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 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 story of Second Havildar Kirpa Ram.
Havildar Kirpa Ram was posted to the 4 Sikh, which was inducted into Walong sector in the North East Frontier Agency in early October of 1962. Havildar Kirpa Ram was an equipment and boot repairer and therefore was officially a non-combatant. After the valiant attack and counter attack by the 6 Kumaon in the battle of Walong, the enemy forces engaged the main defences at Walong during the second phase of the war.
The Chinese forces launched a massive attack on the main defences held by the 4 Sikh and the 3/3 Gorkha Rifles. The defences of the 4 Sikh were attacked from higher ground from three directions. The forward companies were soon running out of ammunition, which had to be supplied from the logistics base. Anticipating this task, Havildar Kirpa Ram got weapons issued for his group of non-combatants and organized training capsules for them. He led these non-combatants-turned-soldiers to continuously supply ammunition to the forward companies. The battle was reaching its culmination and during night of 15 November, Kirpa Ram led another ammunition ferrying column to one of the forward companies. This time they were ambushed by a Chinese patrol. However, Kirpa Ram defended with gusto and his team broke through the ambush, but in so doing was wounded. Kirpa Ram, disregarding his injury, pressed on and delivered the ammunition to the forward company where heavy fighting was taking place. Instead of falling back to the logistic base, he stayed back to fight the battle. The company suffered heavy casualties and a decision was taken to withdraw. Kirpa Ram volunteered and stayed back with the rear party, mostly consisting of unit sportsmen, which was tasked to cover the withdrawal. As the rear party came under pressure and was running short of ammunition, Kirpa Ram led this team to counter attack the enemy. Led by him, the rear party came out of the trenches and engaged the Chinese with bayonets. But the odds were against them.
The entire rear party, including Kirpa Ram, was killed in action. This heroic action enabled the rest of the survivors of the company to get away. In the battle of Walong, apart from Kirpa Ram, the 4 Sikh sadly lost most of its sportsmen, which included five national level medallists.
Despite being a non-combatant, Havildar Kirpa Ram showed commendable courage and exemplary devotion to duty in this operation. For his exceptional courage, tenacity and gallantry during the war, Havildar Kirpa Ram was awarded the nation’s third highest gallantry award – Vir Chakra – a rare award for a non-combatant. Salute to Havildar Kirpa Ram! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)