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During the 1965 Indo Pak war, Pakistan radio had blared incessantly for some days that the great Hindu pilgrimage Dwaraka had been ravaged beyond recognition. I was then posted in Nagpur the only time when in Indian war I was not in a frontier state. In the 1962 was with China I was in Shillong, the capital of Assam then. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war I was in Ahmadabad, the capital of Gujarat. But in 1965 I was not in a frontier state facing the threat of war and direct attack.

I remember the intense emotion in people who felt hurt by the news of devastation of Dwaraka which was denied by the Indian government. Truth is the first casualty in war is well known and I remembered the jokes of the war time propaganda by the British Indian government during the second world war when as a teenager I heard the All India Radio giving out war bulletins so many times a day.

But what was the truth and who was to be believed in 1965 when both India and Pakistan gave different versions about the devastation of Dwaraka ?

I had not to wait long to find out the truth as after few months I was transferred to Central Railway, Bombay where I got six railway passes and six concessional tickets apart from free travel while on duty with the metal pass given to me. At the earliest I took some casual leave and went on my first pilgrimage to Dwaraka which I visited many times later when I was posted in Rajkot along with Dehotsarga and Tulsi Shyam two other pilgrimages associated with Lord Krishna.

Getting down at Dwaraka I decided not to stay in railway rest house which was far from the main temple of Dwarakadheesh but stay right near the temple in a dharmashala. I started seeing everything around closely to see signs of damages. I asked the tonga driver and he said with emotion “Lord Krishna protects Dwaraka. Pakistan navy could do no damage to the great pilgrimage except a portion of a railway building. Many bombs were rained and none exploded.”

I saw similar emotion on others faces when I put to them the question. I did see that there was no damage to the Dwarakadheesh temple or to any other part of the great pilgrimage or to the Rukmini temple. The owner of the dharmashala where I stayed, said with confidence that inspite of so many bombs which fell all over Dwaraka, none exploded and no damage was caused to the city except the railway building and that too a portion of it.

Same emotion, same intensity and it was in 1966 August when I was visiting Dwaraka only eleven months after the war. Could I get an authenticated version this miracle I wondered and waited till I got one and many others in the internet.

The Shelling of Dwarka Ramesh Madan (Ex-Sgt, IAF)-Ramesh Madan joined the Indian Air Force in 1959 as an airman and took part in the 1965 and 1971 conflicts. He was on site when the Pakistani Navy shelled Dwarka. He narrates the events in this candid story of that day. Ramesh Madan left the IAF as a Sgt.
I was posted to Dwarka in October 1963 and was there till middle of June 1967. There were two signal units at that particular moment in Dwarka (No. 114 SU and No. 607 SU.) along with one DSC Guards unit. I was posted to No.607 SU. ... The emergency was already declared a few days ago and the trenches were dug all around the unit and at the suitable places. It was a normal day as there was nothing new and nothing old at all. Everyone was busy in his own job.

It was September 7, 1965 morning and I received a message from our Admin Office that I was detailed for the Guard duty, as one of the guards was sick and I was to replace him. I was detailed for the third shift and my timing were 5.30 pm -7.30 pm; 11.30 pm - 01.30 am (on Sept 8) and 05.30 am - 07.30 am. Along with Air Force guards, we had DSC people doing the guard duties 24 hours a day and in all over the camp area. ... There is a light house (Asia's second highest), a girls hostel, a girl's school and a civil hospital near the Dwarka shore. All these were almost in the line of firing of that ship. We realized this fact only later.

I looked at my watch and it was 0115 am on the morning of September 8, 1965. I wanted to say something to my companion, then, there was a loud SWIIISHHH and a BOOOM. Both, my companion and me looked towards that direction but the first BOOOM was followed by more SWIIIISHES and BOOOMS!! Every one in the unit and in the city was up and running all around. People were jumping in the trenches and or falling flat on the ground to escape from this shelling. After about ten minutes the shelling stopped and slowly everyone started getting up. Every one was nervous and did not know what to do.

Our Officer Commanding, Flying Officer S. Damodaran, Cpl Iyer and my self advanced towards the direction from where the shelling was coming. We did not find any thing there. After coming back from there we took a Jeep and went around in the village to see if there were any damages. We did not find any damage or casualties in the entire village, Though the people in the village were now scared and there was a bit of panic around. After all this, our next turn was to find out about the safety of our staff that was deployed on our Signal Vehicles, about 10 to 15 miles away from our base unit.

Our Signal Vehicles (the Radar Units that tracked the targets and directed the aircrafts for a PINPOINT bombing) were stationed far away from our base (in VARVALA, between Dwarka and Mithapur on way to Okha). On hearing that shelling noise, the crews there got concerned and were driving towards our base to see what had happened to us. We met them on the way and the both parties were satisfied our respective positions.

