The war of 1971 is incomplete without mention of the name of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. This man is the reason for the victory against Pakistan that year. Field Marshal Manekshaw also has a huge contribution in making Bangladesh an independent country. But another notable name is Ranchhod Pagi.
During World War II Manekshaw served as a captain of the 4/12th Frontier Force Regiment in Burma where he achieved victory against the Japanese. Sam has experienced near-death situations multiple times and cheated death both on and off the battlefield.
When a man with such a reputation speaks highly of Ranchhod ‘Pagi’, there must be something that deserves attention. Curiosity as to why Manekshaw spoke of Ranchhod in his last days is at its peak.
Pagi was a resourceful man with extraordinary abilities, just by looking at footprints he could tell how many people were riding a camel.
Who is Ranchhodas Pagi?
During the 1971 war against Pakistan, Ranchhodas ‘Pagi’ helped the Indian Army. He was born in a village in Gujarat. The village he came from shares its borders with Pakistan. Pagi comes from a family of Rabaris who are a nomadic tribe of cattle and camel herders who lived in the Limbala village of Banaskantha.
Ranchhod ‘Pagi’ was recruited by the Indian Army as a scout. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw created a special place for him. When war broke out he was working as a guide with the local police due to his exceptional tracking skills.
“Pagi” was said to have the ability to identify a person’s gender, height, and weight based on footprints.
Many Pakistani attacks took place in the villages of Rann of Kutch. The Indo-Pak border turned into a battlefield in 1965 and around 100 Indian soldiers were killed. During that time the Indian Army used Pagi’s talents in fighting against the enemies.
He risked his life to fulfill the orders and demands of the Indian Army who regarded him as their most trusted scout. Pagi led the Indians by tracking down the location of 1200 Pakistani soldiers hiding in a nearby forest. This resulted in an Indian victory. The Indian forces could only reach the post in time through the treacherous terrain thanks to Ranchhod Pagi.
He is also said to have helped during the war at Harami Nala in a channel of Sir Creek, a place full of infiltrators and smugglers.
After the 1971 victory, it was reported that Sam Manekshaw personally invited Ranchhod “Pagi” to meet him
Legendary Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw shared lunch with him and gave him a reward of Rs 300. Apart from this, due to his outstanding contribution, Pagi was honored with awards like ‘Police Medal’, ‘Sangram Medal’ and ‘Samar Seva Star” .
According to IADN news, in 2008, when Sam Manekshaw was ill and admitted to Wellington Hospital in Tamil Nadu, he often kept saying the name “Pagi”. Even during her semiconscious state, he talked about him. When a doctor asked him about “Pagi,” he told the story himself.
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw has died at the age of 108. After taking “voluntary retirement” from the military, Pagi died at the age of 112. They have lived a long life.
His courage and selflessness left a mark on Indian history
A statue of Ranchhor ‘Pagi’ was installed at the border post, North Gujarat for his selflessness and bravery. In honor of him, the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has named one of its outposts Banaskantha.
Ranchhordas Pagi’s name has been a part of Gujarati folk songs. He is remembered for his patriotism, courage, sacrifice, valor, dedication and decency.
In the 2021 movie Bhuj: The pride of India The story of Ranchhordas Pagi has been featured in which its character of an Indian Army scout and R&AW agent is played by Sanjay Dutt.
Though ‘Pagi’ is no longer with us, this unsung hero’s contribution to the country will always be remembered as he left his mark on Indian history.