The Real Reward For Their Bravery

As the country gears up for Diwali, I would urge Indians to take a minute and remember that 50 years ago, in a 28-day conflict between India and China, 3,824 bravehearts gave up their lives for the nation. Reminiscences and analyses appearing in the media have focused on the political and military blunders. However, this battle should be memorialised as one about the grit and bravery of soldiers on the frontline — ill-equipped and badly betrayed by incompetent politicians — and generals sent into combat at 15,000 feet, insufficiently clad for a north Indian autumn, and equipped with outdated weapons from World War 2.

In battles all across the border, in places that have gone down in military history like Rezang La, Tongpeng La and Bum La — places that most of us today don’t know but our future generations must remember — precious lives were lost as our brave soldiers defended our territory against the Chinese PLA. Each of these battles tells scores of stories of bravery, despite overwhelming odds the Indian soldier faced while doing his duty even when everyone above him failed to fulfil their responsibilities.

The Ahirs of the C Company of 13 Kumaon at Rezang La (Ladakh), who fought virtually to the last man and last bullet; or the dogged platoon of 1 Sikh, defending a ridge at Tongpeng La (Arunachal Pradesh) till the bullets ran out and charging out with fixed bayonets in a glorious but suicidal last attempt — this is the valour we should never forget.

The men who led those troops — Major Shaitan Singh at Rezang La and Subedar Joginder Singh — won the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) posthumously. There was a third PVC winner in that war — Major Dhan Singh Thapa of 8 Gorkha Rifles, who fought like a lion in Ladakh and, fortunately, lived to tell the tale. At Bum La, the valiant soldiers of 5 Assam rifles led by Jemadar AK Roy and soldiers of 1 Sikh, repulsed numerous attacks by the Chinese till they could not hold out any longer. Countless stories like this one played out across the border from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

But a few years ago, there was a news report that the widow of Major Shaitan Singh, who gave up his life for India on the icy heights of Rezang La, was being paid a pension far lower than her entitlement. The Controller of Defence Accounts and the bank that disburses pension played the blame game. The rest of us shook our heads in despair. I often quote to people in the government and bureaucracy the famous line by Kautilya: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. For that day on, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King”.

The sight of our veterans returning their medals should make most people with a conscience hang their heads in shame. The memories of the 3,800 bravehearts and their stories of ultimate service to the nation should galvanise our collective conscience and make us firmly resolve to stand by our soldiers and their families.

The British Parliament has passed an Armed Forces Covenant, a contract between the people and those who fight for them, whereby an assurance is given that the members of the armed forces and their families will be cared for by the public. I have introduced a similar Bill in Parliament — The Armed Forces Covenant Bill, 2011 — which is awaiting discussion. I hope it is discussed and the government deems it appropriate to pass such a Bill, if not mine. By doing so we will pay appropriate homage to all the brave men who died in 1962 and promote a new relationship between the people of India and its armed forces.

(This article appeared in the Hindustan Times on November 01st, 2012)

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4 Responses to “The Real Reward For Their Bravery”

  1. Lohith TP  on November 4th, 2012

    Thank you for introducing the bill in Parliment,You is only person who is really representing or raising the voice about the martyr’s and their families.Any way All the best promote the bill successfully.

  2. LT COL SOHAN ROY(Retd)  on November 4th, 2012

    Dear SIR,
    It is with immense pleasure that I admire you and THANK YOU for RELENTLESSLY taking up the cause of us the soldiers of the nation.

    WISH THERE WERE MORE SUCH LEADERS LIKE YOU.

    I AM FROM THE KUMAON REGIMENT AND 64 YEARS OLD.

    I WENT TO REZANGLA IN JUNE 2010 ON MY MOTORCYCLE TO PAY HOMAGE TO THE MARTYRS OF 1962 BATTLE.

    THIS AUGUST I RODE AGAIN TO DRAW ATTENTION OF THE MARTYRS OF 1962 IN CHUSHUL SECTOR OF LADAKH….CARRYING A SCROLL ABOUT THE BATTLE AND TALKING ABOUT THE BATTLE WHEREEVER I STOPPED. LAID A WREATH AT REZANGLA TOO. ON THE WAY I ALSO VISITED 13 KUMAON IN THEIR FORWARD POSTS AND ALSO 20 LANCERS.

    I THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN FOR YOUR SUPPORT TO THE ARMED FORCES.

    PROFOUND REGARDS

    LT COL (RETD) SOHAN ROY
    15 KUMAON (INDORE)

    I

  3. GS Chandy  on November 28th, 2012

    I commend your efforts to ecognize and honour the brave men (and women, nowadays) who take up the arduous and dangerous task of guarding the country - often most thanklessly. I do hope and believe you will get enough of the MPs to back your efforts to bring our soldiers their just dues from the nation.

  4. randeep singh  on November 28th, 2012

    Dear Rajeev,

    it gives me immense pride to see people like you representing us, the perseverance that you have showed in presenting the case of Martyr Capt Saurabh Kalia is exemplary.Hope you carrry the good and right work of yours.


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