Flights Of Fantasy
[M Panging Pao]
Everyone travelling to Tawang pass Jaswantgarh, named after Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat of the 4 Garhwal Rifles, who was martyred on 17 November, 1962, in the famous Battle of Nuranang during 1962 the Sino-India war.
As per myth, during the 1962 Sino-India war, Jaswant Singh, Trilok Negi and Gopal Gusain refused to withdraw from their post even after their unit withdrew. Even after Negi and Gusain were killed, Jaswant did not leave his post. Jaswant positioned himself on a hill top and placed rifles to give an impression that a large force was behind him. With the help of two local girls, Sela and Nura, Jaswant Singh set up weapons at different spots and continued firing for three days. Thinking that a big force was firing at them, the Chinese army could not advance for 72 hours. Finally, the Chinese surrounded Jaswant Singh from all sides; Sela was captured and committed suicide, while Nura died in a grenade burst. There are various versions about Jaswant’s death; some say he shot himself before being captured, while another version is that he was caught and hanged.
Many locals and soldiers believe that Jaswant Singh is their guardian angel.
Even after death, Jaswant Singh was treated as if on duty and retired in 2002 with the rank of honourary captain. Jaswantgarh memorial has a statue of Jaswant Singh and his belongings, including uniform, cap, watch, belt, etc.
As per the real story, on 17 November, 1962, the Chinese attacked with two infantry battalions but were beaten back due to good defensive preparation and support weapons like light machine guns. However, during the fourth attack, Chinese deployed a medium machine gun (MMG) within 30 metres of the Indian bunkers.
Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi and Riflemen Jaswant Singh Rawat and Gopal Singh Gusain volunteered for the perilous task of destroying the MMG. They crawled to within 15 yards of the enemy MMG with grenades and, with supporting fire from Trilok Singh, Jaswant Singh and Gopal Singh charged the Chinese. Getting close to the Chinese MMG, they lobbed their grenades and Jaswant leapt into the post, snatched the MMG from the Chinese and ran back towards the trench. However, Trilok Singh was hit by enemy fire. Jaswant Singh with MMG in one hand was hit by a bullet in his head as he was about to reach the trench. Gopal Singh was also wounded but managed to reach the trench, dragging the MMG. This entire action took about 15 minutes, but the courage of these men changed the course of the battle, leading to many Chinese casualties.
Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra and Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi and Rifleman Gopal Singh Gusain were awarded Vir Chakras. Fact or fiction, Jaswantgarh has become a part of folklore and legend with a movie titled 72 Hours: Martyr Who Never Died made on this story in 2019. The nation needs a few gallant myths! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)