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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

The Battle of Rezang La

Mandeep Singh Bajwa, Hindustan Times   November 27, 2012
First Published: 10:28 IST(27/11/2012) | Last Updated: 10:30 IST(27/11/2012)

The valiant stand of Major Shaitan Singh and the Ahirs of Charlie Company, 13 Kumaon, at Rezang La will forever stand etched in letters of gold in the annals of great acts of heroism in world history.

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Located on the Chinese claim line at a height of 5,180 metres, Rezang La was a massive feature consisting of a pass and a ridge - some two kilometres long. 'C' Company's defences were linear in nature and lacked depth because of the nature of ground to be defended though some provision for depth had been made within platoons.

The position was isolated from the main Spanggur Gap complex of defences and the Ahirs had to fight their battle without artillery support. Scarcity of mines meant that they were diverted to other more important localities. A measure of overhead protection was provided for command posts down to platoon level as well as machine gun trenches. What the defenders of Rezang Ls possessed in ample measure were stout hearts and the all-important will to fight.

Major Shaitan Singh, a Bhati Rajput from Banasar, Rajasthan (renamed Shaitan Singh Nagar in his honour) was initially commissioned in Durga Horse, a unit of the Jodhpur State Forces in 1949, and shifted to the Kumaon Regiment after the merger of princely states. He was a solemn, serious-minded professional, a solid officer of substance who could be depended upon in a crisis. Identifying fully with his men, he radiated confidence and took keen interest in their training and welfare.

Brigadier Raina, the brigade commander and his CO, Colonel Hari Dhingra, had impressed upon him the importance of holding on to Rezang La since it controlled access to the defences protecting the ground of tactical importance as well as the road linking the other end of the brigade defended sector. The infantry's battle ethos of fighting to 'the last man, last round' was conveyed to him in a more subtle manner. Shaitan Singh and his men did not let them down.

While laying down their own lives they inflicted possibly the highest casualties of the war upon the Chinese. The battle of Rezang La was arguably the finest moment for the Indian Army in the 1962 war.

Results of Air Defence promotion board
The results of No 2 Selection Board held some time back in respect of officers of the Corps of Army Air Defence were declassified on November 20. Colonels Pitanjali Rahul, Sanjay Sethi, Rajeev Srivastava, Sajeev Jose and Colonel S Mohan, SM of the 1986 Batch, have been approved for promotion to the rank of Brigadier. Felicitations to all of them.

Tensions within the ranks
All recent incidents involving officers and men have been immediately dubbed as stemming from the vexed batmen issue, whether in 45 Cavalry, 226 Field Regiment, 16th Cavalry or the very recent 56 Armoured Regiment. However, mature consideration and due inquiries have revealed quite something else. In such a situation, it is always better to wait for the report of the inquiry ordered by the Army authorities and then come to any firm conclusion.

I must say however that there are no menial duties in the Army. It's quite usual to find officers maintaining armoured vehicles or NCOs cleaning latrines. The Army's own internal systems are vibrant enough to deal with such stresses and strains and must be given enough time and leeway to do so.

The IAF in Ladakh
That the IAF is the lifeline of troops deployed in Ladakh is as true today as it was in 1962. No account of that war can be complete without paying tribute to the courage, professionalism and devotion to duty of the pilots, flight crew, technical and administrative staff of the Air Force's transport and helicopter squadrons, particularly those located at Pathankot, Srinagar, Chandigarh, Ambala and Leh. Landings were made at very rudimentary landing grounds in Ladakh with the barest possible facilities or none at all.

Air Vice Marshal EW Pinto and Wing Commander (later Air Marshal) Lal Singh Grewal successfully landed the first Fairchild Packet aircraft at Chushul (3,965 metres) in 1960 despite the manufacturers' misgivings. Squadron Leader CKS Raje was awarded the Vir Chakra in 1962 for setting a record for the world's highest aircraft landing at the improvised airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldi (elevation 5,100 metres).

Wing Commander Chandan Singh, later to win both the Maha Vir Chakra and Vir Chakra and retire as an Air Vice Marshal, was the pioneer in landing AMX-13 tanks at Chushul using a great deal of improvisation. The Leh based Mi-4 helicopter flight did yeomen service in casualty evacuation, supply, meeting emergency requirements of isolated posts and relief of troops. These pioneering efforts are something the IAF can be justly proud of.

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