Heroes of 1962 war & Olympics double gold medallist Lt Col Haripal Kaushik

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Many Arunachali old-timers recall the 1962 Sino-India conflict with fear and anger. The Chinese forces entered deep into Arunachal Pradesh 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 Haripal Kaushik, who was also an achiever in the field of sports.

Lt Haripal Kaushik belonged to the 1 Sikh Regiment and his unit was deployed in Bumla area, north of Tawang, during the Sino-India war of 1962. Lt Haripal Kaushak was commanding a company holding the Tongpengla position along the Sino-India border. At 5 am on 23 October, 1962, the Chinese started attacking with a regiment on the Bumla axis with the intention of breaking through to Tawang. His company’s position was first attacked by a Chinese battalion, but the attack was repulsed, with heavy losses, by his forward platoon.

After the fall of the forward platoon, a second enemy battalion attacked on a wide front, trying to overrun the company position. Lieutenant Kaushik moved from one section position to another under enemy fire, encouraging his troops. He was a source of inspiration to his men, who continued to fight with great determination under his leadership.

Eventually, when under heavy enemy pressure, he was ordered to withdraw; he handled the withdrawal skilfully and managed to pull out all his personnel and weapons, including heavy mortars and medium machine guns.

Throughout the entire battle, Lieutenant Haripal Kaushik 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, Lieutenant Haripal Kaushik was awarded the third highest gallantry award of the nation, Vir Chakra. After the war, he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

What is known to very few people is that Lt Col Haripal Kaushik was an Olympics gold medalist in hockey in the 1956 Olympics and a silver medallist in the 1960 Olympics, much before the Sino-Indian war. Even after the Sino-Indian war, Lt Col Kaushik won another gold medal in hockey in the 1964 Olympics. He won gold medal in the Asian Games, 1966, and was awarded Arjuna Award for excellence in sports in 1998.

Such was the versatility of Lt Col Haripal Kaushik that he was a decorated war hero (Vir Chakra), double Olympics gold medallist, Asian Games gold medallist and Arjuna Awardee. Salute to Lieutenant Colonel Haripal Kaushik! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)