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Rezang La is a pass on the south-eastern approach to Chushul Valley in Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. It is 3,000 yards long and 2,000 yards wide, with an average height of 16,000 feet.
Rezang La was the site of the last stand of the 13 Kumaon, an all-Yadav company, during the Sino-Indian War in 1962. The company led by Major Shaitan Singh, who won a posthumous Param Vir Chakra for his actions. From the Indian point of view, Rezang La had the drawback that an intervening feature blocked artillery operation, so that the Indian infantry had to do without artillery cover.
In this action on 18 November 1962, 109 Indian soldiers out of a total of 123 were killed. A memorial in Rewari, where most of the Ahir soldiers came from (except few like Nayak lalu ram who was from pachamman kheda of Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh), states that 1700 Chinese soldiers were killed in the battle. A memorial was constructed near Dharuhera Chowk in Rewari city by Rezangla Shaurya Samiti. Every year, memorial functions are held by the Samiti in collaboration with district administration and the Kumaon Regiment, and family members of those who died at Rezangla also take part.
The Indian side was led by Major Shaitan Singh (IC 7990), who was later awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest gallantry award for conspicuous bravery or self-sacrifice in the face of the enemy.
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In the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the 'C' Company of the 13th Kumaon battalion, almost all of whose soldiers were Yadavs from Rewari in Haryana except some one like Nayak lalu ram was from pachamman kheda of unnao disrict of UP, led by Shaitan Singh, held this crucial position at Rezang La, a pass on the south-eastern approach to Chushul Valley in Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, at a height of 5,000 metres (16,404 feet). The company area was defended by three platoon positions and the surrounding terrain isolated it from the rest of the battalion. The expected Chinese attack on Rezang La came on November 18 in the morning. It was the end of a very cold winter night, with light snow falling. The icy winds howling through Rezang La were biting and benumbing. More than the thin air and cold, the location of Rezang La had a more serious drawback. It was crested to Indian artillery because of an intervening feature, which meant that they had to make without the protective comfort of the big guns. In the dim light of the morning, the Chinese were seen advancing through nullahs to attack No.7 and No.8 platoon positions.
The Indian Army troops fell on their prepared positions to face the Chinese offensive. At 05:00 when the visibility improved, both platoons opened up on the advancing Chinese with rifles, light machine guns, grenades and mortars. Indian artillery could, however, not be used. The nullahs were littered with dead bodies. The survivors took position behind boulders and the dead bodies. The Chinese, though they failed the first frontal attack, were not discouraged. They subjected the Indian positions to intense artillery and mortar fire at about 05:40. Soon, about 350 Chinese troops commenced advance through the nullahs. This time, No.9 Platoon, which held fire till the enemy was within 90 metres opened up with all weapons in their possession. Within minutes, the nullahs were again full of dead bodies, mainly of the Chinese.
Unsuccessful in frontal attack, the enemy, approximately 400 strong, then attacked from the rear of the company position. They simultaneously opened intense medium machine gun fire on No.8 Platoon. This attack was contained at the barbed wire fencing of the post.The Chinese then resorted to heavy artillery and mortar shelling. An assault group of 120 Chinese also charged No.7 Platoon position from the rear. However, Indian Army 3-inch mortar killed many of them. When 20 survivors charged the post, about a dozen Kumaonis rushed out of their trenches to engage them in hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, the Chinese brought up fresh reinforcements. The encirclement of No.7 Platoon was now complete. The platoon, however, fought valiantly till there was no survivor. No.8 Platoon also fought bravely to the last round.
Singh displayed exemplary leadership and courage in the battle of Rezang La. By all accounts, he led his troops most admirably. Unmindful of his personal safety he moved from one platoon post to another and encouraged his men to fight. While moving among the posts he was seriously wounded by a sniping Chinese MMG, but he continued to fight along with his men. While he was being evacuated by two of his comrades, the Chinese brought heavy machine gun fire on them. Singh sensed danger to their lives and ordered them to leave him. They placed him behind a boulder on the slopes of a hill, where he died, still gripping his weapon.
The Chinese announced a unilateral ceasefire on November 21, 1962.
In this action, 109 Kumaonis out of a total of 123 were killed. Of the 14 survivors, 9 were severely injured. The Chinese suffered over 1 thousand casualties. After the war was over, the body of Singh was found at the same place, dead from the bullet wound and the freezing cold. It was flown to Jodhpur and cremated with full military honours. Singh was awarded Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal, posthumously, for his leadership and devotion to duty.
There is a small memorial at Rezangla, which reads:
How can a Man die Better than facing Fearful Odds,
For the Ashes of His Fathers and the Temples of His Gods,
To the sacred memory of the Heroes of Rezang La,
114 Martyrs of 13 Kumaon who fought to the Last Man,
Last Round, Against Hordes of Chinese on 18 November 1962.
Built by All Ranks 13th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment.
Fragment quoted from Horatius, a poem by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, member of Governor-General of India's Supreme Council from 1834 to 1838
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