Sunday, October 28, 2012

1962 War: Why we must salute the heroic saga of Sub Joginder Singh

Fifty years ago this day, October 27, Subedar Joginder Singh began the battle of his life.
On learning that Joginder Singh was a Param Vir Chakra awardee, the People's Liberation Army, in a mark of respect for which the Chinese are not renowned, repatriated his ashes with full military honours.
No tribute can be greater than an avowal of valour by the enemy. M P Anil Kumar pays tribute to one of India's brave heroes.

The Heroic Defence
China coveted Tawang madly, and the Dragon's primary objective in NEFA was the occupation of Tawang, for which the PLA had swarmed the Bum La area with a division. From the McMahon Line, the 26-km Bum La-Tawang foot-track was the shortest and the least perilous approach to Tawang.
The Bum La pass, at 4,492 metres, is broad and motorable. Approximately 3 km southwest of Bum La, and west of the foot-track stood the feature called 'Twin Peaks', from which one could espy Chinese activities across the McMahon Line.
The 1st Sikh battalion was charged with making this approach to Tawang impassable. To achieve this end, its Delta Company, commanded by Lieutenant Haripal Kaushik (an Olympian hockey player), was tasked to base his outfit at Tongpeng La, a pass situated a km southwest of the 'Twin Peaks'.

Between the 'Twin Peaks' and Bum La, there existed an Inspection Bungalow (IB) on a stretch of flatland. The nearby IB ridge, roughly 2 km south of Bum La, was an ideal redoubt to thwart access to 'Twin Peaks'. The 11th platoon of Delta Company, under Subedar Joginder Singh, deployed at the IB ridge, set up defences to halt the Chinese advance in their tracks.
7 (Bengal) Mountain Battery would provide artillery cover to the Sikhs. Captain Gurcharan Singh Gosal was told to operate as the artillery observation post officer from Tongpeng La.
As dawn began to brighten the morning of October 20, a JCO of the Assam Rifles outpost stationed at Bum La noticed hundreds aggregated across the border and he alerted the 11th platoon. Joginder promptly despatched a section under Havildar Sucha Singh to reinforce the Bum La-post, and then sought 'second line' ammunition from his company HQ.
Hair-trigger ready, everybody held their breath, in anticipation of gunfire. Which dragged on, and on, till 0430 hours on October 23. They first let off volleys of mortar and anti-tank guns (to destroy Indian bunkers), and then about 600 Chinese attacked the Assam Rifles post. Sucha Singh led the vanguard to fell several Chinese and then withdrew his contingent to join his parent platoon at the IB ridge.
Having overrun the Assam Rifles outpost, with the objective of capturing 'Twin Peaks', the enemy launched a concerted assault on the IB ridge, at first light.
Joginder Singh, born on September 26, 1921 to a land-owning farmer family in Moga (Punjab, was enrolled in the regiment on September 28, 1936. He carried a reputation of being forthright, honest and a professional soldier.
After studying the topography, using the local resources at the platoon locality astride the IB ridge, he made his men fortify themselves in a fieldwork of tactically-sited bunkers and trenches.
The platoon had a stock of four days' rations. Ill-shod (jungle boots) and unsuitably-clad (no winter clothing), the Himalayan chill made his men shiver, but Joginder motivated and rallied them to focus on their task of giving seasoned PLA servicemen blooded in mountain warfare the shivers.
He knew the IB ridge dominated the Bum La bowl, and the climb from the bed of the nullah to their platoon fieldwork was steep, and therefore the Sikhs would be able to mow down the enemy even with outmoded Lee Enfield 303 rifles.
Since the disposition within the establishment (the government and some among the top brass) was pacifist, the armed forces were deficient on many counts.
As ammo was at a premium, each round had to account for a kill, and he therefore made his men hold fire till the enemy shinnied up and was in the weapon-range.
The gunfight began. The mortars and artillery guns engaged the enemy with telling effect. Mounting casualties and sustained fire compelled the Chinese to take cover behind boulders first and then retreat. Only 17, half the platoon, survived the Chinese offensive.
Having repulsed the first wave, Joginder asked again for more ammo from Tongpeng La. While the account of ammo expenditure was being taken, the Chinese had regrouped to hurl themselves all-guns-blazing at the Indians.
Apparently an echelon had climbed unobserved from the right flank. The shooting that ensued was far more ferocious.
Joginder, who was scurrying between two sections, took a machinegun burst on his thigh. Dripping blood, he hopped himself into a bunker and tied the field dressing. He refused evacuation, and continued screaming instructions and adjusting defences.
When the gunner died, he took over the 2-inch mortar and fired some rounds to disrupt and disperse the enemy's raid. His platoon soon accounted for most of the Chinese, but by then the majority of his men had been either killed or seriously wounded.
There was just a breather for the men standing, for, before one could drawl 'Zhou En-lai', the Chinese had briskly mustered about 200 troops and resurrected another foray, to snatch the IB ridge. Sensing the gravity, Lieutenant Kaushik radioed Joginder if he could direct SOS fire on own defences to defuse the Chinese onslaught.
"Yes, Sahib," was the prompt reply. That, alas, would be the last communication with Joginder and his platoon.
Lieutenant Kaushik urged Captain Gosal to promptly engage the IB ridge with Red-over-Red artillery barrage (shelling on to own positions with the likelihood of casualties to own troops, but something that would definitely take a heavy toll of the enemy).
By the time the cannonade ceased, the platoon had run out of ammo, and Joginder had readied the remnant of his platoon for a head-on, last-ditch attack.
With fire raging in their belly, screaming the battle cry 'Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal', the Khalsas killed a score of 'shocked-and-awed' Chinese soldiers in the bayonet charge.
But Chinese troops continued to clamber up and overpowered Joginder in close quarter combat. All but four personnel from the platoon perished in the bloody battle. While a badly wounded Joginder was taken as a prisoner of war, the other three gave the slip, trekked on the bridle-path to the main defences at Se La, and narrated the ringside account of the fierce fighting that raged for four attritional hours.

A memorial to Subedar Joginder Singh, Param Vir Chakra
Joginder Singh passed on a little later in captivity.
Subedar Joginder Singh was decorated with the Param Vir Chakra, posthumously, for his remarkable leadership under fire and the gallant defence of IB ridge.


On learning that Joginder was a Param Vir Chakra awardee, the PLA, in a mark of respect for which the Chinese are not renowned, repatriated his ashes with full military honours to the battalion on May 17, 1963. No tribute can be greater than an avowal of valour by the enemy.
The urn was later brought to the Sikh Regimental Centre at Meerut, where Colonel Shamsher Singh, the commandant, received it. The urn was honoured at a memorial service held at the Gurdwara Sahib the next day. Later, in a poignant ceremony, the urn was handed over to his widow Gurdial Kaur and young son.
Besides a memorial in Moga town, the Indian Army has canonised the courage of this brave son by building a monument at the forward slope of IB ridge.


The Delta Company in 1 Sikh is famed for exceptional heroism. In fact, it is called the 'Bahadur Company' for earning two Param Vir Chakras and two Mahavir Chakras, besides several other bravery medals.

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