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Sikh Light Infantry
Sikh Light Infantry Insignia (India).svg
Sikh Light Infantry Insignia
Active1941 - Present
Country India
Branch Indian Army
TypeLight infantry
RoleInfantry
Size19 battalions
Regimental CentreFatehgarh, Uttar Pradesh
Motto(s)Deg Teg Fateh (Prosperity in Peace and Victory in War)
Decorations
Commanders
Colonel of
the Regiment
Lt.Gen Devendra Pratap Pandey
Notable
commanders
Gen. V.P. Malik
Gen. Bikram Singh
Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane
Insignia
War CryJo Bhole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!

The Sikh Light Infantry is a light infantry regiment of the Indian Army.[1] The regiment is the successor unit to the 23rd, 32nd and 34th Royal Sikh Pioneers of the British Indian Army. The regiment recruits from the Sikh community of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana states of India. The versatility of the Sikh Light Infantry has seen the regiment conduct operations from conventional warfare on the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, to counter-terrorism.[1][dead link] Units of the regiment have also been deployed as part of the United Nations Emergency Force. The regimental motto is "Deg Tegh Fateh", meaning "prosperity in peace and victory in war". The motto has great significance with the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, with whom the Mazhabi community is very closely associated, Guru Gobind Singh named them mazhabhi as in faithful for their dedication to do good. The regiment's cap badge is a chakram or quoit, with a mounted kirpan. The insignia was designed to honour the Mazhabi community's Akali Nihang ancestry.

History

Sikh Light Infantry soldiers march past during a Republic Day Parade in New Delhi, India
Sikh Light Infantry soldiers march past during a Republic Day Parade in New Delhi, India

The Sikh Light Infantry's predecessors, the 23rd, 32nd and 34th Royal Sikh Pioneers of the British Indian Army, could all trace their origins to 1857. The 23rd Sikh Pioneers were raised as 15th (Pioneer) Regiment of Punjab Infantry and although they were pioneers by name, they functioned as a regular infantry regiment specially trained as assault pioneers. They served during the Second Opium War, the expedition to Abyssinia, the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the expedition to Tibet, and the First World War. The 32nd Sikh Pioneers and the 34th Royal Sikh Pioneers were raised as Punjab Sappers in 1857. They fought in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Second Anglo-Afghan War and the First World War. In 1922, the army was reformed from single battalion regiments to multi-battalion regiments, and the 23rd, 32nd and 34th Sikh Pioneers were amalgamated into the 3rd Sikh Pioneers. They were renamed in 1929 to the Corps of Sikh Pioneers, which was disbanded in 1933.[2] It was then re-raised during the Second World War as the Mazhabi and Ramdasia Sikh Light Infantry, with the first battalion being raised on 1 October 1941. Recruitment was then opened up to Ramdasia Sikhs. The regiment inherited the battle honours, colours and traditions of the Corps of Sikh Pioneers.[3] The regiment's name was changed again in 1944 to the Sikh Light Infantry.

Post-independence

After Indian independence, the Sikh Light Infantry was allotted to the newly formed Indian Army.

Independence of Goa from Portuguese occupation

During the 1961 annexation of Goa, the 2nd & 4th battalions, Sikh Light Infantry augmented the strength of the 50th Parachute Brigade. The battalion supported the main thrust of the attack as part of its western column. They moved rapidly across minefields, roadblocks and four riverine obstacles to be the first to reach Panaji.[4]

Operation Pawan

The 13th battalion, Sikh Light Infantry was deployed during Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in 1987. Troops from 13 Sikh LI were involved in the Jaffna University Helidrop, an operation that aimed to capture the LTTE leadership at their tactical headquarters in Jaffna University. The operation ended disastrously due to intelligence and planning failures. Delta Company, 13 Sikh LI, led by Maj. Birendra Singh, was the first company to be heli-dropped in. However, LTTE militants had intercepted Indian radio communications prior to the operation and had laid an ambush, hitting the helicopters with RPGs and .50 calibre machine gun rounds. Heavy damage to the helicopters meant that further drops were impossible and as a result, only 30 of the intended 360 Sikh LI troops made it to the university, including Maj. Birendra Singh and one of the platoon commanders, Sub. Samparan Singh. Completely surrounded, outnumbered, outgunned and with no support, the 30 troops from D Coy were progressively annihilated throughout the night. Maj Birendra Singh and Sub. Samparan Singh were killed sometime in the morning, and by 11:30 am there were only 3 troops left. When they ran out of ammunition, they fixed bayonets and charged. 2 of them were killed by LTTE fire and the third, Sep. Gora Singh, was taken prisoner. In total, 29 out of the 30 troops from D Coy who landed were killed.

40 Sikh soldiers were left and fought for 4 days without food and water and they had run out of ammunition. They said the Ardas and charged at the LTTE soldiers with their batons and died.

