Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Many Arunachalee old-timers recall the 1962 Indo-Chinese conflict with fear and anger. The Chinese forces entered deep into Arunachal Pradesh along many axes like Taksing-Limeking, Mechuka/Manigong-Tato, Gelling-Tuting, Kibithoo-Walong axes, and the main Tawang-Bomdila-Rupa axis. Many readers are not aware of fierce battles fought by our brave soldiers. One such story is the epic Battle of Nuranang.
During the war, the 4 Garhwal Rifles was ordered to prepare delaying position at Nuranang (now called Jaswant Garh) in the role of covering troops for the main defenses at Sela. ‘A’ Company was deployed left of the Sela-Jang road, and was led by Second Lieutenant SN Tandon.
On 17 November, 1962, the Chinese attacked with about two infantry battalions in three waves, but were beaten back due to good defensive preparation and support weapons like light machine guns (LMG). However, during the fourth attack, the Chinese deployed a medium machine gun (MMG) within 30 m of the Indian bunkers. As their MMG started firing, Chinese attacks commenced again. Within seconds, the situation became desperate.
2nd Lt Tandon sensed the gravity of situation, and asked for volunteers to silence the MMG. Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi, Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat and Rifleman Gopal Singh Gusain volunteered for this perilous task. They crawled to within 15 yards of the enemy MMG and, with grenades and supporting gunfire from Trilok Singh, Jaswant Singh and Gopal Singh Gusain charged the Chinese.
Getting close to the Chinese MMG, they lobbed their grenades and Jaswant leapt into the post, snatched the MMG from the Chinese, and started running back towards the trench covered by Trilok Singh’s support fire. However, Trilok Singh was hit by enemy fire. Jaswant Singh, with the MMG in one hand, was hit by a bullet in his head as he was about to reach the trench. Gopal Singh was also wounded but managed to reach the trench, dragging the MMG. This entire action took about 15 minutes, but the courage of these men changed the course of the battle.
The fifth and sixth attacks by the Chinese were also repulsed. The entire operation cost the Chinese 300 dead and wounded, with few losses to the Garhwal Rifles.
The 4 Garhwal Rifles was awarded the Battle Honour Nuranang, the only battle honour awarded to any army unit in the 1962 war. Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra and Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi and Rifleman Gopal Singh Gusain were awarded Vir Chakra.
Today, Jaswant Garh has become a legendry tourist spot. Locals have created a myth around the battle of Jaswant Garh, crediting the resistance and heroic action only to Jaswant Singh and two young girls, Nura and Sela, who helped him resist the Chinese. Local folklore has it that the Chinese finally captured Jaswant Singh and beheaded him, taking his head away as trophy – such is the epic saga of the Battle of Nuranang and Jaswant Garh! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)