Service No: SS-23131
Date of Birth : 22 Jul 1946
Place of Birth : Bathinda dist (Punjab)
Last Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit : 7 Punjab
Arm/Regt: The Punjab Regiment
Operation : Op Cactus Lily
Date of Martyrdom : Dec 12, 1971
2nd Lieutenant Jasmel Singh Khokhar was born on 22nd July 1946 in the Siryewala village of Bathinda district in Punjab. Son of Bhai Meher Singh Ji and Smt Harbans Kaur, 2nd Lt Jasmel Singh had four brothers, namely, Balwant Singh, Jaswant Singh, Darshan Singh and Jagtar Singh and three sisters, Amrit Kaur, Charanjeet Kaur, and Manjeet Kaur. His family had many members, who served in the Armed Forces that included his elder brother Wg Cdr Jaswant Singh(Retd), his brothers in law Colonel Shawinder Singh (Retd) and Colonel Nirmal Singh (Retd). The sixth Sikh Guru, Hargobind Sahib Ji, blessed the Khokhar family with a title of “BHAI SAHIB” and till date, the family is addressed as “BHAI-KE”. It was this family’s responsibility of running free langar by the decree of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and thus his family was also called the ‘langar waale’ family.
2nd Lt Jasmel Singh completed his early education at the primary school in village Siryewala. He then attended the senior secondary school in the town of Bajakhana and finished matriculation in first division grade in 1963. Being a good student and a fine sportsman he displayed leadership in his early life as he captained the school Hockey team. After finishing school, he joined Mohindera College in Patiala for further studies and completed his graduation in Arts. During his college, he joined the NCC (National Cadet Corps) Air Wing and went on to become a Sergeant Cadet. He had a keen interest in flying and learned his basic flying skills flying Pushpak aircraft, during his NCC days. His interest in flying grew after he acquired the Student Pilot’s License and then he decided to pursue his interest further. He and went to obtain a Private Pilots License (PPL) from the Aviation Club, Patiala. He achieved the distinction of being the first cadet from the NCC Air Wing Patiala to do a first solo flight.
2nd Lt Jasmel Singh though was keen to join the Indian Air Force like his elder brother, but could not do so due to age restrictions and joined the Indian Army instead with the hope of becoming an Army pilot. He joined the Officers’ Training School (OTS) Madras in 1969. During his time in the academy, he excelled and outshone his peers by displaying exemplary leadership qualities and physical capabilities. Upon completion of his training, in Mar 1970, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, into 7 Punjab of the famed Punjab Regiment, a regiment known for its gallant soldiers and numerous battle exploits.
Within a short time 2nd Lt Jasmel Singh developed into a committed soldier who used every opportunity to hone his fieldcraft skills in the battalion, which was the very first Infantry battalion to be equipped with the Armoured Personnel Carriers(APC). He received excellent grades in his training courses and was selected to undergo a Commando course in the very early part of his service. He was proficient in horse riding and marksmanship and went on to win many laurels in these sports. In 1971, when the war with Pakistan became imminent, his battalion was moved to the war theater in the Eastern Sector – then East Pakistan.
Indo-Pak war: Eastern Front -12 Dec 1971
During the Indo-Pak war of 1971, the Indian Armed Forces had to fight the Pakistani forces on eastern as well as western fronts. On the eastern front Indian Army had deployed three Corps viz. XXXIII Corps, IV Corps, and II Corps. The II Corps with 4 Div and 9 Div had its area of responsibility in the southwest area of then East Pakistan. The Army’s broad plan in that area was to overrun Jessore and khulna areas before marching towards the capital city of Dacca. 7 Punjab as part of the 9 Div got deployed in Khulna area. During that time 2nd Lt Jasmel Singh was admitted in a military hospital for an ailment and was not able to join his unit. He requested for immediate discharge from the hospital so that he could join his comrades on the battlefield. Finally, his request was agreed to and he joined his unit on 03 Dec 1971.
Khulna located in the south of Jessore was an important military cantonment of Pak army and was heavily defended. But the units under 9 Div including 7 Punjab fought valiantly and made quick progress during their advance towards Khulna. 2nd Lt Jasmel Singh fought valiantly in various operations from 03 Dec onward when the war officially commenced. On 12 Dec 1971, 2nd Lt Jasmel Singh was involved in another operation wherein his platoon was tasked to destroy two enemy bunkers across an open field.
2nd Lt Jasmel Singh led from the front during the operation and directed his men to launch an attack on the well-entrenched enemy. He moved daringly along with his soldiers towards the given objective but the enemy position was very heavily defended. However, during the fierce exchange of fire 2nd, Lt Jasmel Singh took an LMG burst on his chest and forehead and was severely injured. He later succumbed to his injuries and was martyred. 2nd Lt Jasmel Singh was a valiant soldier and a fine officer who laid down his life at the age of 25 years in the service of the nation.
A tribute by his brother, Wg Cdr J S Khokhar (Retd):
On the first light of that day an Indian Army Commando Platoon approached a highly fortified anti tank dam post. Four days ago, Jessore was the first district of Bangladesh that was liberated from the Pakistani Army during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The platoon was part of the 7 Punjab Sikh Regiment and lead by a young 2ndLieutenant, 25-year-old Jasmel Singh Khokhar. Their objective that day was to clear all obstructions ensuring that the enemy forces did not fortify any single area.
