Chandigarh: When he landed in Delhi after returning from Canada a day after Diwali, where he was receiving treatment for cancer, Brigadier Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, a decorated war veteran from the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, grabbed a fistful of soil and declared “I have won another battle.”
Such was the mettle of the great man, whose heroics in the famous Longewala battle of 1971 inspired the 1997 blockbuster ‘Border.’ A soldier who devoted his life to the service of the country, Chandpuri never took credit for any battle he fought, as recalled by his son Hardeep.
“He always used to say ‘I was only as good as the men who fought with me.’ A salute to a great soldier, I as a son am extremely proud of him. Whatever he has done for the country, if I am able to do even 0.1 per cent in my whole life, I’ll feel as if my life has been well lived,” Hardeep said.
Chandpuri was also a man guided by a strict set of moral principles.
“He’s always guided us to be on the right path, on the path of honesty, on the path of truth and being brave in all kinds of circumstances. When you see 3,500 men standing in front of you, all armed, 48 tanks surrounding you, what went through his mind was ‘My soldiers are with me, my jawans are with me, we will fight to the end and we will make sure that they do not cross over.’ He always taught us to move on the right path and have respect for everybody, big or small,” said Hardeep.
On the night of December 5, 1971, he was confronted by around 3,500 soldiers of the Pakistan Army’s 51 Infantry Regiment and a regiment of tanks. Along with 120 men, Chandpuri valiantly held his ground through the night and forced the enemy into a retreat as the Indian Air Force intervened at the break of dawn.
His actions earned him India’s second highest gallantry award, the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC).
“Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was commanding a company battalion of the Punjab Regiment occupying a defended locality in the Rajasthan Sector. On the 5th December 1971, in the early hours of the morning, the enemy launched a massive attack on this locality with infantry and tanks. Major Chandpuri exhibited dynamic leadership in holding his command intact and steadfast,” the MVC citation read.
“Showing exceptional courage and determination, he inspired his men moving from bunker to bunker, encouraging them in beating back the enemy till reinforcements arrived. In this heroic defence, he inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and forced them to retreat leaving behind twelve tanks. In this action, Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri displayed conspicuous gallantry, inspiring leadership and exceptional devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Army,” the citation added.
Chandpuri was also nominated as a Councillor of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation in 2006, where he served till 2011 with an active involvement in raising and tackling community issues.
Recalling their days together in the Army, Lieutenant Colonel Retired Amar Singh Cheema said, “I have known Brig. Chandpuri over a period of a number of years. He was awarded the MVC during the ’71 war, where he showed his real mettle. A very humble, very noble and a very down-to-earth person, who always gave a helping hand to the needy people.”
“You may know he was a nominated councilor also, where he contributed quite a bit to the functioning of the council. It was a shocking piece of news for all Punjabis when we heard of his demise. We pray to God to rest his soul in peace and give strength to his family,” Cheema added.
Chandpuri died in a Chandigarh hospital on Saturday, five days ahead of his 78th birthday.