‘Chidiya Naal Main Baaz Ladaava, Geedad ko Main Sher Banaava,
Sava Laakh se Ek Ladaava, Tabhein Govind Singh Naam Kahaava’
[He makes birds fight the hawks, he changes the jackal minded into the lion minded
He makes one fight with One Quarter Lakhs, only then is he called Govind Singh]
This quote fits aptly on the man, who chose to serve his motherland, despite being offered a lucrative post in the rival army, which indicated a promotion to the post of Chief of Army Staff. Like another soldier of his regiment, his loyalty was towards his nation, rather than his masters. When time came, he not only proved his own mettle, but also proved the fact that you can surround a lion with a hundred dogs, but you cannot vanquish the spirit of the lion that remains in him.
No wonder why he is anointed with the title ‘Naushera ka Sher’ [the Lion of Naushera] for his daring exploits at Jhangar sector in Naushera, not very far from the place where Naik Jadunath Singh Rathore laid down his life in preventing the Pakistani Razakars from marching towards Srinagar almost single handedly, earning him the second posthumous Param Vir Chakra. The man we’re talking about is Brigadier Mohammad Usman, 50th Parachute Brigade, recipient of a posthumous Maha Vir Chakra, thus being the highest ranked soldier to ever receive a gallantry award.
Born on 15th July 1912, Monday, in Bibipur village, Mau district, United Provinces [now Uttar Pradesh] Brigadier Mohammad Usman was a man of modest means. However, there was one unique thing that made him stand apart from the rest of the boys in his village, his tendency to take risks. His bravery was unmatched, when only 12, he jumped into a well to save a girl from drowning.
Being educated at Harish Chandra Bhai School, Varanasi, Mohammad Usman made up his mind to join the British Indian Army. Despite the limited opportunities that were available to Indians to become commissioned officers , Mohammad Usman became one of the rare few Indians to have made the cut for the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Unattached List for the Indian Army on 1st February 1934, at a young age of 22.
By 1935, Mohammad Usman was posted to the 5th Battalion of the Baloch Regiment [the same regiment which Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal of Indian National Army had joined as a British Indian Army Captain]. Slowly and steadily, when the 2nd World War knocked on the doors of the Eastern front, he was promoted from his post of Lieutenant to the post of Captain in late August 1941, and as an acting Major by 1944. He saw action in Burma, where he earned his Mention in Dispatches in the London Gazette on 27th September 1945. Till April 1946, he served the 14/10 Baloch Regiment as a battalion commanding officer.
Mohammad Usman, despite being a man with a high prestige, believed in simple living, high thinking. He rarely ever slept on a bed, preferring to sleep on a floor mat instead. Despite a man of prime, he never married in his entire life, and donated a major chunk of his salary to the welfare of the homeless and the orphans, irrespective of their caste or creed. Such a man was rare to find at that time, even among the nationalists.
However, when the partition of India loomed large, the event brought out the patriot in Brigadier Mohammad Usman. Being an officer of considerable aura, he was offered a high rank in the nascent Pakistan Army, with considerable pressure exerted by the Pakistani leadership, on communal lines. However, he blankly refused the offer, and instead transferred himself to the Dogra Regiment, where later on he commanded the 50th Para Brigade after India regained her freedom in 1947.
The Indo Pak Kashmir War was the place where Brigadier Mohammad Usman actually immortalized himself. Barely 35 years old, he saw his area Jhangar, captured by the Pakistani invaders in December 1947. Boiling with rage, he vowed that he would not sleep peacefully on a bed until he reclaimed Jhangar.
In January 1948, under the command of Brigadier Usman, the 50th Para brigade repulsed fierce attacks on Naushera and Jhangar. It was in one of such attacks that a Naik, Jadunath Singh Rathore, of the 1 Rajput Regiment, and commanding a ten man section post, rose to display unmatched bravery and daredevilry, against a horde of a thousand plus horde of invaders, earning himself posthumously the 2nd Param Vir Chakra.
Against overwhelming odds, the Indians successfully defended the Naushera sector, inflicting more than 2000 casualties on the Pakistani forces, while Indians only suffered 33 deaths and 102 injuries.
The defence that Brigadier Mohammad Usman had put up earned himself the title of ‘Naushera Ka Sher’ [The Lion of Naushera]. The Pakistanis, who had once lured him to a lucrative post, now put a reward of Rs. 50000 on his head.
Unaffected by the praise and threats, Brigadier Usman continued to sleep on the mat, as per his promise.
The then Lieutenant General KM Cariappa had shifted his tactical headquarters to Jammu, for a better facilitation of command and requisite orders and supplies, apart from overseeing the liberation of Jhangar and Poonch sector. True to his word, in a successful operation, Brigadier Usman liberated Jhangar by late April 1948.
Now Pakistan brought its regular forces into the fray, and Jhangar was once again subjected to heavy artillery bombardment, and many determined attacks were made to recapture it. However, none of them could breach the iron wall set up by Brigadier Usman. It was during one such defence, that on 3rd July, 12 days short of his 36th birthday, an enemy 25 pounder shell exploded near him , the splinter striking him fatally. Even during his last moments, he appealed to his men to not let the territory ‘…fall for the enemy…..’ For his supreme leadership and inspiring courage, he was posthumously rewarded with a Maha Vir Chakra. Till date, he is the highest ranked officer ever to receive such a gallantry award.
Everyone was shell shocked by his death. The entire Cabinet of India attended his funeral, given with full state and military honors. An Indian journalist, later famous writer and director Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, wrote a poignant tribute for him. He said, “…….a precious life, of imagination and unswerving patriotism, has fallen a victim to communal fanaticism. Brigadier Usman’s brave example will be an abiding source of inspiration for Free India………”.
Had Brigadier Usman not been martyred, he would’ve been in his right degree, the youngest ever Chief of Army Staff, in his own right. The nation will always be indebted to warriors like him, who put their nation first before anything else. We bow to this great warrior in reverence on his 105th birthday.
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