The Maratha Light Infantry has the distinction of contributing two Para Special Forces battalions to the Indian Army. While 2 Para, which was 3 Maratha LI, is amongst the oldest and most decorated of the army, 21 Para, was raised more recently, though the battalion draws its lineage from the Baroda state forces. 2 Para (SF) 3 Maratha LI.
The role of 2 Para (SF), then 3 PARA (Maratha), has been covered in preindependence wars has been highlighted as part of separate articles. Besides these wars, the battalion played a major role during the 1947-48 Indo – Pak war. The battalion fought many famous battles in the Naushera and Jhangar Sector of J&K from December 27, 1947 till December 20, 1949 and was in the vanguard during most operations till the declaration of cease fire. The unit fought major battles in Naushera covering Bhajnao, Pt 2210, Kot and Pathradi (Op Kipper), Naushera Valley, OP DDT, Brown Hill and operations leading to the re-capture of Jhangar with battles at Pir Thil Naka (Op Vijay), Pir Satwan, 14 Picket (Jhangar Valley) and MMG Hill. The most fierce battle of the war was fought by the battalion in Naushera on 06 Feb 1948 against 5000 invading Pathans. The vastly outnumbered soldiers of the battalion pushing back the enemy despite the weight of the repeated attacks.
During the entire operation, 2 Para (Maratha) suffered the loss of four officers and 30 other ranks while nine officers, five JCOs and 10 other ranks of the battalion were wounded. The battalion earned three Maha Vir Chakras, 11 Vir Chakras and 20 Mention-in- Despatches during the war. These actions also led to the award of Naushera and Jhangar as battle honours, reinforcing the significant contribution of the battalion.
On 15 April 1952, the battalion was deaffiliated from the Maratha Light Infantry and absorbed into the newly raised Parachute Regiment. It was renamed as 2 PARA (Maratha LI) on 23 Sep 1953, The battalion then departed for Korea, becoming the first Indian Battalion to take part in UN Peacekeeping operations overseas.
During the 1962 war with China, the battalion played a supporting role, being responsible for packaging and delivering logistic support to forward troops in the war. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, the battalion was stationed in the Rann of Kutch. It was tasked with countering the Pakistani offensives in the area, a role it accomplished effectively.
On 11 December 1971 at 1600 hours the battalion created history by becoming the only battalion in the history of independent India to execute an airborne operation in war. It was a resounding success resulting in the capture of the objective, Tangail, Poongli Bridge and the ferry on the Lohjhang river and was instrumental in hastening the overall victory for Indian forces in the East Pakistan theatre. Then Second Lieutenant LHS Gill and Paratrooper Basav Raj showed indomitable courage by refusing to be left behind and jumping for the first time into live action with no prior training. Paratrooper Mahadeo Gurav suffered a case of hang-up, despite which he still exited the aircraft and landed far away from the designated DZ. He landed alone and fought a battle of his own, rallying the Mukti Bahini against the Pakistani regulars. He later linked up with the battalion on 02 January 1972. The battalion was the first to enter Dhaka and declare victory of the Indian forces in the Theatre. The battalion was awarded the Battle Honour ‘Poongli Bridge’ and the Theatre Honour “East Pakistan, 1971”.
21 Para (SF) 21 Maratha LI
21 Para has distinguished itself in combat, earning a number of decorations, three unit citations and critical acclaim for their role in CI operations. The battalion was deployed as 21 Maratha LI in Assam and performed exceptionally well during this tenure. It was awarded the first Chief of Army Staff Unit Citation in the year 1992.
On 01 February 96, the Battalion was formally re-designated as 21 PARA (Special Forces) and affiliated to The Parachute Regiment. In 2004 the entire Battalion moved into Manipur & was involved in relentless operations, where it was awarded a second Chief of Army Staff Unit Citation in 2005. This was followed by a General Officer Commanding in Chief Eastern Command Unit Citation in 2008 & a third Chief of Army Staff Unit Citation in 2011. The Battalion can boast of the unique distinction of being awarded 03 Unit Citations in a span of 10 years.
The Battalion has undertaken commendable operations in the recent past, which have been heralded as excellent examples of special forces capability. This has reinforced the capacity of the army in CI operations appreciably.