The following tribute was written by Colonel Narinder Bhatia (Retd), who as Ranjit Jatar (the son of Brig. R.V. Jatar) says “wrote this very moving piece on my parents, parts of which I read out at the 85th birthday celebrations“.
My first exposure with the KUMAON Region was over 64 years back in 1954 as a young student in rural school in Rudrapur-an obscure small town in Nainital district. It was in 1958 that I was first mesmerised with the KUMAON Hills when I went to visit my elder brother Capt Prem Nath Bhatia commissioned in 6 KUMAON and then serving in The KUMAON Regimental Centre, Ranikhet that ignited in me the passion to get commission in the Kumaon Regiment.
This was my first exposure to peace time military life- soldiers marching on words of command smartly in unison with the military band playing martial tunes with loud rhythmic drums and shrilling soul stirring bugle calls, the officers Mess, tambola, graceful foxtrot, well dressed military gentry in the exclusive Ranikhet Club!
There I first time met the young smart, handsome & elegant couple Capt & Mrs Jatar. I was awestruck by their magnetic personality and charm. My brother had told me to address all offrs as ‘Sir’ and ladies as ‘Ma’am’. The very first time I addressed Mrs Jatar as Ma’am, she very politely and affectionately told me to call her ‘Vahini’ thus setting a life time relationship! That put me at great ease. I also learnt that both Prem & Raghu as Brig Jatar is known in the army, were thick friends from the JSW days! They had many common interests – soldiering, playing tennis, squash, and troops’ games like hockey and football. I remember they introduced cricket too amongst troops. They were both fond of socialising, ball room dance and reading military history books. I must have visited many times their small well kept cottage in Dulikhet overlooking Som Nath Ground & became a part of the family. Mrs Jatar was called by her first name Neelakshi by their peers and seniors & both Raghu & Nilakshi made awesome, popular made for each other couple!
In mid 1963 I was commissioned in 13 Kumaon and joined it at Darbuk in Ladakh where Bn after the world famous Rezang La Battle was located. I was thrilled as Major Jatar was senior officer in the Bn who would be like an elder brother, philosopher and guide. But our stay together was very short as after few months he went to attend prestigious Staff College. I must say to me as a young Offr, he was role model for me & all the youngsters.
My respect and affections both for my elder brother Prem & Maj Jatar increased many folds as while Prem on one hand in 6 Kumaon fought gallant ‘Battle of Walong’, was severely wounded and awarded Vir Chakra for gallantry, Maj Jatar on the other with Bravo & Delta Coys under comd withstood Battle of Rezang La against the Chinese onslaught on the frozen heights of the Mugger Hill. Late Maj Shaitan Singh was awarded Param Vir Chakra for his grit & determination posthumously & was a dear friend of both Prem & Raghu from their Ranikhet days.
On 28 Feb 1965, Prem my elder brother & Maj Jatar’s dear friend unfortunately died in a tragic scooter accident on the last day of his Staff College Course in Wellington. For me and our family, this tragedy was like an end of the world. I remember both Maj & Mrs Jatar visited our house in Gurgaon to console our family and share our grief. Then Maj Jatar was posted as DQ in HQ 96 Inf Bde. It was not only a coincidence but matter of pride that as Brigadier he commanded the same Bde in Jalandhar much later.
During our tenure in Mizoram from 1966 to 1969 Major Jatar had joined the Bn and did intensive patrolling & counter-insurgency operations. Infact, his one raid on Mizo insurgent camp let killing of top Mizo leader Zaithenmuia & 3 others & capturing of large numbers of weapons, ammunition, money, typewriter along with original hand written rebels’ constitution. No less than then Lt Gen SAM Manekshaw then the Eastern Army Commander complimented Maj Jatar and the Battalion for this gallant action.
I was posted moved out of Bn in Nov 1969 as Staff Captain in HQ 62 Mtn Bde. While I took part in Bangladesh operations, Lt Col Jatar took over the command of 13 Kumaon & fought Battle of Border Pillar or BP 638 in the Jaisalmer Sector. While Longewala Battle got too much publicity, here in BP 638 Battle, in the broad day light, 13 Kumaon under Raghu Jatar routed an enemy Bn position without air support and meagre tank & arty support.