2nd Lt. Jasmel was the platoon commander of the troops that had first captured Jessore Fort. On December 10, 1971, his Battalion obtained marching orders to move to the western front of the campaign and was replaced by another Infantry Brigade. The newly deployed Battalion was facing resistance and was unable to clear out the remaining enemy troops due to heavily trenched and fortified anti tank dams. To counter this situation 2nd Lt. Jasmel’s platoon was called into action to outflank and attack the enemy posts from rear. A solitary path led to this post and with marsh and swamp surrounding them, it was a treacherous mission right from its start. As fate would have it, the APC’s (Armored Personal Carriers) could not negotiate the marshland and got stuck due to its heavy weight. With retreat not an option, the platoon pressed forward on foot to capture the post and eventually had to face the barrage of machine-gun fire head on. 2nd Lt. Khokhar’s platoon responded and clashed with the enemy forces. This particular post was heavily fortified, and with enemy at a higher vantage point it resisted attacks for a full day and only fell when air strikes were called.
During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, 2nd Lt. Jasmel Singh Khokhar had five family members serving in the Indian Armed Forces. In an emotional last letter written to his sister-in-law, he wished that if anyone had to give his or her life in the war, he prayed that it be he. His wish came to be true. Knowing that there was no escape and how critical the mission was, he made the supreme sacrifice for his country. Lt. Jasmel Singh Khokhar fought and led his platoon valiantly in that battle; never backing down and spearheading the attacks, he laid down his life on that Sunday, December 12th, 1971. Like a true Sikh warrior, the bullet wounds were on his chest, facing the enemy.
On receiving the news of his martyrdom, his father, Sardar Mehar Singh Khokhar remarked – “I have sacrificed but one son for the service of this land, whereas Guru Gobind Singh sacrificed all his four sons”.
Jasmel Singh Khokhar was born on 22 Jul 1946, in village Siryewala, district Bathinda of Punjab, India. His father, Sardar Mehar Singh Namberdar was the direct descendent of Bhai Siria who founded this village. His mother, Bibi Harbans Kaur was the daughter of Sardar Kaur Singh Sandhu who retired as a Ziledar from the revenue department. The sixth Sikh Guru, Hargobind Sahib Ji, blessed the Khokhar family with a title of “BHAI SAHIB” and till date the family is addressed as “BHAI-KE”. It was this family’s responsibility of running a free langar by the decree of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. His forefather Sardar Karam Singh fought along the armies of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.
2nd Lt Jasmel Singh Khokhar received his early education at the primary school in village Siryewala. He then attended the senior secondary school in the town of Bajakhana and finished matriculation in first division grade in 1963. Being a good student and a fine sportsman he displayed leadership in his early life as he captained the school Hockey team. After finishing school, he joined Mohindera College in Patiala for further studies and completed a B.A. (Bachelor or Arts) degree. During his time in college, 2nd Lt. Khokhar joined the NCC (National Cadet Corps) Air Wing and went on to become a Sergeant Cadet. While in the NCC air wing, he joined the Patiala Flying club and trained on the Pushpak aircraft and went on to obtain a Private Pilots License (PPL). He was the first cadetfrom the NCCAir Wing Patiala to do a first solo flight. His first passenger was his Sister-in-law Mrs. Binder Khokhar who was at that time was engaged to his older brother, a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force. She recounts that during that flight she felt air-sick and he remarked “Be brave! You are going to be married to a fighter pilot!”
2nd Lt. Khokhar was very keen to join the Indian Air Force in the footsteps of his older brother butcould not do so due to age restrictions and joined the Indian Army instead, in hopes of becoming an Army pilot. During his time in the academy, he excelled and outshone his peers by displaying exemplary leadership qualities and physical capabilities. The training officers recommended that he be selected for the Infantry division where they could use his leadership qualities. Jasmel Singh Khokhar was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the Indian Army in March of 1970 and posted to the 7th Battalion, which was the very first Infantry battalion to be equipped with the APC’s. He progressed again; receiving excellent grades in his Officers courses and was selected to undergo a Commando course to lead platoons.In 1971, when the war with Pakistan became imminent, his battalion was deployed and moved to the war theater in the Eastern Sector – then East Pakistan. At time his platoon was being moved,2nd Lt. Khokhar was suffering from a skin ailment and had been admitted to the Army Command Hospital for treatment. Succumbingto his insistent and adamant requests, he was discharged from the hospital and united with his comrades, even though he had not completely recovered. He showed great commitment to his country and cause, by choosing to be with his men.
Remembering our Martyr
Martyr 2nd Lt. Jasmel Singh Khokhar was a loving son and brother. Nicknamed “Meli”, he is remembered till date fondly by his peers and lovingly by his relatives. His family built a memorial (samaad) on his ancestral land just on the outskirts of the Village Siryewala. His brothers then built their homes next to his memorial and have lived there since 1972. The Honorable Governor of Punjab, Mr. DC Pavte, paid his homage at the memorial, and on his first death anniversary, then Chief Minister of Punjab (later Honorable President of India) Giani Zail Singh visited and paid his homage as well.
“While posted at Barrokpore, Calcutta, Meli got my portrait painted from a picture I had sent him a few months ago. This was especially emotional for me as the painting was packed on top of all his luggage and was the first item we removed from when all his personal items were returned to us after his martyrdom. It has been 48 years that I lost my younger brother, but that painting has always been displayed in my house as reminder of his love and affection for me.”
As mark of respect the village primary school was upgraded to a High School and named Lt. Jasmel Singh Khokhar Government High School. All family, relatives and friends observe his martyrdom day every year on the 12th of December. An “Akhand Path” is kept and the “Bhog” concludes the Path that day. After the Bhog, free langer is served for the entire day, with attendance from nearby villages as well. Speakers take to the podium share stories about 2nd Lt. Jasmel and praise his short, yet fulfilling life. The school also organizes functions and games in which students participate in a big way.
Wg Cdr J S Khokhar (Retd)
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