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Army medic who treated PLA troops was brutally killed in clash, reveals new book

Updated on Aug 13, 2022 01:28 PM IST

India’s Most Fearless 3 captures disturbing battlefield scenes including how PLA killed a selfless Indian Army medic, tactics employed to throw Indian soldiers off balance, and terrifying conditions in which the two foes fought hand-to-hand till death

Naik Deepak Singh’s, Rekha, receives his Vir Chakra in 2021. (HT Photo)
By, New Delhi

Two years after a savage brawl between Indian and Chinese soldiers put Ladakh’s secluded Galwan Valley in a global spotlight, a new book has revealed details about the fighting -- thus far shrouded in secrecy -- by stringing together first-person accounts of what happened that fateful June night.

India’s Most Fearless 3: New Military Stories of Unimaginable Courage and Sacrifice, authored by HT’s Rahul Singh and India Today TV’s Shiv Aroor, captures disturbing battlefield scenes including how the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) brutally killed a selfless Indian Army medic who saved the lives of several wounded Chinese soldiers, the ferocity of the shock attack by the enemy, tactics employed by PLA to throw Indian soldiers off balance, and the terrifying conditions in which the two foes fought hand-to-hand till death.

Twenty Indian soldiers, including a colonel, were killed in the June 15 skirmish that stretched the India-China bilateral relationship to a breaking point, and the trust deficit it triggered still casts a shadow over the ongoing talks to resolve the border row in Ladakh.

China declared that only four of its soldiers were killed, but the book challenges the claim by narrating events that seek to establish that the Chinese were economical with the truth and used a torrent of propaganda and lies to hide their losses.

Published by Penguin Random House India, the book is set to release on August 15 and features the stories of some of India’s most fearless military personnel in their finest hours.

It documents the Galwan clash, for the first time, in the words of Indian soldiers who fought against extraordinary odds, heroically reversed the advance of a numerically superior and treacherous enemy, and lived to tell the story.

The Indian medic, Naik Deepak Singh, was posthumously awarded Vir Chakra, India’s third highest wartime honour, for saving the lives of more than 30 Indian soldiers. That he saved the lives of the enemy too was not known until now.

“We have a number for how many Indian lives Deepak saved, but we don’t have a number for how many Chinese men he saved that night,” the book quotes Colonel Ravi Kant, the man who was the second-in-command of 16 Bihar when the clash took place and took charge as commanding officer after Colonel B Santosh Babu was killed in action.

“All I can say is that many of the injured Chinese men who survived that night definitely have Naik Deepak to thank. They were practically abandoned by their forces, while this boy was tending to their wounds. We are trained to take life to protect the country. But what can be higher than saving lives?”

The book says as Naik Deepak tended to wounded Chinese soldiers, a rock came like a frisbee out of the mountainside, splintered on the ground next to him, a piece of it striking him on the forehead and knocking him back. An Indian major with a megaphone warned the Chinese angrily that they were targeting a medic administering first aid to injured PLA personnel, the authors write.

Naik Deepak refused to stop, despite being injured. According to men of 16 Bihar quoted in the book, the Chinese soldiers captured Deepak, used him to treat their injured personnel, then killed him.

Naik Deepak’s wife, Rekha, joined the Chennai-based Officers Training Academy in May 2022 and will be commissioned into the Indian Army as a lieutenant in 2023, joining a growing list of proud army wives who have chosen to follow in the footsteps of their husbands after they were killed in combat.

She wants to go to the Galwan Valley at least once to see where her husband honourably gave his life treating not just his own but also the enemy.

The book delves deep into the premeditated Chinese charge, how PLA intended to impose a heavy toll on outnumbered Indian soldiers and how the Chinese underestimated a hardy adversary.

“There were less than 400 of us. We would soon discover that the number of Chinese soldiers advancing towards us was maybe three times that. We had been fighting smaller numbers of Chinese for two hours before that. But this was their main force. The all-out assault that the Chinese side was launching against us,” the book quotes Havildar Dharamvir Kumar Singh as saying.

PLA charged without any regard for its own advance elements, say soldiers of 16 Bihar.

“It was like a stampede, and I would not be surprised if some of the Chinese men out front were trampled and injured. That was the intensity of the charge in the darkness. Our men were in smaller numbers, but we were ready,” says Colonel Ravi Kant in the book.

The PLA men were very well equipped, in padded riot gear and helmets, wielding batons fitted with LED incapacitators --- devices that emit sudden bursts of flashing light to stun a person in the darkness and temporarily debilitate them.

The first-hand accounts of the Indian soldiers expose Beijing’s claims on PLA casualties.

“They carried carbon fibre shields which also had that bright flashing light. They would flash that in the dark, and the beam would blind you. That was what they did before the final charge,” says Havildar Dharamvir.

The first-hand accounts of the Indian soldiers expose Beijing’s claims on PLA casualties. The battlefield was littered with dead Chinese soldiers, and through the night, the injured Chinese soldiers were pulled out of the area and taken to PLA positions in the rear, the authors write.

Indian soldiers were instructed to stay away from the PLA’s dead.

“Since the time we had assembled in the area in the morning (June 16), we had spotted dead bodies of several Chinese soldiers lying around. Our orders were not to touch them, as the Chinese were expected to retrieve them later,”says Havildar Dharamvir.

One of the men involved in the fiercest combat that night was Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren, also posthumously awarded Vir Chakra. Soldiers who fought alongside him still remember his determined screams as he charged against the enemy.

“There was no stopping him. Naib Subedar Soren fought bravely against the Chinese despite suffering serious injuries. He said PLA had to be pushed back at any cost. Soren saab motivated us so much that we thrashed the Chinese soldiers with even greater zeal,” a soldier from 16 Bihar recounts in the book.

A few feet up the mountainside from where Soren’s body was found was a rocky ledge where an Indian search party spotted a rudimentary catapult system that was used to launch rocks at the Indian Army, the authors write.

On Republic Day 2021, Naik Deepak, Naib Subedar Soren, Havildar K Palani and Sepoy Gurtej Singh were posthumously honoured with Vir Chakra. Havildar Tejinder Singh, an artillery soldier who fought fiercely and survived with injuries, also received a Vir Chakra. Colonel Santosh Babu was bestowed with Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), the country’s second-highest wartime honour.

The choice of medals -- wartime decorations, as opposed to the peacetime Shaurya Chakra and Kirti Chakra awards -- was a message from the Indian Army and government that the situation in Ladakh was being formally regarded as a live conflict between the two countries.

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