Fifty years later Uttarakhand recalls its brave sons

The McMohan Line Indo China BorderDehra Dun: It is 50 years to the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict. For the people of Uttarkhand, there are a number of recollections of the courage and grit shown by its young men of the Garhwal Rifles and in other regiments who gave the supreme sacrifice for their country. But of the many there are to tell, two stand out.

One is that of Nandak-Dasholi village in Chamoli district. Well known environmentalist and Chipko movement founders, Chandi Prasad Bhatt recalls the 16 telegrams that went to the village. Almost all the telegrams said the same line of ‘missing in action’ and not one of them said that the soldier had lost his life in the cause of the nation.

He recalls that there was almost no literacy in those times and English was almost unheard of. It was the postman who conveyed the message to the next of the kin. “When I and another social activist, Alam Singh Bist reached the village one could only hear wails of the crying women folk in almost every house, some of them had been wed for only a few months”, he recollected.

Bhatt remembers telling them that they are only reported missing and have faith in God that they may return some day, but they as he knew that the chances were very bleak if not impossible. “I had that time though that I will keep coming time to time to know the welfare of these families, but with time, things went haywire”, he says.

Then of course there is the story of Rifleman Jaswant Singh, in whose memory even the Chinese made a bust in copper and presented it to India. There is a temple in Tezpur Nuranang, where the bust of that ‘extraordinary ‘man is kept and every passer by bows his head in obeisance to him. Besides, the place where he attained martyrdom is also now called Jaswantpur.

His 90-year-old mother, Leela Devi Rawat, who stays in the city with his younger brother, Indo China War 1962Vijay Rawat, recalls that besides the temple and other memorials, some roads in Uttarakhand and Assam have been named after the brave son-of-the-soil. She also has a bust of her son and the 1962 newspaper, which tells the story of his immense courage.

Recalling his story of valor and courage, Sub major (retd.) Darban Singh of 17 Garhwal Rifles says that alone in a bunker, with just two local girls of the area to help him, rifleman Jaswant Singh held fort for 72 hours. And while doing so, he killed 300 Chinese soldiers, because of which the enemy held him in high esteem, and made a copper bust of him, that was later presented to India.

In the bunker, one can still see his bed, glass, plate and other things he used as a soldier, which is polished every day by fellow soldiers as a tribute to the courage and valor of the man. A small group of the army unit posted there gives him an ‘honor’ salute every day. In his respect, the army continues to promote this extraordinary soldier, who by protocol has now reached the rank of Lt Gen.

His younger brother Vijay Rawat, who was only seven when his elder brother laid down his life for the country, says that he did not know much then about the martyrdom, except that there was all round grief in the family. “It was very much later in life, I learnt of the history of valor that my brother has created”, he says with pride.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

10 Comments

  • the place where JASWANT SINGH RAWAT attained martyrdom is also now called “JASWANT GARH “and not “Jaswantpur”.

