There are several villages by the name of Apshinge, but this particular village stands out due to its name Apshinge Military. The name was given by the British for the village’s contribution to the armed forces.
The village, which was a Maratha settlement nearly 400 years ago, has sacrificed its brave men to protect the country. According to available records, the village had lost its 46 soldiers in World War I. Post Independence, soldiers from Apshinge Military village have participated in all wars that India fought. It lost four soldiers in 1962 war against China, two soldiers in 1965 war against Pakistan and one soldier in 1971 war, which was again fought against Pakistan.
Four soldiers from the village were part of Subhash Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Sena. The history of brave men of Apshinge Military village goes back to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj era where men from this village were part of Shivaji Maharaj’s army. The warriors from the village are mostly Nikams. Most of the families in the village have a surname of Nikam. The Nikams are descendents of Nikumbh Rajputs.
With its unique history of dedication for the armed forces, Apshinge Military has attracted eminent personalities which include the Governor of Bombay Sir John Colville in 1945, Lord Wavell, Admiral Mountbatten in the 1946, before he was appointed as the Governor General of India. Later, after Independence, first chief of army staff of the country General Kariappa had also visited the village in the year 1948.
Apshinge Military: Apt! It produces soldiers
Agriculture has been the main occupation in most of the villages of the country, particularly in Western Maharashtra. However, here is a village in Satara district where villagers’ main occupation is not agriculture, but producing soldiers. It had been a tradition of the sorts for these villagers as families here have served the armed forces for generations.
Situated nearly 18 kilometres south to Satara is Apshinge Military village. With just 850 houses, it is sparsely populated with 5,800 people. The uniqueness of the village is that at least one person from each family has either served or is serving the Indian Army. The contribution of the village was also recognised by the British who constructed a memorial for the soldiers from the village who sacrificed their lives during World war I.
‘Our 500 men in army’
Shankar Deshmukh, who heads the ex-servicemen’s organisation, tells dna: “At present nearly 500 men from our village are serving the armed forces. We do not have a training school here, but the younger generation follows soldiers and ex-servicemen from the village and follow into their footsteps. This tradition has made our village unique where generations of some of the families are in the army.” One such villager is Naik Baban Khashaba Nikam (In the pic below). Speaking to dna, Nikam said, “I was with the Indian Army in the 1971 war which was fought against Pakistan. I was posted at Khemkaran. The tradition started with my father Hawaldar Khashaba Nikam from the British army. Now my elder son Rajaram is in the armed forces and is currently posted at Kargil.”
Symbols of sacrifice: War widows Taibunbi and Malan
Taibunbi Imam Shaikh and Malan Prahlad Nikam are two women who lost their husbands in the 1962 war against China. The two war widows are one of the most respected figures of the village. The names of both Imam Shaikh and Prahlad Nikam have been written on the memorial set up in the centre of the village.
“When the news of my husband’s death reached us through telegram, I was pregnant. I was devastated, but I gathered courage and decided to be strong for the child I was going to give birth to. The same child, a daughter, is now married and settled. The entire village knows the value of my husband’s sacrifice and they support me for everything.”
Enter the village and you will see young boys wearing military colour t-shirts which shows their inborn passion for the Army. The village has nearly 2,000 ex-servicemen which provides discipline of the Army to the entire village.
Both sons in army
Dadasaheb Jadhav (right) is another ex-serviceman whose both sons are now part of the armed forces. “I joined the army in 1965 and when the 1971 war took place, I was posted at Badmer sector. We had managed to go till Khokrapar area of Pakistan. I feel proud that my both sons Amrut and Vilas have joined the army.” While Amrut is currently part of the Rashtriya Rifles and is posted at Srinagar, Vilas is posted at the College of Military Engineering, Pune.
A casual look at 75-year-old war veteran Hindurao Ramrao Patil, who presently lives a calm life in Apshinge Military village and it is difficult to gauge that his life was full of hardships for two long years while he was held as a war prisoner by the Chinese army after the 1962 war.
The news came as a huge shock to his family. More because Patil’s father Ramrao too had been taken as a prisoner in World War II and hadn’t returned home since.
“The two years in the Chinese prison were tough. Earlier, we thought that the Chinese troops will kill us. Finally in 1963, the Chinese army included our names in the list of prisoners of war which assured us that we won’t be killed,” said Patil.
Patil had joined the 36 Maratha Battalion after completing training at artillery centre in Nashik. The battalion was posted at Tangdhar when the Chinese troops attacked it on October 20, 1962. The Indian troops fought hard but on October 22, Patil and other Indian soldiers were captured by the Chinese forces.”
Recalling those days, Patil said, “The Chinese army made us walk for five days. We reached an old fort where Chinese army kept us in prison. There were nearly 800 of us. Everyday, we were given rice and tea with salt in it. That was our meal for two years. Finally, in 1964, the Chinese government released us and I came back to Apshinge after a long journey.”
While Patil was in Chinese army’s custody, his wife Tarabai Patil never lost hope of her husband’s return. “When we got a telegram mentioning that my husband is missing, I cried a lot. Everyday, I used to wait for some positive news and finally in 1964, we received it,” said Tarabai.
“Unlike the Pakistani army, Chinese army did not torture us. They made us work in the prison but there was no harassment. I still remember that they showed a Hindi movie Do Bigha Zameen in our prison,” said Patil.
16 men from this family have served Army
While most of the families in the Apshinge Military village are keeping the long tradition of serving armed forces, ex-servicemen Ramesh Nikam’s family has a uniqueness in the tradition. Not one, not two, but 16 members of his family have served in the Army of whom six are currently serving.
Tradition in Ramesh’s family started with his father and four uncles who joined the Army.
Ramesh told dna, “My father, my four uncles and even their sons have served the Indian Army. We have 16 people from our family who have served the forces and six of them are still serving. My son has followed the tradition and has joined the Army.” Ramesh has two brothers and both of them are in armed forces. Apart from that Ramesh also has nine nephews who all are serving the army.
“Men in our family do not even think of joining any other profession. They have seen all the elders serving the Army and love to work with the forces.”
Nikams’ five generations keep the tradition alive
Satara: Nikam is the most common surname in Apshinge Military. These are the descendants of Nikumbh Rajput warriors. The younger generations are certainly keeping the warrior tradition alive where five generation of the Nikam family from the same village has served the armed forces. While most of the persons served in the armed forces as Jawans and below officers ranks, this Nikam family stands out as five generations of their family have served the army as officers.
Brigadier (Retd) Mohan Nikam is one of the family members who had participated in the 1971 Indo-Pak war and was posted in the same Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir where five Indian soldiers were killed recently.
Speaking to dna Brigadier Nikam said, “I was part of Indian peace-keeping forces in Srilanka and engaged in the capture of Jafana. I had also commanded a battalion in Siachen.”
Brigadier Mohan Nikam has two younger brothers, both of whom were in the armed forces. Younger brother Captain (Retd) Udaji Nikam served in the artillery while the youngest brother Colonel (Retd) Sayaji Nikam served in Mechanised Forces.
Brigadier Nikam’s father, the late Colonel Ramrao Nikam, who served in the pre-Independence period, also participated in World War II. Brigadier Nikam said, “During World War II, my father fought in Africa, Iran, Italy and formed part of the occupation forces in Japan. Even after Independence, my father took part in the 1948 Jammu and Kashmir operations.”
Brigadier Nikam’s grandfather Dhondiba Nikam and great grandfather Pataloji Nikam also were in the Army, but under the British rule.