By Brig. (Retd.) Vijay Atray

Major Shaitan Singh, PVC, The Hero of Rezang La

New Delhi.18 November 2020. Today is Rezang La Day. It commemorates the battle which took place in Ladakh 58 years back on 18th November 1962 at minus 40 degrees centigrade in the icy heights of Ladakh. Our brave hearts remained buried in heavy snowfall till the weather improved & the bodies could only be recovered in the summers of 1963 when by chance a shepherd came across a soldier buried in snow. The gallant men of Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon, under their brave & honorable Company Commander, late Major Shaitan Singh put up a fight at Rezang La, the like of which was never fought by any Unit in the Indian Army in its entire history .The nearest example perhaps could be ‘The Battle of Saragarhi’- both depicting bitterest irony of life that the greatest acts of the chivalry, bravery and sacrifice occur against the heaviest odds. Out of the 120 brave hearts, 114 were martyred, pitched against overwhelming 4000-5000 Chinese hordes having superior weapons and logistic support! 

Col. Bhatia, the producer of the film

13 Kumaon became the first pure Ahir Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment prior to the 1962 Sino-Indian War. As there was no other Battalion with 100% Ahir composition, there were misgivings in some quarters about their bravery. However, these were soon put to rest when the Battalion faced its baptism of fire in Ladakh at Rezang La in the 1962 Sino-Indian War and covered itself with glory. Since 1962 Sino- Indian War has not been de-classified, many authors have written articles and books on the ‘Battle of Rezang La’ some without firsthand knowledge of the troops, the terrain and the conduct of the Battle.

Dinesh Kandpal, author of Parakram on which the film is based on

Col NN Bhatia is the producer of the film who also belongs to 13 Kumaon unit which fought the battle of Rezang La. He visited Chushul on the first anniversary of the Rezang La Battle and interacted with the few war survivors with whom he served for many years. He had for years discussed the epic Battle with late Lt Gen DD Saklani who was the Adjutant of 13 Kumaon during the war and Maj (later Brig) Raghunath V Jatar who was deployed at Mugger Hill on that fateful night. He had access to the Battalion’s War Diary and rare photographs, maps and sketches of that period. On 18 November 2019 (last year) Col Bhatia wrote a Coffee Table Book ‘Reminiscing Rezang La Battle ‘straight from the heart’ of the soldier within him that will motivate our armed forces, youth and posterity. Reading the book with somewhat the same emotions that run in him , would eventually binds everyone to his writings -leaving readers spell  bound humming ‘Bedu Pako Bara Massa’ or ‘Attarah November Basath Ko’ synergizing readers enjoyment while unfolding soul stirring Macaulay’s inscription on the Chushul Memorial constructed to commemorate the 114 fallen martyrs who fought against heavy odds on 18th November 1962 in the Rezang La Battle, replicating remarkable story of a valiant last stand on 12 September 1897 at the Battle of Saragarhi that would reverberate around forever.

 The inscription at Rezang La Memorial at Chushul reads as under–

And how can a man die better,

than facing fearful odds,

for the ashes of his father,

and temples of his gods.

Homage to the martyrs by 2 min silence.
The Chief Guest, Lt Gen G L Bakshi

Now Col Bhatia has shown his preservance with in-depth knowledge of terrain and conduct of the Rezang La Battle into a 30 minutes documentary.The documentary was released today on the Rezang La Day at Arun Vihar Institute, Noida. In view of the Covid 19 protocol the audience was selected & limited. Many Kumaonis including Lt Gens Sanjay Kulkarni, Brigs Pran Kaul & Udai Jawa graced the occasion. Lt Gen GL Bakshi, who was commissioned in 14 Kumaon was the Chief guest for the event. Col Bhatia was the narrator of the action that took place on the fateful night and described the actions with minute details. The film kept the audience glued till the end.

Overall it is a commendable effort by Col NN Bhatia and the film should find a place in the libraries of all army units.