Sometimes acts of bravery break the mould of common perception. It transcends into a level common folks look impractical to us. We think of it as stupidity for we cannot fathom the amount of patriotism these heroes have in their hearts. Every Indian loves India in some way or other but only a few love it enough to march to death with a smile on their face. One such crazy brave son of India was Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat. His incomprehensible act of bravery is both a part of the army’s history as well as the northeast Indian folklore.
The year was 1962 and India and China were at war. China had recently taken over the country of Tibet. Now their expansionist policies grew more and more greedy. Now they were eyeing the Northeastern state of India, Arunachal Pradesh. Indian and Chinese troops were face to face on these borders.
A 21-year-old Jaswant Singh Rawat was the guardian of these borders with his company of 4th Battalion, Garhwal rifles. On 17th November 1962, the Chinese army sent two back-to-back charges to penetrate the Indian line of defence. The Garhwal riflemen made easy of these charges and subdued both of them. The third charge came equipped with a Chinese MMG, a medium Machine gun. This gun was both accurate and quick to load.
Jaswant Singh along with Trilok Negi and Gopal Singh was tasked with the destruction of the MMG. The three of them left the covers of their bunkers and started moving towards the MMG, hidden only by the boulders. Negi and Gopal Singh gave cover fire as Jaswant launched grenades onto the squad with the MMG. This gave the Indian Army a much-needed window to overpower its enemy. The Chinese started retreating after receiving fires from Indian bunkers. Jaswant Singh managed to capture the MMG and started retrieving it. On his way back, he noticed that both Negi and Gopal Singh had succumbed to enemy bullets.
Newly independent India had already fought a war with Pakistan and was expecting more in the future. With just 22,000 soldiers in the eastern command, it was wise to play a defensive game. Hence the government ordered the Garhwal rifles regiment to withdraw. But Jaswant Singh insisted on staying put. He was not going to give up the land his fellow soldiers had died fighting for.
But he was not alone. Two sisters named Sela and Noora, who were locals requested to join him. Another local decided to supply ration and cooked food to Jaswant. Jaswant along with Sela and Noora spread out his ammunition into multiple bunkers and posts. When the Chinese soldier showed up, he rained bullets on them. He would run from post to post to shoot from different angles, creating an illusion of multiple soldiers. The trick worked and the Chinese Army halted their advance for three days.
At the end of the third day, the Chinese military captured the man supplying rations to Jaswant. He revealed the truth of Jaswwant’s one-man show. The Chinese military quickly advanced on the post and overwhelmed Jaswant. The sisters died in a grenade explosion. Jaswant was also killed in action and his body was taken by the Chinese army and returned after the war. The Chinese Army also gifted India a brass bust of Jaswant’s head as a sign of respect.
Jaswant was awarded India’s highest military honour, Param Vir Chakra for his unmatchable courage. Indian military believes that Jaswant’s spirit still guards the Northern Eastern frontier of the Indian border. Hence, even after his death, the army treated him as a soldier. Food rations and other supplies were allotted to his name, he got promotions, and also retired in 2001. Some soldiers also tell stories of his spirit guiding or alerting them in case of border infiltration.
Words fell short of describing the height of bravery Jaswant Singh displayed. A war between two of the world’s biggest nations was determined by an act of just a single soldier. The stories of the likes of Jaswant Singh are very important. It is important for the men in the military as it reminds them of what a determined soldier can do. It also acts as a blanket of hope and safety for the common man in India. The common Indian lives in peace knowing that if needed one Indian soldier is enough to halt an army of thousands.