New Delhi: The grave of Brigadier Mohammad Usman, the highest ranking officer to die in action during the first India-Pakistan war in 1947-48, has been damaged, allegedly by miscreants.
The grave is located in south Delhi’s Batla House Qabristan near Jamia Millia Islamia.
Known as ‘Naushera ka Sher’ (the Lion of Naushera), Usman led the 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade which famously recaptured Jhangar and Naushera — two strategic locations in Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan in 1948.
Usman’s funeral was attended by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, President Dr Rajendra Prasad, Governor General C. Rajagopalachari, and many other cabinet ministers, according to a report by Heritage Times.
Although it is not known when or by whom the grave was damaged, residents said the cemetery is not secure given that both entrance and exit gates are open 24×7 and an entire side of the premises is open to the Jamia Metro Station and main road.
Speaking to ThePrint, Jamia University’s PRO Ahmad Azeem said the university is not responsible for maintaining the graves but only the graveyard.
A professor from the university associated with graveyard maintenance told ThePrint that a private fund was set up to take care of the graveyard.
“The university has a private fund for the maintenance of the graveyard, including trimming the grass and clearing trash. Sometimes drunkards come to the graveyard at night,” he said, requesting anonymity.
“Due to sentimentality and other factors, families are responsible for maintaining the graves. In the past, families have requested the university for permission and logistical help to repair graves or correct facts on certain epitaphs, but this is done on a case-by-case basis,” he added.
Army sources told ThePrint that the matter, which is a “protocol and emotional issue” for the force, is being looked into at the highest level.
Asked if there are plans to shift the remains to the Army Cantonment as suggested by some, sources said the immediate concern was the repair of the graveyard. Any other issue will be decided in time.
“What’s inspiring and positive is how everyone came together to point it out,” Mir Ferozuddin, the grandnephew of Brig. Usman based in Saudi Arabia, told ThePrint over a phone call. He was referring to the Army’s response and the possibility that it will restore the grave.
He added he is unaware of any plans to shift the remains to the Army cantonment.
‘Naushera Ka Sher’
According to an archive paper of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), Brigadier Usman was born in Uttar Pradesh’s Bibipur, Azamgarh, on 15 July 1912, into a military family. His father was a police officer who later became the chief of the main police station in Varanasi, while an uncle was a Brigadier in the Army.
He was commissioned to the Baluch Regiment where he served till Independence. During Partition, he was offered the position of Pakistan’s Army chief, which he declined.
In December 1947, Usman took over command of the 50 (Independent) Parachute Brigade at Naushera, which halted the advance of Pakistani tribals in the area and recaptured it from Pakistan. It was also under his command that India recaptured Jhangar from Pakistan.
His military achievements prompted Pakistan to declare a princely award of Rs 50,000 on his head.
On 3 July 1948, he died when an enemy army shell exploded near him in Nausher.
The war hero’s life story is set to be adapted into a biopic by director Sanjay Khan, starring his son Zayed Khan in the titular role.
Lieutenant General S.K. Sinha, who was General Staff Officer to General Cariappa and later served as former vice-chief of the Army staff, said, “I accompanied General Cariappa to Naushera. He went around the defences and then told Brigadier Usman that Kot overlooked our defences and must be secured.
“Two days later, Usman mounted a successful attack against that feature. He named it Operation Kipper, the General’s nickname. A week later, over 10,000 infiltrators attacked Naushera. With Kot held by us, our boys inflicted a crushing defeat on the enemy, who retreated leaving over 900 dead. This was the biggest battle of the Kashmir war. Usman became a national hero.”