    Jai Uttarakhand…Jai Hind

  • The incredible saga of 4 GARHWAL RIFLES during the Sino- Indian War 1962 in Se La ( Pass ) Sector is unparalleled in our military history & rich military traditions.This battalion was deployed in Tawang-Se La -Jung Sector in Kameng Division of erstwhile NEFA under command of Lt Col( Later Major General) BM Bhattacharya, MVC. The Battalion was attacked three times by Chinese but these were repulsed with heavy casualties to the enemy.
    One Rifle Company was holding Nuranang Bridge.Chinese preceded their attack with heavy mortar , artillery & intense MMG fire.Rifleman Jaswant along with Riflemen Trilok & Gopal volunteered to crawl up to the Chinese MMG Command Post & destroy it. With raw Garhwali courage, Jaswant crawled to the Chinese Bunker being supported by his two buddies. Jaswant jumped into the MMG pit.Out of the three Chinese soldiers, two had died due to grenade splinters while the third was wounded & was later taken as a PW.This Chinese soldier managed to fire at Jaswant. The bullet hit him in his head & this gallant soldier gave the supreme sacrifice of his life for the cause of the nation.He was thus instrumental in saving enormous casualties to his company.Both the CO & Jaswant were awarded MVC. Besides, a number of VrC & other gallantry awards were bestowed upon this crack Garhwali War Machine.The Unit was awarded Battle Honour “NURANANG”..On the serpentine road winding up to the cold & misty Nanda Devi-Chabrala & Se La Ridge, 4 GARHWAL RIFLES erected a Memorial for their fallen legend JASWANT SINGH RAWAT, MVC appropriately called JASWANT GARH. His portrait & belongings comprising of his uniform,cap,watch & belt were placed on a pedestal.All sort of stories have been concocted & associated now with this Immortal Mortal.The Unit posted around this area proudly maintains this Memorial & runs a canteen to serve weary passengers with steaming tea,hot pakoras & samosas with great pride & élan.
    Every one passing through this grand Memorial pays obeisance to this GREAT SOLDIER SON of INDIA.It is widely believed that the spirit of Jaswant now rev erred as MYSTIC BABA does not let any soldier slacken in performance of his duties.
    Lt Gen BM Kaul the Corps Commander & Brig JP Dalvi Commander 7 Infantry Brigade had said, I Quote ” HAD EVERYONE FOUGHT AS THE 4 GARHWAL RIFLES, the history of NEFA would have been different”, I Unquote.
    The mention about two girls & the bust of copper is incorrect.
    I am triple blessed as I was commissioned into the illustrious GARHWAL RIFLES REGIMENT.
    Once a GARHWALi- always a GARHWALI.
    The Regiment is celebrating 125 years of its glorious existence in a befitting manner at Lansdowne from 29 Oct to 1 Nov 2012 .
    JAI GARHWAL, JAI UTTARAKHAND,JAI INDIAN ARMED FORCES & JAI BHARAT !!

    • Lt Gen Dr Mohan Bhandari,
      Thanks for the insight on the bravery of 4th Garhwal during 1962 indo-China war, a forgotten war which no one wants to remember for their failure in command, control, coordination & communication.However, we should not forget the famous saying that “A nation that does not honour its dead warriors will perish”.
      Jai badri Vishal, Jai Hind.

      [email protected]

  • MY ELDER BROTHER SH BAKHTAWAR SINGH RAWAT WAS SACRIFICED HIS LIFE WHILE INDO-CHINA WAR IN 1962, BELONG TO VILLAGE- RAJBAGTHI, POST- NANDPRAYAG, DISTRICT- CHAMOLI (UTTRAKHAND), PIN- 246449. HIS WIDOW SMT VIMLA DEVI RAWAT IS ALONE TO DAY. NO ANY KIDS OF HER BECAUSE HE NEVER RETURN FROM THE WAR.

    JAI CHAMOLI, JAI BHARAT, JAI MAA JAGAT JANANI.

    JVS RAWAT, MOBILE NUMBER- +91-9412018364.
    EMPLOYED IN ITBP.

  • The sacrifice of Jaswant singh Rawat is praiseworthy.His action is exemplary.Is his spirit (Aatma)is stil there ? If anybody has experience of feeling Mr Rawat’s movement,he may please describe it.

  • The garhwali soldiers proved it in each and every war whether world wards or post independence wars.
    We are proud of them.

  • The garhwali soldiers proved it in each and every war whether world wars or post independence wars.
    We are proud of them.

  • THE GARHWALI MYSTIC OF THE MISTY NURANANG

    By

    Col NN Bhatia (Retd)

    The Garhwal Division

    Newly carved small hill state of Uttrakhand has two divisions- the western half of the state is the Garhwal Division while the eastern half is the Kumaon Division. The Garhwal Region is situated about midway along the length of the great Himalayan Range. Uttarakhand is the ‘Abode of the Gods’, Warriors, Craftsmen and Artists. The four most pious Dhams (Shrines) of the Hindus – the Yamnotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath are located here. Both divisions have the unique significance of having distinguished Infantry Regiments namely ’The Garhwal Rifles’ (Garh Rif) and ‘The Kumaon Regiment’. These two illustrious Regiments of the Indian Army have carved a niche for themselves both at home and abroad during war and peace.

