During our recent ride to Leh with the The Travelling Circus, owing to some unplanned adventure, we spent a night at the ITBP camp in Chushul.
The unplanned adventure turned out to be boon, thanks to the large heartedness of the soldiers and officers at the ITBP camp at Chushul. I will reserve that story for another time.
During the evening tea time with them, we were told a story of great bravery and valour, that left us filled with awe and pride.
This is the story of Battle of Rezang La.
Rezang La is a pass located in the remote Chushul valley of Ladakh region. It can be reached from Leh by driving through Chang La pass towards Pangong Tso and going past it, next to the lake.
During the 1962 Indo-China war, Rezang La saw one of the most glorious acts of military bravery, probably in the history of the world.
Rezang La was one of the crucial positions that India was defending against the Chinese onslaught. Stationed were the 120-125 odd soldiers of the 13th Kumaon Battalion. They were up against a 1000 strong Chinese army. The surrounding terrain isolated it from the rest of the battalion.
It was the end of a very cold winter night, with light snow falling. The icy winds howling through Rezang La were biting and numbing.
More than the thin air and cold, the location of Rezang La had a more serious drawback. It was separated from Indian artillery because of an intervening feature, which meant that they had to make without the protective comfort of the big guns.
The company at Rezang La, led by Major Shaitan Singh fought bravely. Singh displayed exemplary leadership and courage during the battle and led his troops by example. The 120 odd soldiers defended the post against the onslaught of 1000 odd Chinese, even resorting to hand to hand combat at one point.
In the end, 109 out of 123 Indian soldiers were killed defending the post. Chinese suffered casualties in 1000's. The post of Rezang La was defended successfully.
When I passed the memorial which is built at the location, I stopped my bike, bowed my head in silence. I was filled with awe, respect and gratitude towards these many unnamed brave soldiers who laid out their life defending our country - a country in which we live safely in our houses and cities.
I really wish this story reaches out to many. It's a story that needs to be told and remembered.