Chandigarh: The ninth Battalion of the Sikh regiment (9Sikh) is being disbanded with immediate effect on account of the muntiny in June last year in the wake of the Army action in the Golden Temple complex at Amritsar.

The unit fondly known as the “Morlin’s Sikh” was the first to be affected by the army action when on the night of June 7 and 8, a majority of its troops deserted their unit lines at Lal Garh Jattan near Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan. The disbandment orders for which have reportedly been conveyed to the battalion, is proposed to be completed by August, it is learned.

The move to disband the battalion has come after tremendous deliberations at the highest level for about one year. In recent years, the only other battalion to have been disbanded was the 2 Assam following a mutiny on the unit in the late 1950’s.

While 9 Sikh is being disbanded a major reorganization is on the cards for all those battalions in which serious incidents of “collective armed insubordination” resulting in mutiny had taken place in June last year. The units include 3 Sikh in which there was such an incident while it was at Bagbasa camp in the eastern sector on June 11 pending a move to another place. Following a court of inquiry, 35 personnel of the unit were listed as “black” (main culprits) and 199 as “grey” (those who joined in the action). 3 Sikh is one of the 7 battalions of the Sikh regiment and is popularly known as “Rattaay’s Sikh.”

Another unit which may face a major reorganization is 18 Sikh which was at Miran Sahib near Jammu from which about 230 persons were involved in collective insubordination and desertion. Of these about 27 are being tried by the General Court Martial (GCMs). Troops of the 14th Battalion of the Punjab regiment which was _ based close to Pune were also involved in similar incidents (Punjab regiments have a heavy composition of Sikh troops).

Of the Sikh officers, 26 JCOs and 535 jawans of the 9 Sikh present in the unit before the mutiny of June 7, there were only about 150 jawans besides officers and JCOs after the mutiny on the afternoon of June 8, the rest having deserted after firing on the houses of the officers. It has been decided to try 60 jawans and three JCOs by general court martial (which is in progress) and the rest by summary trials.

Soon after the incident the commanding officer, Lt. Col. Iqbal Singh Sabherwal, was replaced by Lt. Col. Karan Singh Virk. Besides Lt. Col. Sabherwal (mow reverted to his substantial rank of major) two other officers of the unit, Major D.K. Kapur and Major K.K. Sharma, are also “attached” with other units pending inquiry. Components of the unit were kept in three different places following the incident. The unit was proposed to be moved to the mountains when it was decided to disband it. During the court of inquiry, the officers and JCOs of the unit were squarely blamed and even the brigade commander, Brig. P.S. Sandhu, in his statement partially pinned the blame on them.

It is not known if the government will reprise the unit immediately or after the customary lease of 10 years. The officers and jawans who are declared “white” (those not involved) are expected to be posted to the regimental center and other units.

A number of factors are reportedly responsible for the extreme step of disbandment. When the unit was at Gwalior in 1981, it was rocked by an incident which came to be known as the “Kachehra case.” One of its jawans Sher Singh, was rebuked for hanging his undergarments (kachehra) in the open and he in turn complained to the SGPC president, Mr. G.S. Tohra.

The incident was amicably settled, but the jawan after his retirement is believed to have become one of the bodyguards of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Some of the officers and jawans who have served in the unit also deposed in the court martial trials that the religious preacher of the unit Naib Subedar Karnail Singh, had become extremely powerful. Also, tapes of the speeches of Bhindranwale were doing their rounds in the unit.

Article extracted from this publication >>  August 9, 1985