ITANAGAR: Ninety-year old Leela Devi, mother of martyr rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, would go down the annals of history when she would lead the unique event ‘Sharhad ko Swaranajali’ at a function to be organised at Indira Gandhi Park here on November 24.
Devi, accompanied by her relatives Vijay Singh Rawat, 58, Madhubala, 47, and Amit Rawat, 23, would arrive here on November 24 from Dehradun. They would fly to Guwahati and in a special helicopter brought to Itanagar, according to organising committee President Kipa Babu.
Every word of the proud mother would send a louder message for the soldiers serving the motherland in harshest conditions along the Indo-China border and boost their morale to continue their duty. It would be rarest occasion when the mother salutes her brave son who had sacrificed his life 51 years ago.
Besides the proud mother of Rawat, who had changed the course of 1962 Chinese aggression by halting the advance of Chinese soldiers for 72 hours before sacrificing his life, Shaktiman fame Mukesh Khanna, Lt Gen (retd) GM Patil, who was posted in Tawang during the war, flutists Rajendra Prasanna and Pandit Ketan Joshi, ‘Chanaykya’ serial producer Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, Hindustani classical exponent Shri Nagraj Havaldar, Shri Dagar Bandhu Nasiffudin & Hanifuddin, painter & singer Baba Satya Narayan Maurya, Manipuri bamboo dance expert Gauri Kishore Sarma, Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari, world-known portrait expert Basudev Kamat and cine artist Pranjal Saikia, 600 representatives from seven NE states, about 10,000 locals including 400 dancers and singers of host state would take part in the mega event to begin at 10.30 am to pay rich tributes to the brave hearts who had sacrificed their lives while guarding the frontier.
Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon, the chorus by 10,000 students would fill the air besides numerous patriotic programmes as part of the event, organised by Sanskar Bhrati Poorvottar.
Like Jaswant, Maj Shaitan Singh and subedar Joginder Singh were conferred Param Veer Chakra for unparalleled heroism while fighting at Rejang La and Bum La respectively. Jaswant Garh stands tall between Se La pass and Jang along the Bhalukpong-Tawang road as a testimony to his saga of valour for which he won Maha Vir Chakra posthumously at the Battle of Nuranang.
Locals claim that when the Indian troops retreated from Nurangang, Rawat (No 4039009 of the 4th Garhwal Rifles Bn) was the only solider who refused to buzz from his post. With the help of local girls, Sela and Nura, he managed to stave off the enemy advance for 72 hours.
Located at an advantageous position on a hilltop overlooking the two river valleys, Rawat positioned himself in a long trench with guns and enough ammunition. He kept crawling from one end to another firing at the enemy from one point after the other. The Chinese realised that the Indian Army had retreated after the girls’ father betrayed Rawat. The invaders in local outfits surrounded his position and captured him. He was tied to a tree with a telephone wire and beheaded. Sela escaped and jumped off a hill top. The place later came to be known as Sela Pass. Nura was captured and taken away by the invaders.
Jagjit Prasad Jain, who died in December 2009, after serving the state for 59 years since 1950, had set up PJ Canteen at Kimin to supply PDS items to inaccessible areas. Damodar Sarma was manager of his canteen at Jang in Tawang district. Despite the order to close down the canteen, Sarma stayed back and heed himself behind the huge stock of rice bags. Sela and Nura had informed Sarma that the Chinese had tied Rawat to a post and killed him before proceeding towards Bomdila. Sarma, who saw the mortal remains of Rawat, had narrated his experience to Jain, who had explained this to this writer before his death.
While the Army’s official version significantly differs, but legend has it that the Chinese troops after killing Rawat beheaded him and carried his head as a trophy after he had stood alone against them, firing from a 303 rifle. After the ceasefire, the Chinese commander, impressed by Rawat’s bravery, returned the head along with a brass bust of the gallant soldier. The bust is now installed at the site of the battle. He retired as honourary captain in 2002.
It was in December 1962, India’s cultural icon Dr Bhupen Hazarika shocked from the human tragedy caused by the war after visiting Chakoo, Rupa and Bomdila had written his famous heart touching number: Kata juwanar mrityu hol (Grieving about the soldiers killed by the enemies) at Bomdila circuit house.
Jaswant has now become a ‘Baba’, a saint. A small temple was built at the spot where he fought, with a bust of his and many of his personal effects. A marble plaque commemorates him and 161 other men of his battalion who died in the battle. Indian Army personnel irrespective of rank passing by this route pay their respects there without fail. Jaswant is treated as if he is alive, his boots shined and his uniform and accoutrements cared for daily by Army personnel posted at the shrine. He retired as Honorary Captain.
Meanwhile, Shri Mukesh Khanna, in a letter, – Pyaare bachchon, main Arunachal aa raha hun, has hearty greeted the children and expressed his desire to interact with the tiny hearts during the mega event.
Bachchon main tum logon ko milne Itanagar aa raha hun, Khanna, who gained famed as Hindi TV serial Mahabharata’s Bheeshma Pitamaah, wrote in the letter.He has asked the people of Arunachal to protect the rich culture of the state and also guard its boundary.
(The writer is a pioneer of journalism in Arunachal Pradesh and a visiting faculty of Rajiv Gandhi University)