In 2020, while the country was under lockdown, a grave near the Jamia Millia Islamia campus was defaced and damaged by unknown assailants. The man who’s laid to rest in this grave is one of the finest soldiers ever born in India – this is his story.

As a 12-year old kid, Mohammad Usman displayed rare bravery when he jumped into a well to save a child. It was thus not surprising when he decided to join the army.

Despite coming from a rather modest background, Usman made his way to the prestigious Royal Military College (RMC), Sandhurst in 1932 from where he graduated two years later as a second lieutenant.

Over the next decade, Usman built up an impressive resume, serving in the Mohmand campaign of 1935 in the North West Frontier Province and in the Burma theatre during WWII. By April 1945, Usman was in-command of the 14th Battalion, 10 Baluch Regiment.

Barring his first year with The Cameronians, Usman had spent his entire military career with the Baluch Regiment. With the Baluch Regiment awarded to the Pakistan army at the time of Partition and given his religion, most assumed Usman would opt for Pakistan.

Well aware of Usman’s military prowess, Muhammad Ali Jinnah sent out feelers to him, even verbally assuring that he would be fast tracked to the position of Chief of Pakistan Army.

But Usman’s mind was made up long back: his loyalty lay only with India and the Indian Army.

With his beloved Baluch Regiment gone, Usman, now a Brigadier, commanded the 77th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment post-independence. On 22nd October, 1947, the Pakistan army and tribal irregulars invaded the Kashmir Valley.



The Indian Army was mobilised five days later, after Maharaja Hari Singh agreed to join the Indian Union. The 50 Para Brigade had been moved to defend Naushera and when its commanding officer had to be evacuated due to battle wounds, Brig. Usman was asked to take command.

50 Para Brigade was located at Jhangar – a critically located point. On 25th December, Pakistani forces captured Jhangar. Brig. Usman took a vow that till he evicted the enemy and took back Jhangar, he would sleep on the floor of his tent.

Usman stayed true to his words and over the coming weeks worked tirelessly on boosting the morale of his troops. During those harsh winter months, Brig. Usman’s unit repeatedly repulsed multiple enemy attacks.

The pinnacle was reached on 6 February, 1948. Five days earlier, Brig. Usman’s forces had recovered Kot. Pakistani forces now launched a determined attack at Naushera. But inspired by their leader, the Indian forces fought superbly.

The Pakistani forces were routed with 1000 dead and another 1000 injured. The casualty count on the Indian side was 33 dead and 100-odd injured. Brig. Usman’s incredible defence of Naushera earned him the title of the “Lion of Naushera.”

On the other side of the border, Brig. Usman became a hated foe and a prize money of fifty thousand rupees was announced for his head. Undeterred, Brig. Usman now focused on his next mission – recovering Janghar.

On 19-Mar, 1948, his goal was achieved as the Indian Army took back Janghar. A cot was procured from a local village and after nearly three months, Brig. Usman finally slept on a bed. In the coming months, the Pakistani army mobilised artillery units in the area.

But under Brig. Usman’s inspirational leadership, Indian defences at Naushera and Janghar held firm. It was during a heavy shelling on 3 July, 1948 that Brig. Usman was fatally wounded. His last words were, “I am dying but do not let the territory we are fighting for fall to the enemy.”

Brig. Usman was 12 days short of his 36th birthday and was the senior most officer lost by the Indian Army in the Kashmir conflict of 1947-48. He was honoured with the Mahavir Chakra posthumously.

When Brig. Usman was finally laid to rest at the grave in Jamia Millia, PM Jawaharlal Nehru and his entire Cabinet and Governor General, C. Rajagopalachari, attended the event. Given what he had done for the nation, it was no less than what the Lion deserved.