Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Many Arunachalee veterans and old timers recall the 1962 Sino-India 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, the Taksing-Limeking, the Mechuka/Manigong-Tato, the Gelling-Tuting and the Kibithoo-Walong axes. However, some fierce battles were fought in the Walong-Kibithoo area of present day Anjaw district.
During the war, the 6 Kumaon was the only unit of the Indian Army to launch a counterattack on the Chinese forces with limited resources and inferior weapons but unlimited ferocity and aggression. Under the command of lieutenant colonel CN Madiah, the 6 Kumaon fought the Chinese forces at Kibithoo and Walong with astounding bravery.
The enemy forces had occupied Yellow Pimple, Green Pimple and other dominating heights to outflank the defences at Walong. The 6 Kumaon was ordered to counterattack and evict the enemy from these features. The heroic battle commenced on 14 November, 1962, when the fearless Kumaoni soldiers attacked the Chinese forces without adequate fire support. The fierce attack continued the whole day against heavy Chinese resistance who were supported by artillery firepower. After running out of bullets, the Kumaoni soldiers attacked the enemy with bayonets and engaged in hand-to-hand combat, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. To reclaim the lost ground, the Chinese counterattacked in waves with superior forces during the night of 14/15 November. The ‘ding dong’ battle raged throughout the night. The enemy suffered very heavy losses and eventually succeeded as there were no able bodied Kumaonis left to defend.
During the intense battle for Walong and Kibithoo, the 6 Kumaon had 391 casualties, including 115 killed, 109 wounded and 167 taken prisoners of war.
As per reports, the Chinese suffered 752 casualties, including 198 killed and 554 wounded. For their tenacity and bravery, major PN Bhatia, captain RK Mathur, captain BC Chopra, second lieutenant AS Khatri and naik Bahadur Singh were awarded Vir Chakras.
However, there were unsung heroes during the war, like lieutenant Bikram Singh, who led his company of 6 Kumaon gallantly in both phases of the war. On 16 November, over 3,000 enemy forces attacked West Ridge, held by Bikram and his company of 100 odd soldiers. Its fall would allow the Chinese to overrun Walong. He was ordered to hold the post for half an hour. However, showing tenacity and valour, his troops held off the enemy attack for more than three hours. Under his leadership, the men fought until all of their ammunition was exhausted and they were completely overrun. There appeared to be no survivors of the battle, including lieutenant Bikram Singh.
The 6 Kumaon’s ferocity and tenacity in the battle of Walong has found its mention in the golden pages of history during the 1962 Indo-China conflict. Salute to the patriots! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)