Sagat Singh

Born(1919-07-14)14 July 1919
Kusumdesar, Churu, Rajasthan, British India
Died26 September 2001(2001-09-26) (aged 82)
New Delhi, India
Allegiance British India
Service/branch British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Rank Lieutenant General
Unit3 Gorkha Rifles
Commands held
Awards Padma Bhushan
Param Vishisht Seva Medal

Lieutenant General Sagat Singh, PVSM (14 July 1919 – 26 September 2001) was a General Officer in the Indian Army, notable for his participation in liberation of Goa and later in Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. He held many commands and staff appointments throughout his career.

Early life and education

Singh was born in a Rajput family in the village of Kusumdesar in Churu region of Bikaner State on 14 July 1919 to Brijlal Singh Rathore of Kusumdesar and a Bhati lady, Jadao Kanwar of Hadla. Brijlal was a soldier in the Bikaner Ganga Risala who served in Mesopotamia, Palestine and France during World War I. He was recalled to service at the outbreak of World War II and retired as an Honorary Captain. Sagat was the oldest of three brothers and six sisters, he completed his schooling from Walter Nobles High School at Bikaner in 1936.[1]

Bikaner Ganga Risala

Singh joined Dungar College at Bikaner but right after his intermediate exam in 1938, he was enrolled as a Naik in the Bikaner Ganga Risala. Later, he was promoted to Jemadar (now called Naib Subedar) and given command of a platoon.[2]

World War II

With the outbreak of World War II, he was among the few Junior Commissioned Officers who received a commission as Second Lieutenants in the Ganga Risala. The Risala was sent to Sind in 1941 to deal with the Hoor rebellion. Here, the Sadul Light Infantry replaced the Ganga Risala and Singh was transferred to the new unit. In 1941, the unit landed at Basra and came under the Iraqforce commanded by Lieutenant General Edward Quinan.[3]

Singh, with the Sadul Light Infantry, then moved Jubair in Iraq. He was appointed the unit's Military Transport Officer after having obtained an instructor grading in the Military Transport Course. He later served as adjutant and then took command of a company. After a staff stint at the sub area headquarters, he was selected to attend the Middle East Staff College at Haifa. He was the only State Forces officer to be selected. After completing the staff course, he was appointed General Staff Officer Grade 3 (GSO III) at Headquarters 40th Indian Infantry Brigade in Ahvaz, Iran.[4]

In September 1944, Singh rejoined his battalion and was appointed adjutant. He was selected to attend the Staff College, Quetta and joined the 12th War Staff course from May to November 1945.[5] After completing the course, he was recalled to Bikaner and appointed brigade major of the state forces, working directly under the commander-in-chief.[6] After the war, when it became apparent that India would be an independent nation, he was responsible for the absorption of the state forces into the Indian Army.[7]

Indian Army

Lt Gen A A K Niazi signing the Pakistani Instrument of Surrender under the gaze of Lt Gen J S Aurora. Standing immediately behind (L-R) VAdm Nilakanta Krishnan, Air Mshl Hari Chand Dewan, Lt Gen Sagat Singh and Maj Gen J. F. R. Jacob.

In 1949, Singh was transferred to the Indian Army and joined the 3 Gorkha Rifles. He was appointed General Staff Officer Grade 2 (GSO II) at Headquarters Delhi Area. His seniority in the state forces was restored and in October 1950, he was appointed brigade major (BM) of the 168 Infantry Brigade in Samba. During this stint, he attended the Mountain Warfare course and was shortlisted for command of the President's Bodyguard. After three years as BM, he was posted to the 3rd battalion 3rd Gorkha Rifles (3/3 GR) as a company commander in October 1953. He served in the battalion for a year and-a-half in Bharatpur and in Dharamshala.[8]

In February 1955, Singh was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and appointed commanding officer of the second battalion 3rd Gorkha Rifles (2/3 GR) at Ferozepur. He moved the battalion to its field area in Jammu and Kashmir in October 1955 and relinquished command in December to attend the senior officers course. After completing the course, where he obtained an instructor grading, he took command of 3/3 GR at Dharamshala. In August 1957, he moved the battalion to Poonch and in November that year, he was posted as a senior instructor at the Infantry School Mhow.[8]

After a 2+12-year stint, in May 1960, he was promoted to the rank of colonel and posted to Army HQ as deputy director personnel services in the Adjutant-General's branch.[5] Here, his good work brought him to the notice of the Adjutant-General Lieutenant General P P Kumaramangalam.[9] In September 1961, Singh was promoted to the rank of brigadier and given command of India's only parachute brigade, the elite 50th Parachute Brigade at Agra. This was unprecedented as command of the brigade is not given to non-para officers. At the age of 42, he immediately earned his maroon beret and his Parachutist badge by making the required number of jumps.[9][5]

Liberation of Goa

In late November 1961, Singh was summoned to the Military Operations directorate at Army HQ for the planning of the liberation of Goa. The force consisted of 17th Infantry Division, led by Major General Kunhiraman Palat Candeth, which was to move into Goa from the East and 50 Parachute Brigade which was tasked to execute a subsidiary thrust from the North. Gen Candeth was in overall command of the force. The para brigade had two battalions (1 Para and 2 Para) and it was planned that one battalion would be para-dropped. 2 Para was moved to Begumpet Air Force Station for this purpose. The brigade moved from Agra on 2 December and reached Belgaum by 6 December where Singh established the brigade HQ. Since the brigade has only 2 battalions 2nd battalion Sikh Light Infantry (2 Sikh LI) which was in Madras was also allotted. The brigade received armoured elements as well - the 7th Light Cavalry with its Stuart tanks and a squadron of 8th Light Cavalry which had AMX-13 tanks.[5]

