Heroes of 1962 war in Arunachal: Lt Col BM Bhattacharjea

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 the 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 lieutenant colonel Bejoy Mohan Bhattacharjea.

Lt Col Bhattacharjea was commanding the 4 Garhwal Rifles which was deployed in the Tawang-Jang area of Arunachal during the 1962 Sino-Indian war. Under his command, the battalion fought a withdrawal action from Tawang-Jang on 25 October, 1962. Lt Col Bhattacharjea himself accompanied the first few patrols in the hostile area and his men recovered much arms and ammunitions left behind by the withdrawing forces. Under his leadership, the unit raided an enemy position and captured enemy prisoners also.

During the second phase of the war, on 17 November, 1962, when the enemy started a major offensive against the Sela position, the brunt of the attack was borne by Lt Col Bhattacharjea’s battalion. The enemy put in five successive attacks that day, but all the attacks were repulsed under his dynamic leadership. In desperation, the enemy attacked with larger forces and brought medium machine gun (MMG) fire on his flank and rear. He immediately sent out a party of volunteers of his unit, which destroyed the enemy position and captured the machine gun. On the night of 17/18 November, 1962, the battalion carried a successful withdrawal to Senge under the orders of brigade headquarters. Lt Col Bhattacharjea was in charge of the advanced guards and, though already tired, his men marched the whole night nonstop, covering a distance of 14 miles. When the forward troops came under sudden enemy fire from a ridge, Lt Col Bhattacharjea led his men gallantly and cleared the ridge area, but could not make further progress, owing to heavy enemy fire. Finally, running out of ammunition and facing much larger enemy forces, he and his troops were captured.

Throughout this period of over three weeks, Lt Col Bhattacharjea led his men bravely with great courage and determination, disregarding his own safety. For his gallant action and bravery, Lt Col Bejoy Mohan Bhattacharjea

was awarded the nation’s second highest gallantry award, the Maha Vir Chakra, and his unit, the 4 Garhwal Rifles, was awarded Battle Honours Nuranang. Later, Bejoy Mohan Bhattacharjea rose to the rank of major general and was awarded the Param Vishisth Sewa Medal. Salute to Lt Col Bejoy Mohan Bhattacharjea! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)