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Story of the Two Khans
|by C.R. Gopalakrishna|
At the Army Mess in Delhi, there was the final party being hosted by the Indian Officers to their Pakistan ‘brethren’, who would be leaving in the next few days to their new country of adoption. The Indian side comprised Hindu, Sikh, Parsee and Muslim Officers. There was the ‘burra khana’ and toast after toast was being raised to the departing men. Stories of how they had fought alongside in World War II regaled the listeners, of ambushes, bravados, skirmishes, and of gallantry. Of how one had helped the other from the jaws of death. And how they had made Mussolini’s and Hitler’s men run when the Indian Army made the final charge and assault on their positions. Or of how they had sat in the bars in Rome, out drinking one another, till they had to be carried off to sleep away their stupor. Much bonhomie was shown, and addresses taken, and promises to keep in touch, or to attend weddings were made. There was a lot of laughter, but more often than not, men, who had braved the machine guns and spandaus of the German Army without fear, wept unabashedly in each other’s arms at the final parting.
Similar scenes were witnessed in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi too, where the Muslim officers bade their Hindu, Muslim and Sikh officers their farewells. Here also, there was high emotion, and promises of meeting either on the polo ground or in the cricket field.
When the time came to bid Col. Mohammed Idris goodbye, there was not a single dry eye in that ‘macho’ gathering. Idris had led them in some of the toughest and bitterest of battles in the Great War. And he had led from the front, encouraging his men, irrespective of which religion they belonged to. To him, they were all the most valiant of men of the Indian Army. To them, he was their ‘role-model; and to quite a few, a father figure. “Kudah Hafiz, my Boys!” he said, trying to put in a brave front. But he couldn’t hold it for long. And as Major Krishna Rao came into his arms, he held him and wept. Krishna Rao had saved Idris, from a concentrated German attack at al Amein in North Africa, blasting ten German Army soldiers with his hand grenades, himself wounded by a bullet, before carrying off his commander to the safety of his men. “Bye my son. Don’t forget our times together” was all he could say. “How can a son forget his father, Sir”, was Krishna Rao’s reply, who too was shedding tears.
At the Delhi Gymkhana Club, was the most touching of farewells. The air was poignant with memories and many of the men had massive lumps in their throats, while some of them were not ashamed to cry.
When the time came to say the final ‘goodbye’, Brigadier Cariappa of the Rajputs regiment, stood on the raised platform, and the hall fell silent. He told them that this was only an ‘au revoir’, and only an au revoir’, and that they would ‘again meet in the same spirit of friendship that has always bound us together’. He said that ‘our history is inseparable.’
(Later on, he had risen to the rank of General and had gone on to become Free India’s First Commander-in-Chief, and far later, recognizing his contributions, honored, much after his retirement as India’s second Field Marshal.) And when he had finished, he went behind the curtains, brought out a covered silver trophy and offered it to the senior Muslim officer there, Brigadier Aga Raza, as a parting gift from the ‘Hindu’ officers to their ‘Muslim’ comrade-in-arms. The trophy showed a Muslim and Hindu sepoy standing side by side with their rifle trained on a common enemy.
As the Muslim officers left, the Indians went to the door, ‘formed an aisle down the steps and out on to the lawn’. One by one, sadness written all over their countenance, the Muslim officers slowly walked down that aisle, out into the night. The Indians raised a final silent toast to the friends that they would never see again.
Of course they would meet. But not on the polo ground or the cricket fields, but on the battlefields of Kashmir!
Now, it is necessary to go back a few back to know the story of the two Khans.
The young officer tried to convince her that living in Lahore or Karachi would be like living in Delhi.
The next morning Yakoub Khan bid his farewell to his mother, who was draped in a white sari, a sign of mourning. Saying a few verses from the Holy Koran, she waved back, erect and dignified in sorrow. Ramlal, their cook for over twenty-five years and Kundan Singh their driver for over fifteen were there at the gate, their facing streaming down with hot tears. “Kudah Hafeez Baba”, they said. Lassie, his German Shepherdess was barking and whining away, knowing that her young master was never to come back again. Yakoub’s heart was filled with sorrow. Was he doing right, he thought.
He promised he would come back to collect all his trophies and mementoes, once he had settled down.
One of the regiments of the Indian Army was the valiant Garhwal Rifles, which was not only holding on to its position, but was stemming the tide of the Pakistani soldiers offensive. Its commander was also a Muslim, who had made his decision to stay back in India, the land of his birth. He was leading the Garhwals and made a counter-offensive attack, leading his men, and going into thick of battle. He too was a Khan, Younis Khan, and was Yakoub’s own brother. The two battalions rushed towards each other, guns blazing, no quarters given, none taken. It was a fight to defend the holy soil of the Motherland. The Khans were not aware that the other was there, leading his men. Suddenly, in the thick of battle, the brothers met face-to-face, both with their Sten guns spitting out the bullets in rapid fire. And then, Younis Khan’s bullet had his brother Yakoub’s name written on it. Yakoub took a full volley ripping his chest. He fell like an oak, mortally wounded.
At this, the Pakistani’s surrendered. It was then that Younis found time to grieve. “What have I done? Why had this to happen in my own hands? What do I tell Ammi and Appajan?”
“Don’t grieve Chote. We are soldiers, and we did our duty. I die in full glory and I am sure God will take me to Him,” replied Yakoub. His throat felt parched. “I am thirsty. Give me some water.” Younis held his water bottle to his elder brothers lips, and the dying man took in large gulps. “Chote! You know? Water never tasted so sweet.” He fell silent for a while. Then he uttered his last words on earth. ”Tell Ammi not to grieve for me, but to think of me kindly. And tell her I died on our great soil. I die happy.” So saying Yakoub let out his last breath.
The Corp Commanders’ Room was filled with five of the Senior Commanders, who were directing the Kashmir Operations. They were Maneckshaw, Jasbir Singh, Osmani and Thimaiah, and D’Cruz, all of them of the rank of colonels The table was holding five steaming mugs of black coffee laced with rum, while the five of them were poring over the Ops Map, and marking the captured terrains with colored pins.
There was a distinct knock on the door, and is it opened the Havildar Major announced the visitor. “Come in! Come in Major,” said Maneckshaw
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11/24/2015 19:10 PM