Heroes of 1962 war in Arunachal: Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal

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 fierce battles fought by our brave soldiers. One such story is the story of Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal.

Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal belonged to the 1/9 Gurkha Rifles and his unit was deployed in Tsangdhar area near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh during the Sino-India war of 1962. On 20 October, 1962, the Chinese forces launched a fierce attack on the positions held by the company under Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal. His company fought back the Chinese forces and drove back wave after wave of Chinese attackers. To inspire his men, Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal moved from bunker to bunker, motivating them despite enemy fire. Under his leadership, many of his soldiers engaged the enemy in close combat also. His courage boosted the morale of his men who fought gallantly and repulsed repeated enemy attacks. However, in the intense battle, Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal was wounded by enemy fire.

Despite being injured, in the early morning of 21 October, he decided to advance to position Karpo La with the 15 odd men he had with him. The Chinese had placed a medium machine gun to block the path and prevent our soldiers from using a strategic pass to withdraw. But Bhab Bahadur was not deterred. He and his men charged the machine gun site to silence the machine gun; the other Gurkhas hiding below the dropping zone heard their war cries loud and clear. After an intense battle that lasted for a long time, nothing more was heard of Bhab Bahadur and his men. They were either killed fighting or taken prisoner.

Throughout the entire battle, Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal displayed the highest sense of duty, leadership and courage in the best traditions of the army. For his exceptional courage, tenacity and gallantry during the war, Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal was awarded the third highest gallantry award of the nation, Vir Chakra. Salute to Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)