50 years after war, Defence Ministry to honour 62 dead

For years, successive governments have chosen to ignore the anniversary of the 1962 war with China. But 50 years after the forgettable war, the defence establishment will finally hold a function to honour martyrs who laid down their lives for the nation and soldiers who took part in the battle.

In a first, a formal function will be organised Saturday, the day hostilities on the India-China border began 50 years ago, wreaths will be laid by top military leadership to honour those who took part in the war.

The function will be led by Defence Minister A K Antony, who will pay his respects followed by the three Services Chiefs. The only living five-star General, Field Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, will also lay a wreath on the occasion.

For years, the ministry had chosen to ignore the war, given the ignominious defeat suffered by troops in the Northeast, where, as reported by this newspaper, the 4th division literally rolled back under the brunt of a Chinese assault.

"The function on Saturday will be the first time that the anniversary of the war will be commemorated. There is no record of any such function to mark the occasion in the past 50 years," a Defence Ministry official said.

While the retreat of the 4th division is seen as the low point of the 1962 conflict, there were examples of bravery and valour during the war, many notably in the Ladakh sector where troops under the then Western Command put up a spirited defence.

The battle of Rezang La, for example, where an entire company of the 13 Kumaon Regiment led by Major Shaitan Singh perished while stopping a strong Chinese attack has entered military record books.

Besides the function at India Gate, a series of smaller events are planned over the next few weeks to mark the war. One of particular interest is a function in Kota, organised by the 13 Kumaon regiment next month, in which survivors and heroes of the battle will be honoured.

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