Battle of Henkar – I
Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Many Arunachalee veterans and old-timers recall the 1962 Indo-Chinese conflict with fear and anger. It is a known fact that the Chinese forces entered deep into Arunachal Pradesh along many axes. The main axes of penetration by the Chinese forces were the Tawang-Bomdila-Rupa axis, the Taksing-Limeking axis, the Mechuka/Manigong-Tato axis, the Gelling-Tuting axis, and the Kibithoo-Walong axis. Though the Chinese forces penetrated without major opposition in most axes, many fierce battles were fought by a few units and small groups of soldiers; sometimes supported by local population. Many readers in Arunachal Pradesh and our country are not aware of these fierce battles fought by our brave soldiers; many of these brave soldiers remain unknown and unsung. In a series of articles about these localized battles of the 1962 Indo-China conflict, the attempt is to showcase these brave soldiers and their heroic exploits.
Henkar Post was located about 25 km north of Manigong in present West Siang district. Major PA Rege of 11 Assam Rifles was the officer commanding the troops positioned at the post for the defence of Manigong valley.
On the fateful day of 24 October, 1962, about 500 Chinese soldiers attacked Henkar post. Though greatly outnumbered, Henkar post, with a mere strength of 100 troops, fought back tenaciously. Under the leadership of Major PA Rege, the troops at Henkar post repulsed four enemy attacks. Major PA Rege and his company inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese troops. Ultimately, after fierce fighting, including hand-to-hand combat, the Chinese troops were forced to withdraw.
Major PA Rege and his soldiers successfully blocked the advance of the enemy for a considerable period, thereby keeping the lines of communication open for the main garrison. Throughout this operation, Major Rege displayed exemplary courage and leadership of the highest order. It was only after the orders from higher headquarters that the company left its location to take up defences at Manigong.
Major PA Rege played a pivotal role during the operation. For his outstanding leadership, gallantry, and complete disregard for his own safety, Major PA Rege was decorated with the Vir Chakra, the third highest gallantry award of the nation.
The battle of Henkar post has found mention in the golden pages of history for repulsing four enemy attacks during the 1962 Indo-China conflict. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)