Rezang La- 13 KUMAON, Major Shaitan Singh, PVC
Rezang La, at a height of 16,000 feet, is a pass on the South-Eastern approach to Chushul Valley in Ladakh. Rezang La is famous in the glorious history of Indian Army for the last stand of Charlie Company (Ahir troops) of 13 KUMAON, led by Major Shaitan Singh, during the Sino-Indian War in 1962.
In this action on 18 November 1962, 114 Indian soldiers out of a total of 120 were killed after killing 1700 Chinese soldiers in the battle. Major Shaitan Singh was awarded the PVC posthumously.
5000 Chinese troops, supported by artillery, attacked Charlie Company of 13 KUMAON deployed at Rezang La. Indian troops did not have artillery support. Rezang La is a story of unparalleled valour and raw courage, buried in the overall humiliation of the crushing defeat at the hands of China in 1962.
At 4:00 am it was icy cold at Rezang La on 18 Nov 1962. The Chinese assaulted in human waves, not in ones or twos, but in hundreds. Major Shaitan Singh told his troops not to open fire till he ordered. Only when the Chinese troops had reached very close, that the brave Indian troops opened fire. Major Shaitan Singh and his Ahir troops kept facing a heavy barrage of artillery fire and waves of Chinese assault.
Major Shaitan Singh had two options: One option was to abandon the post- his soldiers were tired and bleeding. The second option was to fight to the last man and last bullet- 120 men against 5000 Chinese. Maj Shaitan Singh and his brave soldiers chose to stand and fight. Maj Shaitan Singh did not want the Chinese to take his body and mutilate it. He ordered one soldier to hide his body behind boulders. One soldier tied his body to himself with a rifle sling and rolled down the hill.
Only 6 soldiers survived- 5 were taken as prisoners of war and one slipped away to Leh and narrated the details of the battle. The Chinese lost the will to proceed ahead after this battle and retreated from the snow, and blood soaked battlefield.
In 1963, after the snow had melted a new battalion of Indian Army returned to Rezang La. They found the brave soldiers of 13 KUMAON frozen in their trenches with fingers on the triggers of their weapons.
Battle- Inspiration for Generations
This was bravery beyond the call of duty. On 18 Nov 1962 a golden chapter was written in the history of 13 KUMAON, the KUMAON REGIMENT and the Indian Army.
The brave 114 soldiers and Major Shaitan Singh were killed in action, but have been immortalized in our memories and continue to inspire the present serving soldiers of the brave Indian Army.
A memorial of this epic battle stands at Rewari in Haryana and is a great source of inspiration and pride for the Ahirs.