"The commission takes grave exception to the conduct of the CPIO on all the aforesaid counts. It reflects on the respondent office's utter disregard for the directions of the commission as well as towards the provisions of the RTI Act," he said.

The commission directed the CPIO to provide a copy of the extract of the relevant Defence Services Regulation under which the records were destroyed.

The commissioner also issued a notice to the CPIO to explain why show-cause proceedings should not be initiated against him under the RTI Act.

"A copy of this order is also marked to the Commanding Officer, 10 Para SF, to take note of the adverse observations of the commission as well as to ensure compliance of above directions by the CPIO," he said.

The 10 Para (Special Forces) battalion's meticulous planning and successful implementation led to the capture of Chachro and Virwaha towns in Sindh province on the western front, destroying the supply chains of the Pakistan army.

After the successful capture of Chachro, where the headquarter of the Pakistan Rangers was located, on December 5, 1971, the team continued and clinched their second and third targets, Virwaha and Nagarparkar, by December 8.

The unit was immediately reassigned to capture Islamkot, which it did without any trouble in a nimble operation. Altogether, 36 Pakistani soldiers were killed by the Paras and 22 others were taken as prisoners.

The unit led by Brigadier Swai Bhawani Singh had trained in desert warfare for nearly five months before hitting the operation.