With this speech in the Lok Sabha on 6 September, Defence Minister YB Chavan confirmed to the world that India had crossed the international border in the Lahore sector.
With that began the most decisive phase of the all-out war.
At 0400 hours on 6 September, the 54 Infantry Brigade (part of 15 Infantry Division commanded by Major General Niranjan Prasad) under Brigadier MS Rikhand of 1 Jat, allotted from 38 Infantry Brigade, crossed the international boundary on the GT Road axis and on the Ichhogil–Uttar axis, respectively. The 3 Jat unit, part of 54 Infantry Brigade, vigorously attacked the objective astride Mile 14 on the Amritsar–Lahore road and managed to capture it by 0630 hours, less than two hours after the launch of Operation Riddle. In the next half hour, the village of Gosal- Dial was cleared too. In this attack, 3 Jat killed 35 Pakistanis and captured two officers and 12 soldiers, besides seizing a considerable quantity of weapons that included two RCL guns, three mounted jeeps, three trucks, and 45 other weapons.
The forward positions were lightly held by Pakistan, since they had not really anticipated a full-fledged Indian attack in this sector. The opposition that the Jats encountered at Gosal–Dial consisted of part of a Baluch company and some mobile recce and support elements.
These skirmishes were not without some anxious moments for Colonel Hayde, who was in the thick of the fighting. The CO’s party was the first to approach Dial, while the companies were still clearing Gosal a few hundred metres behind.
Suddenly, they came across a lorry carrying a Pakistani lieutenant (an artillery observation officer) and his party, rushing back from the Wagah border outpost, which had been attacked by another battalion. Both parties were equally surprised at seeing the other; the lieutenant reacted first, firing at Colonel Hayde. The shots missed, and the colonel fired back, making the Pakistani drop his pistol. Before the other occupants of the lorry could regain their composure, Colonel Hayde had already taken the detachment including the officer as prisoners of war.
Colonel Hayde had other worries. For one, he was not in wireless communication with the brigade headquarters. However, the Brigade Commander, Brigadier MS Rikh, soon arrived to personally take stock of the progress of operations. While the Jats had captured their objectives with minimum casualties and were in high spirits, the neighbouring battalion had faced several reverses and the commanding officer expressed his inability to proceed towards the main task: the capture of Dograi. When Brigadier Rikh asked the CO of 3 Jat if he would take up the task of capturing Dograi, he immediately agreed.
However, before the battalion could prepare for the next attack, an unfortunate incident occurred. By this time the battalion’s vehicles, comprising of RCL jeeps, mortars and replenishment of ammunition, had arrived in the forward location. This was in keeping with the normal practice wherein replenishment vehicles carrying ammunition and replacement weapons arrived at forward locations during a pause in the fighting.
Thus, the 3 Jat replenishment vehicles and heavy weapons, termed ‘F’ (fighting), had moved from their battalion’s HQ base at Khasa (near Amritsar) along the GT Road in broad daylight.
Normally, they would have dispersed and camouflaged on arrival at the battalion location, but before they could do so, six F-86 aircraft of Pakistan Air Force, which had perhaps been tracking their movement for some time, started strafing them. The Jats lost most of their RCL guns and mortars along with a number of men in this unfortunate incident. The artillery forward observation officer (FOO) accompanying 3 Jat was also killed. The battalion was now left without all its heavy weapons and its FOO, who could have helped bring down artillery fire when needed as the Jats progressed deeper into enemy territory.
Undeterred, Colonel Hayde did not let the morale of the unit drop, and began planning for their next objective – the village of Dograi. Colonel Hayde had, from experience, realised that morning that the key to success lay in a swift operation to capture Dograi and establish a foothold on Ichhogil Canal before the enemy had a chance to regain his balance. He, therefore, led the Jats in a bold daylight advance towards the objective. Three tanks of the troop of 14 Horse allotted to them for this operation, moving ahead of the column, were the only means of heavy fire with them.
As they neared Dograi village, Colonel Hayde’s company realised that Dograi was now a large town with considerable population. As the Jats attacked the town, Pakistanis guarding the area put up a brief resistance before starting to withdraw across the Ichhogil Canal over a partially damaged bridge. By 1130 hours, 3 Jat had secured its objective, Dograi, and established itself on the eastern bank of Ichhogil.
As Colonel Hayde took stock of the situation from close by the damaged bridge, he was surprised to see the largish built-up area across the canal not marked on their maps. They later found out that the township was called Batapore because of a Bata shoe factory that had come up there. The Indians had absolutely no idea that this township had been established in the previous few years.
Colonel Hayde ordered two companies to cross the partially destroyed bridge and occupy the built-up areas of Batapore and Attoke Awan adjacent to it. Thus, eight hours after crossing the international boundary, Indian troops were across the most formidable Pakistani obstacle, the Ichhogil Canal.
They were well within striking distance of Lahore, but the triumph was to be short-lived. It must be noted here that the aim given out by the army HQ and Western Command was to threaten Lahore and not capture or occupy it. The explanation was simple. A threat to Lahore would force the Pakistani army to withdraw some of its rampaging forces from the Chhamb–Jaurian sector and divert them towards protecting its premier city. That’s exactly what happened.
Excerpted with permission from 1965 Turning The Tide: How India Won The War, Nitin Gokhale, Bloomsbury.