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'Baba' Harbhajan Singh: Immortal soldier
September 15, 2006 18:05 IST
According to legend, Harbhajan Singh drowned in a glacier during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. A manhunt was launched to find him. He was found three days later and cremated with full military honours. It was said Harbhajan led the search party to his body, and later, through a dream, instructed one of his colleagues to build and maintain a shrine after him. A shrine was built at his samadhi in the hills. Army folklore holds Baba is a stickler for discipline and is known to admonish those who do not tow this line.
A camp bed is kept for him and his boots are polished and uniform kept ready every night. The sheets are reportedly crumpled every morning and boots muddy by evening. The soldier continues to draw a salary and takes his annual leave. Legend also has it that in the event of a war between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian and Chinese soldiers three days in advance.
During the flag meetings between the two nations at Nathula, the Chinese set a chair aside for the saint. Every year on September 14, a jeep departs with his personal belongings to the nearest railway station, New Jalpaiguri, where it is then sent by train to the village of Kuka, in Kapurthala district in Punjab.
A small sum is also sent to his mother each month. His name still continues in the army's payrolls, his mother has still been getting his salary cheques and he has also been given all due time bound promotions.
Accordingly, presently the late soldier is treated as honorary captain. He is granted two months annual leave every year, a berth is booked in train in his name and his portrait, uniform and other belongings are brought by army officials to his native village Kuka in Kapurthala district for availing leave.
Under this annual drill, belongings of "Baba" Harbhajan Singh were brought to Jalandhar from New Jalpaigudi by Dibrugarh Express on Thursday night.
A JCO, a Subedar and an Orderly accompanied the belongings. The family of the late soldier received the belongings at the railway station and later proceeded for their native village. On completion of the leave the same team of the army personnel will escort back the belongings to the Nathu La region.