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The 1962 Rezang La Battle


“There is no war that will end all wars.”

On the 20th of October in the year 1962, the Chinese attacked the Indian border along the North-East Frontier Agency and Ladakh. This came to be what we know today as the Indo-Sino War. 

After the declaration of Independence by the Republic of India and the formation of the People’s Republic of China, the Indian government formulated a policy of maintaining cordial and peaceful relationships with China. China announced that it will be occupying Tibet, but India continued to remain true to its policy of peace with China. In the following months, the China map included about 1,20,000 square kilometres of India as their territory. Thus the tensions between the two nations escalated greatly. 

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After the clash between the two armies at Kangka Pass, India decided it was not ready for war with China. 

In November 1962, at about 3:30 am, clashes occurred at the Rezang La pass at Chusul Valley.  Charlie Company under Major Shaitan Singh, a Bhati Rajput from Jodhpur, was present there. On this night, Naik Hukam Singh noticed a huge body of men heading towards them. The commanders and other platoons in the Rezang La valley were alerted and an open fire took place, causing heavy casualties on the opponent’s end. The Ahirs attacked the opponents with their full will and force. The valley was soon filled with dead and wounded Chinese soldiers. They were forced to go to the ground. However, the enemy did not back down. Major Shaitan Singh, despite being wounded himself, travelled from trench to trench in order to motivate his team. Naik Hukam Singh ran out of ammunition and thus had to engage in a hand-to-hand fight before he was shot dead. The fight was unfair as the defence was crested on the forward slope of the Rezang La. The number of Indian men was only about 120 whereas the Chinese soldiers were about 5000 in number. The artillery fire was not completely successful in breaking the Chinese assault. The night turned into the day but the fight continued. Naik Ram Kumar had his nose blown off by a hand grenade and suffered eight bullet wounds. He escaped from Chinese custody and returned to the battalion. 

Charlie Company held up their front until the last soldier took his last breath. The army was equipped with ammunition from the ages of World War II and was facing the enemy in bone-chilling cold weather with summer clothing. With both of his platoons wiped out, Major Shaitan Singh joined platoon no. 9, and then was martyred in machine gunfire shortly after. On this dark night, many Indian soldiers were martyred. They held up bravely in those adverse conditions and did not give up. The company suffered 114 casualties. This incidence happened to be a turning point in the 1962 Indo-Sino war. 

A monument was erected in memory of the 13 Kumaon of the Charlie Company. 

It reads, “How can a man die better/
Than facing fearful odds/
For the ashes of his fathers/ 
And the temples of his gods.” 

Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon, in five long hours of the battle of Rezang La during the 1962 war with China, won one Param Vir Chakra, eight Vir Chakras and four Sena Medals for gallantry. This is a performance unmatched in the Indian armed forces to this day. We pay tribute to and respect these brave hearts who sacrificed their lives to protect the nation and our security.