Balram Singh Mehta is a retired Brigadier of the Indian Army who took part in the Battle of Garibpur before the beginning of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War. In 2022, he gained popularity with the war film Pippa, which was based on his 2016 book The Burning Chaffees: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account of the 1971 War.
Balram Singh Mehta was born on Monday, 16 April 1945 (age 77 years; as of 2022) in Punjab Province, British India (now India). In January 1962, after completing his schooling, Balram Singh Mehta joined the National Defence Academy in Pune and in June 1965, he joined the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. After completing his training, he was commissioned into the Indian Army on 15 June 1966.
Height (approx.): 5′ 6″
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
Parents & Siblings
Balram Singh Mehta belongs to a military family. His father served in the British Indian Army, and after retiring from the army, he worked as a deputy controller of defence accounts. He died in December 1953. Mehta has 4 brothers and a sister. His brother Raj Mehta is a retired Major General of the Indian Army. His eldest brother, Shamsher Mehta, is a retired Indian Army officer. His brother Narinder Mehta (deceased) is a retired Colonel of the Indian Army. His brother Surinder Mehta is a retired officer of the Indian Army. His sister Kusum Mehta is a dentist.
Wife & Children
His wife’s name is Jayshree. His son’s name is Brijraj Mehta. His daughter’s name is Nandinii Mehta.
Balram Singh Mehta is a Mohyal Brahmin. Mohyal Brahmins is a sub-group of the Punjabi Hindu community. While talking about his ethnicity in his book, Balram wrote,
I also have a middle name- Singh. This is reminiscent of earlier generations, when the eldest male child in the family was anointed as a Sikh-Defender of the Faith. The surname-Mehta-is actually a title granted to the more erudite and better educated amongst the Mohyal community, originating from the Gandhara region.”
On 15 June 1966, Balram Singh Mehta joined the 45 Cavalry Regiment of the Indian Army’s Armoured Corps as a Second Lieutenant. By 1971, Balram had risen to the rank of Captain when he participated in the Battle of Garibpur with his regiment before the beginning of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War.
Battle of Garibpur
On 20 November 1971, i. e., twelve days before the beginning of the 1971 war, the Battle of Garibpur was fought between the Indian Army and Pakistan Army in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In the battle, Balram Singh Mehta served in the C Squadron of the 45th Cavalry Regiment as its Second-in-Command (2IC) and was under the command of Major Daljit Singh Narang, who was killed in action during the battle. After Major Narang’s death, Balram became the Commander of the C Squadron and led the squadron towards victory by destroying 8 Pakistani tanks and capturing the town of Garibpur.
After the battle ended, Balram Singh Mehta’s name was mentioned in despatches by the Indian Army. Talking about the battle, Balram, during an interview, said,
I was then the second-in- command of the 45th Cavalry Squadron. We had Russian PT-76 tanks in our fleet. Together with the 14th Punjab Battalion, on the night of 20th November, we crossed the Kabadak river and entered the border of Garibpur… after dawn on the 21st, the Pakistani tank fleet started fighting with our tanks. They had 14 American Chaffee tanks with them. Major Daljit Singh Narang, the commander of our squadron, lost his life in the Pakistani shelling almost at the beginning of the war. As a result, the responsibility of conducting the war fell on me. Just then my tank started malfunctioning. Meanwhile, three Pakistani tanks surrounded us. Almost miraculously we managed to bring down all three tanks. When their gunner was coming out of a Pakistani tank, I stopped the gunner in my tank from firing at him. Later, when we took him as a prisoner of war and gave him tea and biscuits, he was still giving thanks. If the government had given us the permission on that day (the day the Battle of Garibpur was won), we would have driven up till Jessore (Bangladesh) and brought the war to an early end.”
Post the 1971 War
On 21 December 1984, Balram Singh Mehta, who had become a Lieutenant Colonel, raised the Indian Army’s 13th Armoured Regiment. In November 1986, under his command, the 13th Armored Regiment participated in Operation Brasstacks, a major military exercise in Rajasthan. In 1990, Balram Singh Mehta attended the Higher Command Course at the Army War College, Mhow. During his tenure in the army, Balram held several key appointments in the Strike Corps, Mountain Divisions, and Infantry Divisions. Later, Balram was sent on deputation to the Cabinet Secretariat. Balram Singh Mehta took pre-mature retirement as a Brigadier from the Indian Army in 1998.
After retirement, Balram Singh Mehta was employed by the Gujarat government. While working with the government, in 2000, he organised the first entrepreneurship course at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute in Ahmedabad for the retiring officers of the Indian Army. He served with the Government of Gujarat till 2001. After working with the government, Balram served as the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of several universities in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Balram Singh Mehta has also worked as the Director General of an Iowa-based NGO named Maharishi Invincible Defence for Peace. Balram Singh Mehta is also a member of the Surat-based NGO named Jai Jawan Nagrik Samiti.
For his actions during the Battle of Garibpur, Balram Singh Mehta’s name was mentioned in despatches by the Indian Army in 1974.
- In 2016, Balram Singh Mehta authored The Burning Chaffees: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account of the 1971 War, which is a book based on the events that unfolded during the Battle of Garibpur. Talking about the book, Balram said,
I was invited for the regimental lunch of the 45 Cavalry in 2015 by Lt Gen Amit Sharma, then Colonel of the Regiment. Serving and retired officers present there reminded me of my promise to write a book about my first-hand battle experience. The golden jubilee celebrations of the 45 Cavalry were scheduled for early 2016. For a soldier, a promise is a promise.”
- In November 2022, RSVP media production company announced that they will release Pippa, a war film based on Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta’s 2016 book The Burning Chaffees: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account of the 1971 War, on 2 December 2022. The film will be starring Ishan Khattar in the lead role of Captain Balram Singh Mehta. Talking about the film, Balram said,
Over the past few months, his team has assembled big names and talent recognised for excellence. It is the imagination, creativity, experience and talent of Siddharth Roy Kapur to have visualised and conceptualised a war movie while reading the narrative.”
- Balram Singh Mehta wrote in his book that he smokes cigarettes and also drinks alcoholic beverages.