53 Years Ago, these 120 Men Saved Ladakh From China, only 6 survived to tell the tale
India hasn’t lost a lot of wars – which is why 1962 India-China war is essential because it hardened the resolve for India to create an army like no other.
Despite the fact that India lost the war, it made us realise how important it was to modernise our army and weaponry. The only thing that stood out though was the bravado of the Indian soldier – who fought to his last breath without weapons or back up often with his bare hands like in the case of Rezang La.
One such story was the legend of Jaswant Singh, the man who saved Arunachal Pradesh from the Chinese. Legend says he himself killed 300 Chinese Soldiers. Another, even lesser known story is that of the Battle of Rezang La.
The Greatest Last Stand Ever Taken
On November 18, 1962 on snow clad mountains of Chushul in Ladakh, took place the battle that is still considered to be one of the greatest last stands in the history of armed forces across the world.
The Charlie company of 120 jawans of 13 Kumaon led by Major Shaitan Singh was protecting Chushul airfield which was vital if India had to hold on to Ladakh.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of 5,000-6,000 soldiers equipped with heavy artillery support attacked Chushul early morning. And to make matters worse, a crest behind the ridge prevented Indian artillery from lending support, leaving the Jawans to fight for themselves.
A lesser army might have retreated, but the company led by commander Major Shaitan Singh fought till last man, last round and last breath. Legend says that the brave 120 killed close to 1,300 enemy soldiers. Only 6 of the 120 member company survived the war, 114 did not.
The remaining six were taken as Prisoners of War (POW) by Chinese; but all miraculously escaped. Out of these six heroes, only four are alive now.
The attack started at 03:30 in morning and soon Chushul got enveloped by heavy firing from Chinese. But the Indian soldier didn’t give up and kept retaliating with whatever means they had.
Major Shaitan Singh who was later awarded Parma Vir Chakra (PVR) for leading the company and showing valour beyond imagine always knew that they were fighting a lost battle. But he refused to surrender and led his men with unparalleled valour. The company was also awarded five Vir Chakras, and four Sena medals apart from the PVC awarded to the commander.
Honorary Captain Ramchander Yadav who was one of the six who battled with death and survived recalls that Chinese were ferocious in beginning. They kept attacking despite being repulsed twice. Soon the ammunition of Indian Soldiers finished and they decided to take the fight with bare hands.
Yadav recalls how Naik Ram Singh who was wrestler single-handedly killed many Chinese, he didn’t stop till he was shot in the head by the enemy. Yadav reached headquarters on November 19 and on 22 November was taken to army hospital in Jammu.
Later in 1964, Bollywood came out with Haqeeqat which was loosely based on battle of Rezang La. Although the movie correctly portrayed the valour of these 120 men, but it had many factual errors. The film’s song Kar Chale Hum Fida still wets our eyes every time we listen to it.
The Jawans came from the Ahirwal region of South Haryana’s Gurgaon, Rewari, Narnaul and Mahendragarh districts.
They fought till the last round and when ammunition forsook them, they fought with bare hands. At least the war memorial in Rewari and Gurgaon claim this, if not the Indian Army, as it bears the names of these 120 heroes of the country.
Yadav believes that he survived only to tell the story of 120 brave men who saved Ladakh from the Chinese. He’s fulfilled his destiny in doing this, but it remains to be seen if we remember it and tell the future generations about it.
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