Who Changed The Face Of '47 War?
14 August 2005
The Times of India
Baramulla: Small deeds of courage indulged in by the common folk have changed the complexion of battles all over the world. One such case of a civilian 19-year-old unsung hero, who laid down his life in the 1947 war, has come to light only now. Hardly anybody outside Baramulla has heard of Mohd Maqbool Sherwani, or how he died and the decisive role he played in saving Srinagar from falling to Pakistani raiders who attacked Kashmir in the year of Independence. Sherwani was a gutsy boy of 19 who single-handedly thwarted the advance of thousands of raiders (Kabailis) from Baramulla, thereby giving valuable time to the Indian Army to land in Srinagar and prevent an ignominious defeat. The nation may not remember his sacrifice, it may not even be aware of it, but the legend of Sherwani lives on in Baramulla. His tactics to hold back the raiders were very simple, not the stuff case studies in military history are made of. He went around on his bike telling the Kabailis, who stormed Baramulla on October 22, 1947, not to advance towards Srinagar as the Indian Army had reached the outskirts of Baramulla. His bluff worked. The enemy froze in its tracks for four days. By then, 1st Sikh had landed in Srinagar, on October 27, now celebrated as Infantry Day. When the Kabailis came to know of Sherwani's game plan, they shot him dead and crucified him. Ali Mohammed Bhat, 93, an eyewitness to the martyrdom of Sherwani, told TOI, 'The Kabailis couldn't digest that a young boy had fooled them. I saw a Kabaili on a motorcycle with an almost dead Sherwani slung across the petrol tank. He was put on a wooden cross, nailed and fired upon 10-15 times. He remained like that for two to three days. His body was brought down when the Army reached the place.' Sherwani's bravado gave the Army precious time to prepare for the historic Battle of Shalateng, near Srinagar. Over 700 raiders were killed here. Col Harwant Singh (retd), 85, who fought at Shalateng, said Sherwani's contribution changed the complexion of the 1947 operations, turning the tide in India's favour. Acknowledging Sherwani's contribution, the Army's 19 Division has set up a community hall here in his memory at a cost of almost Rs 1 crore. Francis Rath, an octogenarian Baramulla doctor, said, 'I was on my way to Srinagar after the fighting was over. Vultures and dogs were feeding on the bodies of the Kabailis. Shalateng became their graveyard because of Sherwani.'