Dehra 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, Vijay 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.