The Virgin Beauty – Arunachal Pradesh Part 7
Travel Dreams Archive
The Virgin Beauty – Arunachal Pradesh Part 7
3 days passed away in a whisker. Soon it was time to bid adieu to Tawang. In the backs of our mind was Sela Pass once again. This time we took enough food and water with us and hired an additional Sumo (charging us Rs.3500) to go down to our next destination, Bomdilla. We left early as we had plans to have breakfast in Jung and visit Jaswant Garh, 14 Kms before Sela pass and then continue for the longest trip of the tour – 180Km. In the plains, this would not be a huge distance, but here we were travelling in the Himalayas, down to Dirang and then up to Bomdilla. We risked this distance as this was our return trip and the team was well acclimatised to the conditions that was no longer alien to us. The weather was sunny and cold and visibility too was grand.
Jaswant Garh houses a Memorial raised to pay homage to RFN Jaswant Singh Rawat (Mahavir Chakra, Posthumous), LNK Trilok Singh Negi (Vir Chakra, Posthumous) and RFN Gopal Singh Gusain (Mahavir Chakra) of the 4th Garwal Rifles. A marble plaque commemorates him and 161 other men of his battalion who died in the battle of Nuranang, which was awarded to Garhwal Rifles as a battle honor. This is a place where patriotic emotions of all Indians find a natural expression. In the battle of Nuranang in 1962 during the Chinese aggression, these brave sons of the country showed unmatched valour by fighting with most basic arms and grenades and holding the invading Chinese for 72 hours, before they met the martyr’s end.
On 17 November the battalion was subjected to repeated Chinese assaults. A Chinese medium machine gun (MMG) located at a vantage point close to the A company lines was proving to be a dangerous menace. Jaswant, Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi and RFN Gopal Singh Gusain went after the Chinese MMG and after approaching within 12 metres threw grenades at the bunker and charged it, killing a number of Chinese and capturing the MMG. Jaswant took the MMG and began crawling back towards the Indian lines but he and Trilok were fatally hit by Chinese automatic fire when nearing safety. Gopal Gusain was wounded but managed to drag the MMG into the Indian post. This turned the course of the battle and the Chinese retreated, leaving some 300 dead behind.
A popular and widely-disseminated local story goes as follows: It was the final phase of the Sino-Indian War in November 1962. Even as his company was asked to fall back, Jaswant Singh remained at his post at an altitude of 10,000 feet and held back Chinese soldiers for three days assisted by two local Monpa girls named Sela and Nura. They set up weapons at separated spots and maintained a volume of fire that made the Chinese think they were opposed by a body of troops. Finally the Chinese captured the man who was supplying rations to Jaswant and he revealed to them that they were opposed by only one man. They attacked in force, Sela died in a grenade burst, Nura was captured and Jaswant supposedly shot himself with his last cartridge when he realized that he was about to be captured. It is alleged that the Chinese cut off Jaswant Singh’s head and took it back to China. However, after the ceasefire, the Chinese commander, impressed by the soldier’s bravery, returned the head along with a brass bust of Jaswant Singh. The bust, created in China to honor the brave Indian soldier, is now installed at the site of the battle.
Jaswant Singh’s saga of valor and sacrifice continues to serve as an inspiration to all army personnel posted in this sector. He has become a ‘Baba’, a saint. Jaswant is treated as if he is alive, his boots shined and his uniform and accoutrements cared for by Army personnel posted at the shrine. He has received all his promotions in time, and has reached the rank of Honorary Captain. He is a source of inspiration to his fellow Rajputs in the region of Uttaranchal.
Amidst the extreme conditions and picturesque surroundings this heavily guarded memorial is a place where you will be able to find peace. This is a must see place for all tourists visiting Tawang.
We continued our upward journey towards Sela. This time the picture was different and a sharp contrast to the Sela we knew 3 days back. The road was empty with hardly any vehicles to be seen. It was cold and filled with snow. We went up to Sela top and took a halt to walk down to the Paradise Lake (or Sela Lake). The lake was frozen and it looked like a huge circle made of ice. After clicking some pictures we moved on. The view from Sela top left us flummoxed. On the Tawang side of the mountain, it was sunny with excellent visibility. On the other side there were dense clouds and nothing could be seen. We descended through the thick clouds. The humid conditions amidst extreme cold were rather annoying.