Sunday, Aug 13, 2023

The Brigade Commander who ‘saved’ Mizoram in 1966

Maj Gen Kabraji was commissioned in the Corps of Signals from Officers Training School, Mhow in 1941 and was the first Signals officer to have been appointed to command a mountain brigade.

KABRAJIBrig Kabraji as Commander 61 Mountain Brigade. (Photo: Zubin Kabraji)
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The Brigade Commander who ‘saved’ Mizoram in 1966
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A debate has been raging about the Indian Air Force (IAF) bombing Mizoram during an operation against the insurgents in March 1966. The Army operation on the ground to clear rebel held positions was led by Brig (later Maj Gen) Rustom Zal Kabraji who was commanding 61 Mountain Brigade and is one of the legendary officers of the Indian Army.

Maj Gen Kabraji was commissioned in the Corps of Signals from Officers Training School, Mhow in 1941 and was the first Signals officer to have been appointed to command a mountain brigade.

Brig Kabraji’s brigade was moved to Mizoram at a time when the Mizo rebels had carried out several successful attacks Assam Rifles and BSF positions in the state. Thousands of armed Mizo rebels had carried out simultaneous attacks on the positions of Assam Rifles and BSF and finally entered Aizawl where there was widespread looting or arms and ammunition and cash from the government treasury.

The Mizo rebels besieged the HQs of 1 Assam Rifles where the Deputy Commissioner had taken refuge and they released all prisoners from the local jail. Proclamations of independence were made and a demand was made for the Assam Rifles to surrender. Attempts were made to re-supply the Assam Rifles battalion with helicopters but these were shot at by the Mizo rebels.

The 61 Mountain Brigade, which was located at Agartala, was tasked to move to Aizawl to restore the situation and force the Mizo rebels to vacate it. Brig Kabraji led the operations on ground in the face of considerable opposition from the rebels taking several days to reach Aizawl. The Assam Rifles garrison in Aizawl was relived by troops of 8 Sikh aided by 2 Para. Two other battalions-2/11 Gorkha Rifles and 3 Bihar-advanced on other axis of operations to clear the area of the rebels.

kabraji Brig Kabraji at a reception organised in Mizoram after the operations ceased. (Photo: Zubin Kabraji)

The bombing of the Mizo rebels positions around Aizawl took place when the Army found it difficult to dislodge them from their positions and the advance of 8 Sikh and 2 Para was held up. Consequently, the air attack helped the Army regain control of the vast areas which had fallen into rebel hands and had been declared independent. By month end Brig Kabraji’s Brigade has regained control of Mizoram.

Maj Gen Kabraji went on to command a Division and served as GOC 6 Mountain Division. He was then only the second General Officer from the Corps of Signals to command a fighting division.


As per his career details shared by his son, Zubin Kabraji, Maj Gen Kabraji attended the staff college at Quetta and commanded 1 Armoured Division Signal Regiment. He also served as GSO 1 of 19 Infantry Division in Baramulla, J&K, and as Deputy Commandant and then Commandant of the School of Signals in Mhow. He also served as Chief Directing Staff Coordination at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and Chief Signal Officer, Eastern Command.

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He retired from the army on in June 1970 as Chief of Staff, Southern Command, Pune. At that time he was also Honorary ADC to the President of India.

Maj Gen Kabraji was a very keen Radio Ham (VU 2 BK) and actively pursued the hobby right till the very end. He was instrumental along with Brig PS Gill to lead one of the first all army Ham Expedition to Bhutan in 1962, enabling world Radio Amateurs to contact Bhutan for the very first time.

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He passed away on the night of February 21, 2008 at the age of 91.

First published on: 12-08-2023 at 12:53 IST
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