I wrote an article on Battalion’s action ‘Lord of BP 638’ that was published in the Lahore Times, many websites & is being published in the January 2018 issue of the Fauji India that sums up the character, professionalism & leadership qualities of Raghu Jatar. Excerpt from my aricle that is being sent along with this tribute is as under-
‘After the attack, the enemy’s abandoned defensive positions revealed that three Pakistani companies (two ex 10 Punjab and one ex 1 Punjab) were manning these defences. Fifty one Pakistani who died in this operation were buried along with D Company Commander Capt MK Malik of 1 Punjab. Three enemy wounded were taken as prisoners of war (POWs) but two died before they could be evacuated to Advance Dressing Station. The demoralized Pakistanis left behind large quantities of arms, ammunition and equipment that included 3 rocket launchers, six 2 inch mortars, two 3 inch mortars, three 106 RCL guns, two 75 mm RCL guns, seven Browning machine guns, twenty four rifles, seventeen sten guns and three radio sets. Hand bag of Lt Col Sadiq Mohammed Malik CO of 1 Punjab was also prize possession of 13 Kumaon found on the eastern side of the track.
While Shekhu and Kalia were awarded Sena Medal each, Raghu and 3 Other Ranks were mentioned in dispatches. With 41 casualties and couple of Sena Medals, the awards were too less for too BIG an operation.’
I was posted to KRC Ranikhet in 1973 & around 1975, Colonel Jatar on promotion was posted as the Commandant but he hardly stayed for a month & was promoted as Brigadier to command 96 Infantry Bde. As mentioned earlier he was DQ of the same Bde in 1965 operatios in the western Sector.
He was posted to Recruiting Directorate, Army HQ & Services Selection Board & after retirement went back to Pune. We have kept in touch always, earlier through letters & now through e-mails, WhatsApp & mobile phones. We also met during Regimental Reunion in ranikhet & 13 Kumaon get togethers in Sri Ganganagar & Kota. It was great pleasure as both Brig & Mrs Jatar attended the wedding of our son Capt Gaurav Bhatia (Master Mariner) in Mumbai on 8 March 2004. Incidentally, Gaurav was admitted in class II in the DPS Mathura Road, Delhi when Mrs Jatar was senior school teacher there.
We were shell shocked hearing about untimely demise of Mrs Jatar last year. She has been one of the most graceful, tall, elegant, well mannered charming lady & human being I have come across in my life. Being a daughter of KCIO, who studied in the country’s prestigious Miranda House, she was humble courteous with exemplary etiquettes. Many may not know she was good writer too & I happened to read her article published in an English paper ‘On Hanging Uniform’ on the eve of Brig Jatar’s retirement from SSB Allahabad. I am glad; Brig Jatar has the courage & character to bear his greatest personal loss like a soldier, philosopher & ‘KARAM YOGI’ with courage & fortitude.
Last but not the least, I had very poor schooling in a rural school in Rudrapur & my English was atrocious. On commissioning, I wrote Maj Jatar a letter mentioning that I would be joining the Battalion soon. He corrected the grammatical & spelling mistakes in my letter and gave it back to me. From that day onwards I endeavured to improve my English & today I humbly say that I have authored four books- Kumaoni Nostalgia both in English & Hindi, Industrial & Infrastructure Security in two volumes & Soldier Mountaineer & over 150 articles & book reviews published in numerous military journals, Turkey Tribune & Lahore Times.
Thank YOU SIR, for putting me on the right track at the right time. I pray for your good health & long life & in the end say, ‘What we are today is solely due to our KARMAS & ‘The GREAT KUMAON Regiment’. In the end, I also like to wish good health & happiness to all the seniors of Jatar clan & other senior citizens being felicitated along with Brig Jatar on this occasion.
‘Jai Hind & Ram Ram.’