    While ‘Garh’ means ‘a Fort’ and ‘wal’ is synonymous to ‘the place’; Garhwal, therefore, truly signifies as ‘country of forts’. Well nigh every conspicuous mountain top in Garhwal division is crowned with the crumbling remains of an old fortress. The military cantonment of Lansdowne, for example, has the ruins of the fort of Kalungarhi on its culminating point, 6200 feet above MSL

    The origin of ‘The Garhwal Rifles’

    In April 1887 the 2nd Battalion, the 3rd (The Kumaon) Gurkha Rifles with six companies of the Garhwalis and two companies of Gurkhas was raised in Almora. While the title of Kumaon was dropped in August 1887, it was an adequate reflection of the camaraderie amongst the Gurkhas, Garhwalis and Kumaonis. The 1st Battalion was raised under Lt Col EP Mainwaring on 5 May 1887 at Almora. In 1891, the two companies of Gurkhas were reverted to Queen Alexandria’s Own Gurkha Regiment and the remaining renamed as 39 Royal Garhwal Rifles as part of the old British India Army and got its present name after Indian independence. It served during the Frontier campaigns of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, as well in both the World Wars. After independence, it has served with distinction in all the wars that India has fought including the insurgencies in Naga Land, Mizo Ram, Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab. Presently there are nineteen regular infantry battalions from 2nd to 19th and the Garhwal Scouts, who are permanently located at Joshimath protecting the Chinese threat from the Tibet front, three Rashtriya Rifles (RR) Battalions and two Territorial Army (TA) The 1st Battalion was converted as 6 Mechanised Infantry as integral part of the Mechanised Infantry Regiment. ‘Jai Badri Vishal’ is the ‘War Cry’ of the Garwhalis.

    Garhwalis have the distinction of winning hundreds of gallantry awards and Battle Honours in its checkered history including the three Victoria Crosses (VCs) in pre-independence. Naik Darwan Singh Negi won the first VC in Festubert in France in 1914. Rifleman Gabbar Singh was decorated with the second VC in Neuve Chapple again in France, while the third VC was awarded to Lt WD Kenny posthumously in Waziristan in 1920. To honour the martyrs in the World War I, War Memorial at Lansdowne was unveiled on a suitable vantage point on the Armistice Day November 11, 1923 by Lord Rawlinson of Trent, the then Commander-in-Chief of India. It is located overlooking the Parade Ground and is one of the major attractions in Lansdowne. The regiment rendered yeoman service in World War II winning innumerable gallantry awards and Battle Honours. In the post – independence era, the Garhwalis have won numerous gallantry awards and honours notably being one Ashok Chakra (Naik Bhawani Datt Joshi in Operation Blue Star in June 1984 in Amritsar Posthumously) and four Maha Vir Chakras (MVCs) as under:-
    • Lieutenant-Colonel Kaman Singh, Indo-Pak War1948.
    • Lieutenant-Colonel B.M Bhattacharya, Sino- Indian War, 1962.
    • Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat (posthumous), Sino- Indian War, 1962.
    • Captain Chandranarayan Singh, Indo-Pak War, 1965.
    Bravery of the Bhulas (Garhwali soldiers called affectionately, meaning younger brothers), is sung as folk lore in the entire Uttarakhand. Every home of Uttarakhand has, directly or indirectly contributed to the Indian Armed Forces. The Regiment has 32 Battle Honours so far to its credit. 3 Garhwal Rifles has the distinction of winning 1 MVC, 18 Vir Chakras (Vr Cs), 1 Shaurya Chakra (SC) and 19 mentioned in dispatches (M in Ds) in a single operation in Tithwal Sector during 1947-48 War with Pakistan.

    Saga of 4 Garhwal Rifles in 1962 Sino-Indian War

    The incredible saga of 4 Garhwal Rifles (Nuranang) during 1962 War in Se La (Pass) is unparalleled in our military traditions and history. The Battalion was deployed in Tawang-Se La Jung Sector in the erstwhile North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA) under the command of Lt Col (later Maj Gen) BM Bhattacharya. On 17 November 1962, the Chinese attacked the Battalion three times but all these were repulsed with heavy casualties to the enemy. The Battalion on orders of withdrawal from Tawang captured one Chinese Medium Machine Gun (MMG) Post, a prisoner of war (POW) and numbers of Chinese weapons.

