The 1971 war did not end on 17 Dec 71 for 4 PARA of the Parachute Brigade deployed in the desert area of Rajasthan opposite Ganganagar and Karanpur. ‘C’ Coy of 4 PARA was to thwart any Pakistani bid to occupy some one km of Indian territory which had been occupied in the form of largish SANDDUNE well into our area near village Nagi after the ceasefire. Time was critical because of various compulsions outside our control. Thus I, as commander of ‘C’ Coy was informed on 27 Dec at approx 1400 hrs that my company was to attack and capture SANDDUNE that same night i.e. night of 27/28 Dec. Accordingly my attack was to commence at 0400 hrs 28 Dec on a dark & moonless night. At the designated time, the company got up and started to advance. After approx. 3 minutes the whole of the enemy artillery opened up with a tremendous crunch with devastating accuracy (our forming up area happened to have been a registered Defensive Fire (SOS) task as later verified from enemy captured task tables). Parachute flares were also fired.
At the same time his automatic weapons including medium machine guns from the objective area and others from the neighboring localities also joined in. You can well imagine our shock at this treatment, especially when we were expecting very light opposition, of at the most a section strength. The effect was something to be seen to be believed. There was total obscuration by the sand being kicked up by bombs/shells landing in our midst and a steady stream of tracers whizzing past on all sides. Visibility was absolutely zero due to dust and smoke. This first barrage cost us about 12 casualties including 2/Lt Dubbal who was commanding the right forward platoon and was killed instantly by a medium machine gun burst. Believe you me there was near total panic in our lines and the men hit the ground. The instinct of self preservation makes men get closer together and bunch up and go to ground which was the worst thing to do with such a lot of fire being brought to bear on us. I was indeed glad to have a fine young Company 2nd in Command who had insisted on being with me in the lead in the centre during the attack.
He was then Capt, now Brigadier A.K. Duggal. With his help we had to physically disperse the men by literally pushing them up and shoving them apart. It was with a great deal of cajoling and shoving that we managed to get the men standing , dispersed and to start them moving forward. All this time men were dropping off by either getting wounded or killed.
We continued to inch our way forward and the next thing that hit us was the dense mine field. This, coupled After the declaration of ceasefire, personnel were resting when the orders to attack were received.