Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
-
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State > Struggle for Tamil Eelam   > Tamil Armed Resistance & the Law  > IPKF Raid on Jaffna University, 1987

Tamil Armed Resistance

Raid on Jaffna University, 12 October 1987

Sources: Amar Jawan, Assignment Jaffna, Elite Forces of India & Pakistan and India Today
Copyright BHARAT RAKSHAK. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of BHARAT RAKSHAK is prohibited.


Introduction

The Indo-Sri Lanka accord, to establish peace and normalcy in Sri Lanka was signed on 29th July 1987. The first phase involved the supervision of the surrender of arms by the various militant groups. This was to be followed by the formation of the Interim Administrative Council with proportionate representation from various groups. The LTTE however wanted to dominate it. This led to attacks by the LTTE on IPKF personnel.

A political decision was taken to disarm the LTTE if necessary by force. Meanwhile on October 8th the LTTE carried out mortar and machine gun attacks on IPKF patrols. Following a high level Defence Ministry meeting on  October 10th, the IPKF commenced its operation code-named "Pawan" on the night of 11/12 October.

The Battle

Jaffna University was the tactical headquarters of the LTTE. The Indian military leadership planned a quick commando raid to round up the leadership and thus cut short the Battle for Jaffna. Jaffna University area was extremely built up. From the air the city was packed with the red & green of tiled roofs and palm trees. There were just two open patches, a football field and a smaller playground.

The plan was to land a company of 70 men from 10 Para Cdo. to secure the football field. A second wave was to follow with a company of the 13th Sikh LI. If all went to plan the heliborne troops would be linked with troops coming by land. But unknown to the IPKF, the LTTE had intercepted IPKF radio communications and knew the plans. It had sighted the the landing zone and was waiting. The first wave of Mi-8 flew in and began disgorging the Para Cdos. They immediately came under heavy fire especially from 0.50 machine guns. The LTTE had the range and position right.

Sepoy Lok Ram recounted, "We thought everything was fine but as we were sliding out of the helicopter we came under heavy fire from all sides. It was an impossible situation, as people would come out of the houses fire at us and disappear right back. There were gunmen on tree tops including coconut trees. Since we were ordered not to use heavy weapons it was impossible to advance. We were fighting an enemy we could not even see".

What followed is the most painful story of the Battle of Jaffna. In the dark with heavy machine gun fire the second wave of choppers brought in a platoon of Sikh LI and landed on the other smaller playground. This was a few yards from the Jaffna University but is separated by several lanes of booby trapped buildings. The Sikhs soon realized something was wrong as they landed smack on the LTTE's battlements. Bullets rained on them.

The three helicopters were hit and pilots barely managed to nurse them back to Palaly. Their grim assessment: The platoon was likely to be wiped out as would any reinforcements. The commanders made the devil's choice: leave the platoon to its fate.

Fate was hopelessly cruel to the young commander of the platoon, Major Birendra Singh. The first man to get hit on landing was the radioman. This severed contact from Palaly. They could reach the commandos on short range walkie talkies. The commandos asked him to join them. But like a good infantryman he waited for the rest of his company. Little did he know that it was not coming. And by the time he knew he was encircled.

The first assault came at dawn. The troops fought valiantly and repelled it. As more assaults were launched the situation became grim. Each assault left them with less men and ammunition. Finally at 11:30 AM on October 12, with the last bullet fired the troops led a bayonet charge. They were cut down to the last man but one. That man, Sepoy Gora Singh, was taken POW and later released. Sepoy Singh helped to reconstruct one of the most poignant battles in the history of the Indian Army.

For the LTTE this was a morale booster. The Sikhs were stripped of their weapons, uniform and equipment. Their bare bodies were displayed at the nearby Nagaraja Vihar temple and then burnt with a barrel of oil. The battle field was littered with pieces of Sikh LI's uniforms and equipment along with thousands of .50 MG shells.

Meanwhile the commandos were still holding out. Their commander, Lt. Col. Dalbir Singh, led a rescue mission with three T-72 tanks. The roads were hopelessly booby trapped. The commander of the tank group, Major Anil Kaul, improvised brilliantly. Knowing the rail tracks passed behind Jaffna University, he drove his tanks on the Palaly-Jaffna rail line. Passing through the narrow lanes, an RPG-7 fired on him, hitting the turret. The explosion severed his wedding ring finger. Splinters hit him in the eye and arm. His men put him on morphine and they fought their way to the Para Cdos. A little later the 4/5 Gorkhas and remainder of the 13 Sikh LI linked up.

The Para Cdos superior training saved the day. They conserved ammo and even picked up all their dead and weapons. For 18 hours they prayed and fought. The LTTE leadership came perilously close to getting wiped out. It's Chief, Prabhakaran, was injured in the foot. The 13 Sikh LI now holds a special ardas and akhand path on October 12th every year to honour their 30 lonely and gusty comrades on the brutal killing fields of Jaffna University.


Fallen members of the Jaffna Raid

13 Sikh Light Infantry 10 Para Cdo
Major Birendra Singh Naik Babu Lal
Subedar Sampuran Singh, VrC Naik Ganga Ram, VrC
Havildar Ajit Singh Naik Lakhmi Singh
Havildar Swaran Singh, SM Naik Umesh Pandey
Havildar Kashmir Singh, SM Naik Manohar Singh Rathore
Lance Havildar Sher Singh, SM Paratrooper Manuwa Kujur
Naik Surjit Singh -
Naik Gurmail Singh -
Naik Mukhtiar Singh -
Naik Satwinder Singh -
Lance Naik Hira Singh -
Lance Naik Manjit Singh -
Lance Naik Darshan Singh, SM -
Sepoy Lal Singh -
Sepoy Ranjit Singh -
Sepoy Kuldip Singh, VrC -
Sepoy Jarnail Singh -
Sepoy Sohan Singh -
Sepoy Gurdial Singh -
Sepoy Gurbax Singh -
Sepoy Gurnam Singh -
Sepoy Satnam Singh -
Sepoy Joginder Singh -
Sepoy Sakinder Singh -
Sepoy Bakshish Singh -
Sepoy Somnath Singh -
Sepoy Harjinder Singh -
Sepoy Sukhwant Singh, VrC -
Sepoy Sukhwinder Singh -
 

 

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