    One Company of this Battalion was holding the defence of Nuranang Bridge. The Chinese with heavy mortar and heavy artillery bombardment and MMG fire commenced their attack. Rifleman Jaswant Singh along with Trilok Singh and Gopal Singh volunteered to crawl up to the enemy MMG Post and destroy it. Against all odds with savage raw Garhwali courage, Jaswant crawled up to the Chinese bunker and jumped into the MMG pit. Out of the three Chinese soldiers, two had died due to grenade blasts by these dare devils, while the third was wounded and became POW but he managed to fire straight at Jaswant. The bullet hit him on his head and Jaswant sacrificed his life saving enormous casualties to his company. The captured Chinese MMG was later sent to the Brigade Head Quarters (HQ). Both the Commanding Officer and Jaswant were decorated with MVC. Besides, a number of Vr Cs and other gallantry awards were bestowed upon the Battalion including the Battle Honour “NURANANG”.

    A Myth-From a Rifleman to Baba of Jaswant Garh

    This was the incredible story of the late Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat of 4 Garhwal Rifles (4 Garh Rif), MVC in 1962 War in Sela (Tawang) in Arunachal Pradesh. But for the acts of bravery in Rezangla in Ladakh (13 Kumaon), Walong (6 Kumaon) and Sela (4 Garh Rif), both in the NEFA now called Arunachal Pradesh, there is nothing one would like to ever remember the shameful rout of the Indian Army. We all, the citizens and soldiers of the Indian Army wish it remains as one time aberration in our otherwise illustrious military history. Locally, the myth goes that Rawat held the enemy for 3 days with his raw indomitable raw Garhwali courage. With nothing to defend, bruised in body but not in spirits, he, finally savagely rushed last of his life, like a cornered wounded tiger, and snatched the enemy MMG. But while returning, he was fatally wounded on his head by the devastating enemy fire and martyred holding the captured Chinese gun in his hands. The country honoured brave heart late Rifleman Jaswant Singh with second highest gallantry award of MVC.
    On the serpentine road winding onto cold misty Himalayas towards Se La 4 Garh Rif erected ‘Mandir cum Memorial’ for their fallen legend Jaswant Singh Rawat, MVC appropriately named as ‘Jaswant Garh’. The memorial has a garlanded bronze bust of brave heart Garhwali Bhula Jaswant Singh, along with his portrait and belongings including the Army uniform, cap, watch and belt. All sorts of stories have been concocted and associated with this Immortal Mortal but in this description the truth of the battle has only been brought out to what had really happened on that bloody night of savage hand to hand battle. The bust is now installed in the Jaswant Garh Memorial. The unit posted around this area, proudly maintain the memorial and run a canteen to serve weary passengers with steaming tea, hot pakoras and samosas.

    The Jaswant Garh Memorial

    No one passes through Jaswant Garh without paying obeisance to this IMMORTAL MORTAL. The spirit of this great son of Garhwal stands tall to remind our countrymen the great deeds of sacrifices of the soldiers of Indian Army. Numerous stories have now been connected with Jaswant and the Jaswant Garh. The local fore goes that Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat never died and wanders and protects these lonesome hills as mystic Baba Jaswant Singh. His spirit wearing his army fatigues and balaclava (woolen head gear) still guards the bridge he defended. He is the local guardian diet for the troops deployed in this area. All defence personnel traveling on this treacherous lonely road stop to pay their homage to this legend at Jaswant Garh, failing, which the myth goes a deadly curse falls on the victim. Many vehicles go turtle meeting serious accidents around the Jaswant Garh whose drivers fail to pay their homage. No body, therefore, likes to challenge this myth because when it comes to spirits of the invisible martyrs guarding the loneliness of treacherous passes in the misty snow peaks, tough sand dunes in the heat of the desert, vastness of the sky above or roaring waves in the oceans, men in uniform like me, become always highly superstitious of these supernatural miracles. It is said that that the spirit of Jaswant now revered as ‘Mystic Baba’ does not let any troops deployed in this sector ever slacken. May his indomitable tribe increase in leaps and bound!
    Writing about the courage of the 4 Garhwal Rifles, both Lt Gen BM Kaul, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 4 Corps Commander and Brigadier John Parashuram Dalvi, Commander 7 Infantry Brigade had said:-
    “Had every one fought as the 4 Garhwal rifles did, the history of the NEFA would have been different”?

    Acknowledgements

    1. Lt Gen Dr MC Bhandari, PVSM, AVSM & Bar, D Litt, FIMA, former Colonel of the Regiment of Garhwal Rifles & Garhwal Scouts
    2. Google search -1962 war brave heart is Tawang deity and An Indian soldier lives even after death.
    3. euttranchal website for the photograph of the War Memorial at Lansdowne.

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