69 Years and Three Days ago, on July 3, 1948 Brigadier Usman from Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the highest ranking Indian Army officer to ever fall during operations, was martyred as led led India in a bitter confrontation with Pakistan. His martyrdom is rarely remembered
Today in 1948 Brig Mohammed Usman, MVC (Mahavir Chakra) sacrificed his life in the service of war, at the border of India and Pakistan. His martyrdom poses a serious question to the two nation theory of nationhood, that believes in nationhood based on faith.
Brigadier Usman was posted as the Brigade Commander of the 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade at the Jammu and Kashmir front in the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war. Over a 10,000 infiltrators had attacked Naushera. The defence of Naushera, against overwhelming odds and numbers, made him a living legend. Naushera ka Sher! The Indian inflicted a ‘crushing defeat’ on the enemy under Brigadier Usman's fiery leadership, who retreated leaving over 900 dead. This was the biggest battle of the Kashmir war. Brigadier Usman became a national hero.
The Pakistanis announced a prize of Rs 50,000 for his head, an astronomical sum in 1948. But even as congratulatory messages poured in, the brigadier remained unaffected and continued to sleep on a mat laid on the floor. He had taken a vow that he would not use a cot till he recaptured Jhangar, from where he had to withdraw earlier in the face of a fierce onslaught by the infiltrators.
Next Brigadier Usman signed an order to the “Comrades of 50 (I) Para Brigade”. It read:
“Time’s come for the capture of Jhangar. It is not an easy task, but I’ve complete faith in you all to do your best to recapture the lost ground and retrieve the honour of our arms—we must not falter, we must not fail. Forward friends, fearless we go to Jhangar. India expects everyone to do his duty. Jai Hind.” Three days later, his troops recaptured Jhangar.
The legend grew. It would have grown larger still but the gallant officer attained martyrdom on July 3, 1948 in a blaze of glory, less than 2 weeks shy of his 36th birthday.
To this day he remains India's highest ranking officer to fall in active ops. He was given a State Funeral in Delhi and prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, along with his entire cabinet witnessed his burial at the Jamia Milia Islamia.
Ironically, his last signal message received by the Army HQ in response to a query about his well being by his family contained a characteristically cheerful reply – 'Fit and flourishing, still in the world of the living.' Sadly, this message would be received a few hours after he was martyred. A great leader indeed!
Brigadier Mohammad Usman set an example of personal courage, exceptional qualities of leadership and devotion to duty in the highest tradition of the Indian Army and was thus, rightfully honoured with the Mahavir Chakra.
The Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) (literally great warrior medal) is the second highest military decoration in India, after the Param Vir Chakra, and is awarded for acts of conspicuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea or in the air. It replaced the British Distinguished Service Order (DSO). The medal is often awarded posthumously.