It was now daybreak and there was no sign of any tension anywhere. After refreshing ourselves, we had our breakfast and went back to normal routine. In the mean time we heard radio Pakistan giving the news that Pakistan Naval ship BABUR shelled Dwarka, that Dwarka was very badly destroyed and is burning and they could see the smoke from a distance of 10 miles. The Aftermath PNS Babur, a Cruiser of the Pakistani Navy which carried out the Shelling of Dwarka.

Our O.C. summoned everyone and asked us to send a telegram to our home to inform our family that nothing has happened and every one is safe and healthy. All the telegrams were collected and a couple of people rushed to the post office. The post master informed us that it will be better for us to write a letter than sending the telegram, as the line were cut and it was not possible to send the telegrams! In a letter, to my parents in Delhi, I wrote them every thing that had happened in Dwarka, with a last line "there are more donkeys in Dwarka than the people and none of the donkeys have been injured so what can one say about the people".

There was an Associated Cement Company factory just at a distance of half a mile away from our base unit in Dwarka. The smoke of this factory can be seen from a distance of about 20 miles that the Pakistanis referred to as seeing the smoke from a distance of 10 miles.

After the day break, the villagers started bringing the shells from their fields after digging them out of the ground carrying them on their shoulders. We collected almost 25 to 30 shells. They were displayed in front the Guard Room for the public to take a look. The amusing thing about them was that they bore the marking 'INDIAN ORDINANCE' and were dated 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1946 and so on. These shells were all prepetition ammunition that was given to Pakistan during the partition in 1947. It turned out that the Indian ammunition was LOYAL to India. None of them exploded to harm its country.

The one, that did explode was the one that hit the Railway Retiring Room on the outer edge of the building that was not occupied at that time. All the other shells went over the village and into the fields.

The miracle behind this was that the sea level had risen from the time the Pakistani ship had taken its position to the time it started shelling. This resulted in most of the shells overshooting Dwarka. Of course, it is quite obvious that, the learned and experienced officers and the crew on board of that Pakistani ship did ignore this fact and were rejoicing that they have shelled Dwarka without any resistance and destroyed it. Needless to say, even after this shelling we were on out toes 24 hours a day for at least a week to ten days. The total manpower in our unit at that time was hardly 75 to 80 men including the DSC guards, with a limited supply of arms and ammunition. We were all thinking about our fate if the Pakistanis had decided to start an ‘invasion’, they could have done anything to us or to the public.

A similar first person account from the Navy's Official History by Mr. S D Kadawala, Senior Platoon Commander, Home Guards who was at the Dwarka Light House is reproduced here:

"On the evening of September 7, 1965 at around 1730 hours some Pak Navy ships, disguised as merchant ships, arrived at Dwarka and anchored south of the Dwarka Lighthouse, very close to the coastline and visible from the Dwarka town. At that time I was on messenger duty in the lighthouse which is close to the Air Force base, a small observation post which had just been set up.

A regular watch was maintained from the top of the lighthouse by the Air Force staff and I used to carry messages from the lighthouse to the Air Force base. During the Indo-Pak conflict there was a complete black-out in the Dwarka town. There was no naval ship in port as a naval base was yet to be established at Okha. However, a small group of cadets from the Indian Navy were stationed at Okha, having accommodation in the town library building and the Commander in charge of the group was stationed at the European Guest House. At this time, men from the Air Force, Home Guards and the local police used to maintain regular patrolling on the beach.

As already stated, the 'merchant' ships arrived at low tide in the evening and it was difficult to identify the nationality of the vessel. However, the matter was immediately reported to the Air Force base at Dwarka. At around 2355 hours, during high tide, the vessels suddenly started firing over the main Temple of Dwarka, which lasted for more than 20 minutes.

During this period the ship fired around 50 shells which included some 5.25 inch rounds fired by the Pak cruiser Babur. But, due to unknown reasons, most of the shells fell between the temple and the railway station, which is around three kilometres away from the lighthouse. There was no damage to any building, though there was some damage railway station. The twentieth-century avatars of Mahmud of Ghazni had failed in their mission. Nearly all the shells fell where the soil was soft and they remained unexploded.

These shells were later collected by the Home Guards, the local police and Air Force men and brought to the Air Force base. Out of them about 35 to 40 were unexploded live shells." The city of Dwarka was completely blacked out and target could only be identified on radar. At 0024 bombardment was ordered to commence when ships were 5.5 to 6.3 miles from Dwarka light. It took only four minutes to complete the bombardment, firing altogether about 350 rounds on the target. "

Till today I can recollect the emotion on the faces of people in Dwaraka.

( 20 Jan 2010)

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