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 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 Major Gurdial Singh.
Major Gurdial Singh hailed from Chandigarh; he belonged to 2 Rajput and his unit was deployed at Bridge 4 in the area north of Tawang town in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh during the Sino-India war of 1962.
The Sino-India war started on 20 October, 1962, with a massive multi-frontal, multi-directional attack by Chinese forces, including on the positions held by 2 Rajput. As second in command, Major Gurdial Singh was in charge of battalion headquarters area. The first few waves of Chinese attacks were repulsed by Major Gurdial Singh and the soldiers of 2 Rajput. However, the battalion headquarters came under heavy mortar and machine gun attack. Major Gurdial, rallied his men to fight back the enemy forces. The enemy forces were attacking from uphill positions and were thus at an advantage. Considering the precarious position, he set the Vickers machine gun around to face uphill and engaged the enemy forces.
Meanwhile, the now depleted Charlie Company and the battalion headquarters had held off two major Chinese attacks. However, the Chinese forces kept attacking in a third wave with superior numbers from the south and south west. With Major Gurdial rallying them, the troops desperately fought back, even engaging in manual combat with bayonets. However, facing superior enemy forces and dwindling ammunition, their position was soon overrun and Major Gurdial Singh and his troops were overpowered, captured and taken as prisoners of war.
Throughout the entire battle, Major Gurdial Singh 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, Major Gurdial Singh was awarded the second highest gallantry award of the nation, Maha Vir Chakra. Later, Major Gurdial Singh was repatriated after the war and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and retired. Salute to Lieutenant Colonel Gurdial Singh! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)