Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Many Arunachalee old timers recall the 1962 Sino-India 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 the fierce battles fought by our brave soldiers. One such story is the story of Captain Prem Nath Bhatia.
During the 1962 Sino-India war Captain Prem Nath Bhatia was deployed at a forward observation post immediately behind the leading companies of his unit in Walong sector of Anjaw district of Arunachal, which had made a counterattack on the Chinese forces on 14 November, 1962. On 15 November, the enemy forces launched a fierce counterattack. The forward companies were forced to withdraw, but Captain Bhatia, instead of falling back, remained in the observation post steadfastly. He had only four soldiers and a light machine gun with him. When the enemy forces approached the position, he opened fire on them and inflicted heavy casualties. The enemy repeatedly tried to break through his position but due to the tenacity displayed by him and his few men, did not succeed in advancing, except at a slow pace.
Exposing himself to enemy fire, Captain Bhatia kept moving from flank to flank, taking the light machine gun and personally directing its fire. When one of his men was wounded, Captain Bhatia took his place and fed ammunition into the gun to continue firing at enemy forces. It was due to his leadership and gallantry that his men fought gallantly for several hours against heavy odds and delayed the advance of the enemy. Finally, Captain Bhatia was evacuated only after he had been seriously wounded by a grenade.
For his exceptional courage, tenacity and gallantry during the war, Captain Prem Nath Bhatia was awarded the nation’s third highest gallantry award, Vir Chakra. After the war, Prem was air evacuated to the military hospital in Lucknow, where he was operated upon and 28 splinters were removed from his chest. During his sick leave, a special investiture was held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he was decorated with Vir Chakra.
Almost three years after the war, Captain Bhatia was killed in an unfortunate road accident in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, after completion of staff course. However, the tradition continued as Captain Prem Nath Bhatia’s son got commissioned as an officer in his father’s regiment, the 6 Kumaon, in 1983. Salute to Captain Prem Nath Bhatia! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)