Who was Brigadier AJS Behl (R), one of India's finest soldiers who passed into the ages?
Brigadier AJS Behl (R), an artillery officer from 17 Para Field Regiment, played significant roles in the 1962 Chinese conflict, the 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan, and the liberation of Bangladesh.
India on Tuesday lost one of its finest soldiers in Brigadier AJS Behl (R) after prolonged illness, at Command Hospital in Chandimandir. The last rites will be done on Wednesday in Chandigarh.
An Artillery officer from the 17 Para Field Regiment, he participated in all wars that the Indian Army fought till 1971. As a young officer, he fought the Chinese in 1962. He was part of the wars against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 war, which liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan. As a Second Lieutenant in 1962, he fought the Chinese valiantly at Namka Chu as part of the 7 Infantry Brigade. He was taken as a Prisoner of War along with his men. He was repatriated to India the next year and served with his unit again.
The Namka Chu Battle
AJS Behl was the Gun Position Officer (GPO) of the ‘E’ Troop from the 17 Parachute Field Regiment and it was inducted to support the 7 Infantry Brigade on the Namka Chu in Kameng Frontier Division of erstwhile NEFA.
As part of the operational plans, they were assigned to evict the Chinese who were dominating the Thagla Ridge. Since the map was not available with the Army, they were given blueprints of the area. As per the blueprints, the McMahon Line was shown running along the Thagla Ridge which is North of Namka Chu. 7 Infantry Brigade was deployed astride the Namka Chu which is said to be tactically unsound. On the night of October 19-20, the Chinese had bonfires on their side of Namka Chu and in the morning they started heavy artillery fire towards AJS Behl’s post. By 0900 hours, the officer lost communication with everyone, including the supply depot.
They were left with no options but to resort to direct firing against the Chinese. The Chinese were deployed to the Black Rock area, which was left to his position. He ordered to direct firing towards them. During the course of firing, he sent a small patrol to enquire about the helicopter which had landed sometime back. The helipad was just 400 yards away from his position. The patrolling team informed that the pilots were lying dead near the chopper.
The two sides were engaged in intense fighting. By mid-day, the Chinese reached the area of the Supply Point. People from the supply depot and the forward deployment lines ran away to Bhutan on the track which was close to his gun position.
By 1530 hours, he ran out of ammunition and it was difficult for them to resist the Chinese firepower further. The Chinese soldiers encircled Behl and his men, asked them to surrender and then took them as Prisoners of War of the Chinese.
In the Battle of Namka Chu, he lost three men while five others were wounded.
Repatriation to India
With the help of the Red Cross Society, after about seven months, he along with other Indian Army officers and soldiers were repatriated to India, in a phased manner. Later he, his Troop Commander Captain Talwar, and all his 38 men were posted back to 17 Parachute Field Regiment.
In his later service, he participated in the 1965 Rann of Kutch Operations and the 1971 War. He retired from the service as Deputy Director General, NCC, J&K in April 1995.