Heroes of 1962 war in Arunachal: Colonel Surinder Nath Tandon

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Many Arunachali old-timers recall the 1962 Indo-Chinese 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 Colonel Surinder Nath Tandon.

Just 24 years old, young 2nd Lieutenant Surinder Nath Tandon belonged to the 4 Garhwal Rifles and was the company commander of a company deployed between Jang and Nuranang in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh during the 1962 Sino-India war. During the second phase of the war, the 4 Garhwal Rifles was ordered to prepare delaying position at Nuranang in the role of covering troops for the main defences at Sela defended by ‘A’ Company led by Second Lieutenant SN Tandon.

On 17 November, 1962, the Chinese attacked with about two infantry battalions in three waves, but were beaten back due to good defensive preparation and support weapons like light machine guns. However, during the fourth attack, the Chinese deployed a medium machine gun (MMG) within 30 metres of the Indian bunkers. As their MMG started firing, Chinese attacks commenced again. Within seconds, the situation became desperate.

2nd Lieutenant Surinder Nath Tandon sensed the gravity of the situation and asked for volunteers to silence the MMG. Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi and Rifleman Gopal Singh Gusain volunteered for this perilous task. They crawled to within 15 yards of the enemy MMG and, with grenades and supporting gunfire from Trilok Singh, Jaswant Singh and Gopal Singh Gusain, 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 started running back towards the trench covered by Trilok Singh’s support fire. However, Trilok Singh was hit by enemy fire. Jaswant Singh, with the 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. The fifth the the sixth attacks by the Chinese were also repulsed. The entire operation cost the Chinese 300 dead and wounded, with few losses for the Garhwal Rifles.

Throughout the entire battle, Second Lieutenant SN Tandon 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, Second Lieutenant SN Tandon was awarded the third highest gallantry award of the nation, Vir Chakra. After the war, 2nd Lieutenant Tandon rose to the rank of a colonel and retired.

Salute to Colonel Surinder Nath Tandon! (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)