Character Profile

COLONEL BHAGWAN SINGH – A CHARACTER PROFILE

(25 Nov 1905 – 13 Jul 2000)

 

The urge to excel did not, however, stem from a desire for self-aggrandizement in competition with own State Force officers. His target was the British officer who during the days of the Raj, considered himself far above the Indian officer. That was the time when the British would not allow Indians to assume independent command of even their own troops, let alone command British or other foreign troops. While Indian commissioned officers in the Indian Army were not promoted to ranks where they could claim independent command, the State Force officers who held higher ranks were prevented from taking command of their troops by attaching a specified number of British officers with their units, when operating out side their states, with powers to remove the commanding officer from command. Such British officers, known as Special Service Officers (SSOs), were attached with the 1st J&K Mountain Battery also as it proceeded to the Middle East, under the command of Colonel (then Major) Bhagwan Singh, to participate in the Second World  War. Colonel Bhagwan Singh, however, would not accept the humiliating situation. While granting to the senior SSO a position of an advisor, he insisted on retaining his prerogative of accepting or rejecting his advice. In the confrontation with the SSOs that ensued, Colonel Bhagwan Singh fought his case before the highest military authority in the Middle East and in a display of great strength of conviction, supreme moral courage, and extreme self confidence, he secured the removal of the SSOs from his Battery to become the first Indian to command a unit in war independently and free of British officers. The achievement of Colonel Bhagwan Singh would appear all the more exhilarating considering the fact that he fought the case of official British discrimination against State Forces officers, single-handed and without support from the State, as the British had got all the Princes (including our own) to accept the humiliating situation that their officers were faced with.

After getting command of his own troops, Colonel Bhagwan Singh strove for and succeeded in being given command over British, Australian and French troops that were attached to the J&K Battery from time to time. Colonel Bhagwan Singh then went on to command his unit in war with great distinction and earn laurels for the State and the Country. His achievements were greatly appreciated as much by the British themselves as by the Maharaja, who not only granted him accelerated promotion but also conferred on him a gallantry award in the form of a Jagir. It is a matter of great shame that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah resumed this gallantry award immediately on heading the first popular government in the State.

On reverting to civil life Colonel Bhagwan Singh came to be generally accepted by the people of Jammu as a man of principles and high moral values. Most social and political organisations were, consequently, keen to have him with them to be able to present a clean image of themselves. He did join some social organisations but they soon found him too hot to handle and had him eased out as eagerly as they had tried to get him in. Colonel Bhagwan Singh, however, never joined any political party although he had many offers, particularly from the Praja Parishad/ Jan Sangh/ BJP. Not that he was not interested in politics, but because he wished to play the role of a watch-dog of democracy and did not wish to restrict his thinking to conform to any party lines. This role he performed very well and he wrote fearlessly and scathingly against the ruling party in the State in national and local dailies/periodicals at a time when most people at the national level, were going head over heels to appease the Sheikh. His book on Political Conspiracies of Kashmir (Life and Light Publishers, Rohtak, 1973), also touched on topics that were under taboo in those days. Colonel Bhagwan Singh was in fact a man of very strong convictions who gave full expression to his views in a forthright and fearless manner.

Standing 5ft 10in tall, with handsome looks, robust physique, and a strong character, Colonel Bhagwan Singh, indeed, presented a dominating personality.  He was a great sportsman and distinguished himself in every game that he played. What was, however, most remarkable and amazing about him was his ability to do nearly everything, Apart from being a prolific writer (English), and also bit of a poet (Urdu), he was a plumber, carpenter, mason, painter, tailor, embroiderer, and an electrician, all rolled into one.

He remained a strict teetotaller as a matter of strong conviction, much against the army environment of those days. Even in parties hosted by the Maharaja, to which he was frequently invited after his return from the War, he would not drink nor was he ever asked by the Maharaja to do so such was the Maharaja’s regard for this man of principles.

1. War on Two Fronts

                         

2. Political Conspiracies of Kashmir

 

Some books written by Col Bhagwan Singh

Army Publishers

New Lajpathrai Market Delhi

Light & Life Publishers

Rohtak, Jammu, Lucknow