When reinforcements reached the university after a week of heavy fighting, they found the battlefield littered with pieces of Sikh LI uniforms and equipment, along with thousands of .50 BMG shells. According to Sep. Gora Singh, the dead Sikhs were stripped of their weapons, uniforms and equipment and their bare bodies were laid out in a row at the nearby Buddhist Nagaraja Vihar temple. The corpses were then burnt with a barrel of oil. The LTTE claimed to have tried to get in touch with the IPKF HQ at Palali, but apparently their efforts to get them collect the dead bodies were in vain. The bodies had started to decompose, and they had no option but to cremate them.

Units

Troops from the 9th battalion, Sikh Light Infantry arrive aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) to participate in Malabar 2006. Malabar 2006 is a multinational exercise between the U.S., Indian and Canadian armed forces to increase interoperability between the three nations and support international security cooperation missions
Troops from the 9th battalion, Sikh Light Infantry arrive aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) to participate in Malabar 2006. Malabar 2006 is a multinational exercise between the U.S., Indian and Canadian armed forces to increase interoperability between the three nations and support international security cooperation missions

The 9th battalion has a specialist role, as it conducts special amphibious assaults similar in nature to the Royal Marines of the United Kingdom.

Culture

Akali Nihangs

The chakram and kirpan are traditional and iconic weapons of the Akali Nihang order, a religious warrior monk order started by Guru Gobind Singh in the 18th century. The Mazhabi Sikhs dominated this order throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.[5] The chakram and kirpan were thus combined to make the Sikh Light Infantry cap badge.

Due to the cultural origin of its recruits, the regiment maintains not only a strong Sikh culture but a strong Punjabi culture. Bhangra, a popular folk dance of the Punjab, is a regular pastime of the soldiers. Sikhism plays a strong role in the day-to-day life and functioning of the regiment and its soldiers some of which have Chakrams on their turbans. The regiment maintains its own regimental gurdwara for the daily worship for its soldiers.[citation needed] The religious life of the soldiers sees them conduct shabad kirtan and all other aspects of Sikh worship. The teachings of Guru Gobind Singh and the notion of sant-sipahi ("saint-soldier") play a large role in regimental life. Historically, the Mazhabi Sikhs have long served in the armies of Guru Gobind Singh and in the later Khalsa Army raised by Ranjit Singh, which forged and established the Sikh Empire.[6] Most times before entering battle Sikh soldiers said the Ardas and then went into battle. Before the Regiment was formed it was called the Rattray's Sikhs, who notably did not tie their beards and carried 3 foot long swords into battle.

The regimental motto, Deg Tegh Fateh ("prosperity in peace and victory in war") is also derived from Guru Gobind Singh. It incorporates his teachings of peace, tolerance and community spirit, but also the duty to unsheathe the sword when a tyrant or oppressor threatens that ethos and refuses peaceful co-existence. The battle cry of the regiment is "Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!" meaning "He who recites the name of the lord, shall forever be victorious!"

Recruitment

Members of the regiment on Red Square during the 2020 Moscow Victory Day Parade.
Members of the regiment on Red Square during the 2020 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

The Sikh Light Infantry is a "single class" regiment.[7] Its soldiers are recruited only from Mazhabi or Ramdasia Sikhs.[8] Mazhabi Sikhs must provide identification certificates showing their status as Mazhabi Sikhs for eligibility to join the regiment as well as meeting the other minimum standards. Like all Indian Army regiments, officers can come from all regions and communities in India.[citation needed]

Awards and decorations

Maha Vir Chakra

References

  1. ^ a b Anniversary Celebrations of Sikh LI Archived 3 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Home, DC; Shebbeare, RH. "The Story of the Renowned and the Redoubtable Sikh Light Infantry". Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  3. ^ Full text of "The Sikhs of the Punjab"
  4. ^ BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR: Volume 4(3) Archived 4 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ McQueen. Sir. J.W and Baaghaa. A.S (1994) Unseen faces and untold cases, heroes and villains of Sikh rule, Volume 8 of Series in Sikh history and culture. Bahri Publications p106
  6. ^ Sikh army regiments infantry valour war
  7. ^ Wilkinson, Steven I. (2015). Army and Nation: The Military and Indian Democracy Since Independence. Harvard University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-674-72880-6. Some regiments, such as the Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry, are “single class,” and therefore recruit combat troops only from members of a specified class, such as Jat Sikhs and Mazhabi and Ramdasia Sikhs.
  8. ^ Kundu, Apurba (1994). "The Indian Armed Forces' Sikh and Non-Sikh Officers' Opinions of Operation Blue Star". Pacific Affairs. 67 (1): 48. doi:10.2307/2760119. JSTOR 2760119. Moreover, with the exception of Gurkhas (recruited in Nepal), Sikhs remain the only community to have infantry regiments drawn exclusively from their own numbers: the Sikh Regiment (manned, though not officered, by high-caste Jat Sikhs) and the Sikh Light Infantry (manned entirely by Mazhabi, or Scheduled Caste, "untouchable" Sikhs.
  9. ^ Aggarwal, Rashmi (January 0101). "Ashoka Chakra Recipients".