Hostilities at Goa began at 09:45 on 17 December 1961, when a unit of Indian troops attacked and occupied the town of Maulinguém in the north east, killing two Portuguese soldiers.[10] On the morning of 18 December, Singh moved the brigade into Goa in three columns:

  1. The eastern column comprised the 2 Para advanced towards the town of Ponda in central Goa via Usgão.
  2. The central column consisting of the 1 Para advanced towards Panaji via the village of Banastari.
  3. The western column—the main thrust of the attack—comprised the 2 Sikh LI as well as an armoured division which crossed the border at 06:30 and advanced on Tivim.[10]

Although the 50th Para Brigade was charged with merely assisting the main thrust conducted by the 17th Infantry Division, its units moved rapidly across minefields, roadblocks and four riverine obstacles to be the first to reach the capital of Goa, Panjim on 19 December 1961. The brigade achieved objectives much beyond its initial purview. On entering the capital, Singh ordered his troops to remove their steel helmets and wear the Parachute Regiment’s maroon berets.[11][12]

The brigade was in Goa till June 1962. After moving back to Agra, Singh led the brigade for another year-and-a-half, until January 1964. He was selected to attend the prestigious National Defence College (NDC). He joined the 4th NDC course and graduated in January 1965. He was then appointed Brigadier General Staff (BGS) at HQ XI Corps at Jalandhar.[5]

General Officer

After a short stint as BGS, in July 1965, Singh was promoted to the rank of major general and appointed general officer commanding (GOC) 17 Mountain Division, the division which had participated in the Goa operations. The division had since moved to Sikkim and was on the Indo-China border.[5] During this stint, the Nathu La and Cho La clashes took place, where 17 Mountain Division achieved "decisive tactical advantage" and defeated the Chinese forces in these clashes.[13][14]

In December 1967, Singh was appointed GOC 101 Communication Zone in Shillong. The formation was involved in operations in the Mizo Hills. He immediately set out to build the formation's capabilities in intelligence gathering and counter-insurgency. During this stint, on 26 January 1970, Singh was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service of the most exceptional order.[15]

After a stint of three years as GOC 101 Communication zone, Singh was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and took over the command of IV Corps in December 1970[16]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, the corps made the famous advance to Dhaka over the River Meghna.[17] Lt Gen Sagat Singh also conceptualised the Indian Army's first heliborne operation in the Battle of Sylhet[18] He witnessed in Dhaka the signing of the surrender instrument by General Niazi.

For his leadership and command for the race to Dhaka, the Government of India honored Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh with the third highest civilian award of Padma Bhushan.[19] Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh is the only other Corps commander besides Lt. Gen. (later Gen. and COAS) T N Raina and Lt. Gen. Sartaj Singh to be so awarded in 1971.

Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh died at the Army Hospital Research and Referral, New Delhi on 26 September 2001.[20]

Personal life

Singh married Kamla Kumari on 27 January 1947; Kamla was daughter of the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir, Rachpal Singh. They had four sons, two of whom joined the army. Their eldest son, Ranvijay, was born in February 1949. He was commissioned into the 1st battalion, The Garhwal Rifles (1 GARH RIF), which was later mechanised and re-designated as 6th battalion the Mechanised Infantry Regiment (6 MECH). He retired in the rank of colonel. The second son, Digvijay, was born in October 1950 and was commissioned into the 2nd battalion the 3rd Gorkha Rifles (2/3 GR), the battalion his father had commanded. Unfortunately, he died an untimely death while serving with the battalion in Poonch as a captain on 4 March 1976, when the jeep in which he was travelling met with an accident. Their third son, Vir Vijay was born in August 1954. An ill-fated scooter accident in Delhi claimed his life just eight months before that of his elder brother. The loss of two sons in the prime of their lives within a short span of eight months was a terrible loss to Sagat and his wife. Their youngest son Chandra Vijay was born in April 1956. He became a business executive.[5]

In Popular Culture

Sagat Singh's character was played by Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff in the 2018 Indian Hindi-language film Paltan (film).

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Sinh 2013, p. 17-18.
  2. ^ Sinh 2013, p. 19.
  3. ^ Sinh 2013, p. 20.
  4. ^ Sinh 2013, p. 22-23.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Singh 2005.
  6. ^ Sinh 2013, p. 25.
  7. ^ Sinh 2013, p. 26.
  8. ^ a b Sinh 2013, p. 30-31.
  9. ^ a b Sinh 2013, p. 42.
  10. ^ a b Chakravorty, B.C. "Operation Vijay". Bharat Rakshak. Archived from the original on 31 March 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  11. ^ Mohan, P. V. S. Jagan (November–December 2001). "Remembering Sagat Singh (1918–2001)". Bharat Rakshak Monitor. 4 (3). Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Remembering Sagat Singh (1918-2001) - Bharat Rakshak - Indian Army & Land Forces". Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Army commemorating war hero Lt Gen Sagat Singh's birth centenary". Outlook. 10 July 2019. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  14. ^ Van Praagh 2003, p. 301.
  15. ^ "GALLANTRY AND DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARDS FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 December 2020. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  16. ^ "NEW ADJUTANT-GENERAL" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 September 2021. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  17. ^ "'If there's B'desh, it's due to Lt Gen Sagat'". Archived from the original on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  18. ^ "1971 War: Battle of Sylhet-The first Special Heli Borne Operation". Indian Defence Review. 18 December 2019. Archived from the original on 19 July 2020. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  19. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Bullet that played with fate of 1971 war - Times of India". The Times of India. 25 August 2017. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.