REZANG –LA REVISITED 2021

November 19, 2021 5:08 PM

The Infantry battalions, under their courageous Commanding Officers caused severe attrition on the LTTE which led to occupation of the main towns across the Island and pushing the LTTE cadres to the jungles.

The defences were built by creating ‘sangars’ essentially piling up stones and rocks for protection. No overhead protection was possible due to a lack of resources. (Images Credit: Ministry of Defence)The defences were built by creating ‘sangars’ essentially piling up stones and rocks for protection. No overhead protection was possible due to a lack of resources. (Images Credit: Ministry of Defence)

By Lt Col Manoj K Channan

How can a man die better,
Then facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And temples of his gods.
To the sacred memory of
the heroes of Rezang-La
114 martyrs of 13 Kumaon
who fought
to the last man last round
against hordes of Chinese
on
18 November 1962.
Built by all ranks
13th Battalion the Kumaon Regiment

Quote on the War Memorial at Rezang La

On November 18th 2021 defence minister Rajnath Singh accompanied by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen CP Mohanty, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command Lieutenant General YK Joshi, led the Nation in paying homage to the Bravehearts of 13 Kumaon as a renovated Rezang La Memorial was inaugurated.

13 KUMAON was represented by veteran officers to include Brigadier RV Jatar (Retd) who had participated in the battle as a Captain; Major Shaitan Singh’s son Narpat Singh Bhati & the family of the then Commanding Officer of 13 KUMAON, Lt Col HS Dhingra and other veterans also attended the event and were felicitated.

Also present were the Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh RK Mathur, and Member of Parliament from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal.

Eastern Ladakh – Chushul

The Eastern Ladakh region and Chushul are known to a few who have been students of Military History or have been following the PLA intrusions along the Line of Actual Control in April 2020.

Rezang La and Rechin La are mountain passes on the ridgeline adjoining the Chushul Valley, which China claims as its border. India’s claimed border is further east, and it coincides with the border shown on most British and international maps before Indian independence. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) resulting from the 1962 Sino-Indian War coincides with the Chinese claim line in this region.

Importance of Battle of Rezang La

In 1962 the Indian Army was tasked to adopt a forward posture and despite the various shortages and lack of equipment, the Indian Army deployed.

The region is barren and is devoid of cover and the surface is hard. Temperatures during the day can cause sunburn and at night the chilling temperature requires arctic clothing.

The defences were built by creating ‘sangars’ essentially piling up stones and rocks for protection. No overhead protection was possible due to a lack of resources.

All stores were carried on a manpack basis.

In this epic battle, 120 men of Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon, heavily outnumbered, out-gunned and inadequately clothed for the harsh Ladakh winter, beat back repeated waves of the attacking Chinese.

Supreme Sacrifice

The leadership of the company commander, Major Shaitan Singh and his platoon commanders was exemplary, despite the odds and knowing in their hearts that they had no option but to blunt the Chinese attack and fight the last man last bullet. When they ran out of ammunition instead of taking the easy option of surrendering the men fixed bayonets on their rifles and charged the enemy to engage in a hand to hand combat, till each one of them perished.

When the bodies were recovered three months later, they were still holding their weapons. Signs of hand to hand engagement were visible as they were found out of their trenches; their bodies, carrying many bullet and bayonet wounds, were found lying a few yards ahead of their position.

13 KUMAON Charlie Company lost 114 soldiers of the total strength of 120 soldiers deployed, who made the supreme sacrifice, which is a testimony to their unmatched courage and indomitable grit. The bravery and strong resolve against all odds, heavy casualties inflicted on the PLA, which at a later date indicated the PLA lost 500 of their soldiers.

Defensive positions invariably fall unless they are reinforced and have adequate fire support to suppress the enemy attacks, unfortunately, none was available.

The display of steely tenacity deterred the enemy from making further forays into threatening the strategic Chushul airfield, to defend which the entire brigade was deployed. The Chinese declared a ceasefire three days later.

In recognition of their exceptional bravery, 12 gallantry awards were given to the Company, including the highest Param Vir Chakra for the Company Commander, Major Shaitan Singh. 13 Kumaon was awarded the Battle Honour Rezang La and the Charlie Company is officially called the Rezang La Company.

Courage and Grit

The Indian Army has never been short of courage, even though it lacked essential war-fighting equipment and stores in 1962, 1987, 1999 and 2020.

1987 – OP PAWAN

This display of raw courage was once again displayed on 10th October 1987, in a daring heliborne operation was displayed by the men of 13 Sikh Light Infantry and 10 SF was of the highest order, with large casualties 29 killed including one Officer and 6 Special Forces killed respectively.

The Infantry battalions, under their courageous Commanding Officers caused severe attrition on the LTTE which led to occupation of the main towns across the Island and pushing the LTTE cadres to the jungles.

1999 – OP VIJAY

Assaults along knife-edge ridgelines with the Pakistan Army well entrenched in bunkers with heavy machine guns inflicting heavy casualties, the Indian Army by its sheer grit and courage took each of the heights occupied by the Pakistan Army, without an all-out conflict declared and not crossing the line of control.

2020 – OP SNOW LEOPARD

In June 2020 at Galwan unarmed Bravehearts of the BIHAR regiment engaged the PLA in unarmed hand to hand combat, inflicted casualties on the PLA.

The official account of the 1962 conflict and others need to be declassified as other operations carried out by the Indian Defence Forces.

The Government has acknowledged the valour of the soldier’s sacrifice in 1962, now must equally acknowledge the bravery of its soldiers who fought in Sri Lanka and showed the same determination, tenacity and grit to engage and win against all odds.

A grateful Nation must continue to honour and remember all its Bravehearts and honour their kith and kin on their day of remembrance. Perhaps now we should nominate a day in which the Nation is led by its political leadership to pay homage for the supreme sacrifice of its Military.

(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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