‘Nobody believed we had killed so many Chinese at Rezang La. Our commander called me crazy and warned that I could be court-martialled’
The battle of Rezang La was the only bright spot for India in the 1962 war with China. In this Walk the Talk with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24x7, Ramchander Yadav and Nihal Singh, two of the six soldiers who survived that battle, look back at the events of that icy November morning 50 years ago
It's sad that any time we talk about the India-China war of 1962, horrible words like debacle, disgrace, disaster come to our minds. This is the 50th anniversary of that war. It's a war that this country ideally would love to forget but cannot because it's etched in our memories as one of the saddest chapters of our independent history. And it's sadder still that because of that overwhelming sense of failure in that war, we tend to sometimes almost deliberately ignore the one chapter that I think is without parallel in modern post Second World War military history, the battle of Rezang La on November 18, 1962. I will give you a brief history. Charlie Company of a battalion called 13 Kumaon was divided in several platoons on one ridge of two kilometres, protecting the airfield of Chushul which was vital if India was to hold Ladakh. It was attacked on the morning of November 18 by maybe 5,000-6,000 Chinese with heavy artillery support. A crest behind this ridge prevented Indian artillery from being able to support these jawans. And what did these jawans do? They fought to last man, last round. That's an expression you hear in movies and read in war comics, but that is something that actually happened in the battle of Rezang La. Of the 120 men and officers of this Company, 114 died, five were taken prisoners as wounded—they all escaped—and one was sent back to tell the story of the battle to the rest of the world. And who sent him back? This Company's most remarkable commander, Major Shaitan Singh, who got a Param Vir Chakra for leading this battle. I am today in Rewari, the area from where these jawans came... It was a Kumaon battalion but this was an Ahir Company from Rewari in Haryana. With me are two of those six survivors—in fact, only four remain with us now—Honorary captain Ramchander Yadav and Havaldar Nihal Singh. So both of you were with Major Shaitan Singh?