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Gen Mahadeo Singh & the Road of Glory

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“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because what is behind him.” 

                       ……. GK Chesterton

Descended from a distinguished line of Rajput bravehearts who served the Indian Army, Thakur Mahadeo Singh was a child of destiny. Born in Mainpuri, well known for its Chauhan Rajputs, on 9 November,1907, Mahadeo Singh was fated to be deeply connected with the land of Lord Mahadev and his abode in the Shivaliks. Born in the household of army officer Lt Jugraj Singh, whose own father Captain Darshan Singh had served with distinction in the then British Indian Army, Mahadeo reached his pinnacle in the service of the nation at Dehradun.

Growing up on a rich diet of the tales of valour of his father and grandfather, Mahadeo made his illustrious ancestors proud when he entered the Army as a professional soldier and an officer in 1928. But before that, destiny brought him to the doors of the Prince of Wales’s Royal Indian Military College at Dehradun on a chilly February morning of 1922 and from where he later passed out with the first batch of his alma mater.

He then excelled further at the Sandhurst Military Academy in UK and, as expected, joined the army in August 1928.

Soon after his commissioning in the 2nd Punjab Regiment, he was in the field in Waziristan. Not long after, war clouds were looming in Europe and the call of duty saw Mahadeo Singh in the thick of action in North Africa and then in Italy against the Germans. It was here that his mettle was tested and, true to his salt, Mahadeo in 1944 led his battalion in dislodging the entrenched Germans from Pideura, Faenza and Albereto but not before himself being wounded, besides the heavy casualties in his ranks. His trademark bravery was soon recognised and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for gallantry.

Predestined perhaps, once again he headed to the Shivaliks and the Doon Valley. His duty in World War II over, Mahadeo Singh was placed as the Chief Instructor at the prestigious Indian Military Academy ( IMA) to impart valuable training to the cadets at the Academy. With India’s independence on the cusp, Mahadeo was being considered for higher responsibility. And this was not long in coming. Brigadier Barltrop, the then Commandant of the IMA, was asked to hand over charge to the capable deputy Mahadeo Singh, who was further elevated to the rank of Major General as required for the post and thereby also became the first Indian Commandant of the IMA.

The disruption caused in 1947 by partition and the consequent partitioning of the assets between India and Pakistan was felt more so in the military establishment. The consequent inadequacy in the Naval and Air departments and also the Army was to be addressed urgently. Inter Services Wing (later the Joint Services Wing or the JSW) was hurriedly put together and that too in the Doon Valley but at a distance of about 15 kilometres from the IMA! Paucity in resources had necessitated the housing of the JSW in the recently vacated POW camps at Clement Town, creating a logistic hurdle in smooth interaction and coordination between the IMA and JSW for which no direct road was available. By now Mahadeo Singh was heading, both, the IMA and JSW as Commandant.

With the vision of a statesman and the drive of a commander Mahadeo Singh envisioned the construction of a road along the old canal that flowed not far from IMA heading in a straight line to not far from the JSW campus. It was his resourcefulness that ensured the laying of a metalled road that eased road communication and furthered the cohesion between two premier Armed Forces institutes.

Karma and kismet do come together for the chosen and for Mahadeo Singh these esoteric forces had drawn him to Doon and Uttarakhand. He was born on a day that is also observed as the birthday of the state, as Uttarakhand emerged as a separate federal unit on 9 November, 2000. In  the centenary year of Mahadeo Singh’s arrival in Dehradun, the road he had conceived and was later called General Mahadeo Singh Road, has been embellished and made more lustrous by the unveiling on 9 November, 2022, of a  tri-stele (stele being an upright stone monument) in honour of General Mahadeo Singh. The imposing tri-stele comprising three red sandstone inscriptions artistically designed is the effort of the family members of Mahadeo Singh with the cooperation of the state government. The tradition of proud Chauhan Rajputs in service of the nation is carried forth by Mahadeo Singh’s son, Lt Gen Aditya Singh, who retired a while earlier making us realise why the Good Book has said that fruit does not fall far from the tree.

(My two earlier articles give related content to the present one: Cantonments: Home to the Brave; Clement Town: A Checkered Century. These may be accessed online at the Garhwal Post.)

(Pradeep Singh is an historian and author of the ‘Suswa Saga: A Family Narrative of Eastern Dehradun’ (2011) and ‘Sals of the Valley: A Memorial to Dehradun’ (2017). He may be reached at: chpradeepsingh@gmail.com )