I love my India and want it to be the best in the world. It has the talent and capability. The state has constantly deteriorated in last six decades. The downfall is due to low quality, incompetent and corrupt leadership, unaccountable, equally corrupt bureaucracy and ineffective judiciary unable to fulfil people's aspirations resulting in unparalleled corruption and lawlessness. Drastic changes are necessary to make systems vibrant and responsive to make it an India of every Indian's dreams.
We need to put the ghost of 1962 to rest and
celebrate the spirit, fortitude and valour of our soldiers. The last of the
three-part series on the Indo-China War.
On a sunny July day in 2010, when workers of
the 110 Company, Border Road Task Force, were trying to dislodge a huge
boulder to widen a road to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh, they came across an
identity disc. It read: No 3950976 Sepoy Karam Chand, 4 Dogra. Found
alongside were the soldier’s mortal remains, a rundown pay book, a fountain
pen and a silver ring. The young soldier had died fighting the Chinese on a
cold October evening in 1962. He still lay in his summer uniform in the
isolated bowl of Walong, which runs parallel to the Lohit and climbs onward
to Kibithu, the last Indian frontier before the border with China. The
hills of Arunachal Pradesh are silent witness to many such sacrifices of
Indian soldiers that remain unsung and unknown.
History tells us that, by the early 1960s, the
much-publicised ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ was on the wane. China was
increasingly flexing its muscles in Indian territory to demonstrate that it
did not believe in the British demarcation of the McMahon Line. Having
forced the Dalai Lama to seek asylum in India in 1959, they were the new
masters of Tibet. By April 1961, to counter this aggressive neighbour,
Nehru — still hoping for a peaceful solution — ordered the ‘Forward Policy’
of inducting Indian troops into the Indo-Tibetan border areas. In the words
of the Government it was to be “Limited defence measures to contain the
Chinese incursion into Indian territory.” As a result, numerous remote
outposts sprang up, each manned by 40-odd men, with near-obsolete equipment
inherited from the time of Independence, no suitable clothing to survive
the winters in altitudes of 10,000 feet and above, outdated training,
little ammunition, and completely dependent on air supply and no other
The army, which had taken part in the Burma
Campaign in World War II and the Kashmir operations immediately after
Independence, was now tasked with a new role of defending the Himalayan
mountains. But in an India that was just into its Third Five Year Plan, the
meagre funds made available were the leftovers. Very little was done to
reorganise and re-equip the army. As late as 1960, the Border Roads
Organisation came into existence, hastily put together to cater to the
crying need for tracks and bridges to ensure mobility of troops to forward
areas. Living conditions and medical facilities were primitive.
In November 1962, Brigadier Thompson, military
correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, wrote in his column, “The Chinese
have better land access as they have been building frontier roads and
airfields since they annexed Tibet. In the vicinity of the Tibetan Frontier
of NEFA, there are passes up to 16,000 feet. On the Indian side, the
precipitation is great. The mountains are covered with dense forest and
thick snow in winter. Land communications with the area from India are
exceptionally difficult. On the Tibetan side, the high plateau, over which
the Chinese have built approach roads and airfields, is extremely cold but
snowfall is light. The military problem is not the relative size of the
Indian or Chinese armies but how many troops each side can maintain in the
frontier areas. India cannot match China’s ability by means of air
transport and dropping of supplies by parachutes. Even so, in establishing
a favourable air situation for the use of her air transport she may find
herself at a disadvantage.”
Brigadier Thompson’s observation was on the
dot. Some of the worst fighting in the Indo-Chinese war took place in
Arunachal’s Kameng sector. In 1962, there were just two routes from the
plains of Misamari to Tawang. One was a mule track from Udalguri-Kalaktang-Morshing-Phudung-Mandala
to Dirang, ahead of Bomdila. The other route used was from Misamari,
onwards to Foothills, Chaku to Tenga and then to Bomdila.
From Bomdila it took the soldiers two days of
force march to reach Sela. It was from this formidable height of 12,000
feet, in 1962, that troops walked for five days to reach the operational
areas, in the present day Tawang district. The two important sub- sectors
where the 1962 war took place were Zimithang (Namka Chu valley) and Bumla
(north of Tawang), while Tawang was the most important religious and
By early September 1962, China had warned that
if India played “with fire, they would be consumed by fire.” On September
8,800 Chinese soldiers descended from the Thagla Heights (an important pass
that is part of the McMahon Line opposite the Namka Chu valley) and
surrounded the Indian post of Dhola.
Neither side opened fire for 12 days but, by
their sheer numbers, the Chinese clearly displayed their strength and
intent to act. On September 18, the Indian spokesperson announced the
government’s intention of driving the Chinese forces from Dhola. It was the
last straw. By October 20, the war started, changing the equations forever.
In his book The Himalayan Blunder, Brigadier
J.P. Dalvi, Brigade Commander of 7 Infantry Brigade, wrote movingly of the
men of 9 Punjab who were part of the infamous battle of Namka Chu, which
formed a de-facto military boundary between the Indian and Chinese forces.
