13 Kumaon Regiment’ led by Major Shaitan Singh with 113 soldiers were guarding frozen mountains. People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of 5,000-6,000 soldiers equipped with advance artillery attacked Chushul to take over strategic Rezang La.
When Major Shaitan Singh knew about Chinese Army advancing towards Rezang La, he immediately informed Army headquarters to send the back up force over radio and informed his seniors that he and his men would engage the Chinese Army till then.
Unfortunately, Major Shaitan Singh’s SOS call to send additional force was rejected since Indian army didn’t have enough air lifters and equipment to be supplied to Rezang La. And Army headquarters advised Major Shaitan Singh to withdraw to avoid casualty.
Extreme condition of -40 degree temperature, much larger and well equipped enemy, demoralising advice from seniors to vacate the battlefield, no support from Army headquarters, nothing broke grit, nerve and courage of Major Shaitan Singh, who shouted back he would not leave Rezang La fight till his last breath. “Rezang la has served us food for years and now it is time for us to protect it”, this is how Shaitan Singh galvanised his men.
When ‘13 Kumaon Regiment’ spotted the Chinese Army, they made strategy not to exhaust their ammunition firing at the enemy at long distance. They waited for the enemy to reach close so that every bullet can cause Chinese casualty. The retaliation was so ferocious that Chinese were stunned and called their headquarters to tell that information was wrong, and it looks like 3000 Indian Army men were camping there, and PLA can’t capture Rezang La.
What can be scenario when 114 brave Indian soldiers killed 1500 Chinese army men with native weapons in a battle that lasted for 5 long hour! Even an imagination gives goosebumps and tears into eyes. When ammunitions ran out of stock, the army men continued to overpower Chinese with knives. At last they kept fighting with enemies with their hands when they grabbed Chinese by throat and killed them instantly. Major Shaitan Singh, pierced with bullets, had grabbed automated machine guns of Chines dead army men and brutally assaulted the enemies until he breathed his last.
When the war came to an end, Mother India had lost 109 of its brave warriors fighting to protect Rezang la. 6 had survived however their condition was critical. If Rezang La proudly stands in Indian Map today, it is because of these 114 bravest Army men, who made supreme sacrifice to protect it.
Sino Indian War in 1962 generates words like debacle, disgrace and disaster in mind. However, unparalleled bravery of 13 Kumaon Regiment must be taught to our coming generation. Even, Chinese were so overwhelmed with ‘13 Kumaon Regiment’s nerves of steel, that they covered our martyrs bodies with blankets. What can be greater tribute to their courage than this acknowledgement by their enemy.