“At Bridge II on the Namka Chu, I met the
Company Second-in-Command, Subedar Pratap Singh. I was taken aback at
seeing him at the front, as I had attended his farewell party in Tawang and
had also met him in Misamari awaiting a berth on the train bound for
Meerut, his Regimental Centre. He was to go on pension after 28 years of
gallant service, mostly in the field in WWII, and thereafter guarding
India’s extensive borders. When I asked him why he had not left for Meerut,
he gave me an answer, ‘Sahib, is this the time to go on pension when the
battalion is likely to be involved in action?’ He had voluntarily rejoined
the unit and had walked many miles to Namka Chu. He was later killed in
Like the unsung Subedar Pratap Singh, there are
many fallen soldiers whose heroism is known only to their battalion and the
comrades who fought alongside them. Soldiers like Pratap Singh died as they
lived; in the line of duty, in harness, selfless, determined to keep the
enemy from capturing any part of their country.
A heroic tale
In the course of the battle, the Chinese
infiltrated behind Indian lines by launching a multi-directional attack.
After overrunning some of India’s defences along the IB they met with stiff
resistance from a platoon of 1 Sikh under Subedar Joginder Singh. The
platoon fought fiercely, losing more than half their men. Subedar Joginder
Singh, despite a bullet injury in his thigh, refused to be evacuated and
fought on bravely to stem the Chinese advance. The Chinese attacked in
waves and finally regrouped in larger numbers to attack the post.
Using the lone light machine gun, Subedar Joginder Singh killed many
advancing Chinese. When the situation became desperate, he and his men,
with their bayonets unsheathed, emerged from their trenches with their war
cry, “Wahe Guruji ka Khalsa wahe guruji ki fateh.” Subedar Joginder Singh
was captured by the Chinese, but refused treatment and died a prisoner of
war. He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his gallantry. There is a
memorial to him on the road to Bumla.
On the other flank, the Chinese attacked
Nuranang valley, which is between Tawang and Sela. The 4 Garhwal Rifles
beat back three consecutive waves of Chinese attack. During a lull in the
attacks, three brave soldiers — Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, Rifleman
Gopal Singh Gusain and Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi — equipped with most
basic arms, slithered to the Chinese positions and lobbed grenades into
Charging into the bunker, Rawat found that
their attack had killed two Chinese soldiers, while the third one lay dying
holding on to the machine gun. He snatched the machine gun from the Chinese
soldier but just, as he was crawling into his own trench, was hit by a
Chinese bullet. He died on the spot holding on to the captured machine gun.
The raw courage displayed by the soldiers of 4
Garhwal made them the only battalion in 1962, in Kameng sector, to be
awarded a Battle Honour for the Battle of Nuranang. A memorial, aptly
named Jaswantgarh, has been built at an altitude of 10,700 feet. All those
passing along the road to Sela pay their respects to the young men who
There are many other soldiers, whose saga of
courage remains unheard and unsung, who only make up the statistics of
those that died in the 1962 war. Wikipedia estimates that, in the 1962
war, 1,383 Indian soldiers died, while 1,047 were wounded and 3,968 became
prisoners of war.
Of all the memorials, the one at Nyukmadong on
the Sela-Bomdila axis near Dirang is the most picturesque. Designed in the
Buddhist Chorten style, the flat land of the memorial was where the Chinese
laid out the Indian soldiers they had killed in an ambush. Lobsang, a gaon
bura and an office bearer at Dirang headquarters, recalls seeing hundreds
of bodies in Nyukmadong. “It was a terrible sight. After the Chinese left,
following the unilateral ceasefire, the villagers got together and cremated
The plaque on the black granite memorial at the
Tezpur Circuit House declares that the ashes of unknown soldiers from the
1962 war were immersed in the Brahmaputra a year later, on November 18,
1963, in Tezpur.
The winding road from the plains of Assam that
makes its way from Tezpur to the forest-rich Bhalukpong — past the swift
brown waters of the Jaibharoli and climbs to Tenga, Bomdila and onwards to
Sela pass and Tawang — is dotted with reminders of the 1962 war. The
memorials are halt points for the men who continue to guard the frontiers.
On January 26, 1963, poet Pradeep’s song — “Aye
mere vatan ke logon, jara aankh main bhar lo pani”, sung by Lata Mangeshkar
— became the requiem for the soldiers of 1962.
For all Indians this conflict will always
remain an emotional war — unequal, unprepared, as it sent its men to fight
without the requisite arms, ammunition or support. It was a political
rout that let India’s fierce fighting army down.
Five decades later we need to put the ghost of
1962 to rest and celebrate the spirit, fortitude and valour of the soldier.
Successive wars — 1965, 1971, 1999 — have all proved that our army is
combative, prepared and will not allow any intrusion into its territory.
Perhaps no other song resonates their courage
as the one adopted from the Indian National Army as an anthem for war: ‘Kadam
kadam badhaye ja, khushi ke geet gaye jaa, yeh zindagi hai kaum ki tu kaum
pe lutaya ja’. It symbolises the army’s valour, raw courage and
fortitude to fight and die for the debt of salt, sans flourish, sans