Since it achieved independence from the British empire in 1947, India has seen its ups and downs. There have been wars – several of them, in fact, but none come close to the devastating defeat of the Sino-Indian war if 1962. With the democracy at a nascent stage and the economy already struggling, the war came at a terrible time for India. And while we did not win the war, the country was still blessed with extraordinarily brave sons who laid down their lives for its sake. One such son was Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat.
Born on 19th August 1941 in Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, Jaswant Singh Rawat joined Indian army in 1960, at the age of 19.
During the Sino-Indian war in 1962, Jaswant was serving in the 4th Battalion, 4th Garhwal Rifles when the battle of Nauranang happened. On 17th November 1962, the Indian army had already pushed back the Chinese troops twice. When they came back for a third time, they also brought a Chinese medium machine gun (MMG) close enough to the Indian forces that it was able to accurately fire at their positions.
This caused havoc on the Indian side, and Rifleman Jaswant Singh, along with Rifleman Gopal Singh Gusain and Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi made an attempt to bring the MMG under control.
Rawat, along with Gusain, was able to come to a grenade throwing range with the help of Negi, who was covering for them by firing. They were able to seize the MMG, but while returning, Rawat was grievously injured, while Negi and Gusain were killed.
Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat too was captured eventually, and he died a hero, with the government of India presenting him posthumously with the prestigious Maha Vir Chakra.
While that’s how the official account goes, the locals have a different story altogether. According to the locals in Uttarakhand, the Indian troops decided to retreat after continued attacks by the Chinese. Jaswant Singh Rawat, on the other hand, refused to give up his post.
According to locals, Jaswant took help from two local Monpa girls, Nura and Sela. With their assistance, he was able to set up weapons spread across a large area, giving the impression that the Chinese were up against a full troop and not just one man.
Rawat hopped from one post to another, constantly changing his position to keep up the pretence that the whole Indian battalion was present. By the time he was done, apparently, 300 Chinese soldiers were dead. Sela was killed by a grenade, and Nura was captured; when Rawat sensed that he was about to be captured as well, he killed himself with his own bullet.
Apparently, the Chinese took back Rawat’s severed head as a trophy. A Chinese Commander, however, was impressed by Rawat’s valour, and returned the head to the Indian army.
The Sino-Indian war was a depressing defeat for India. The country was already struggling, from hunger, from financial duress. However, Rawat’s story gave the country’s morale a much needed boost.
While we do not know which account of Jaswant Singh Rawat’s story is accurate, his story, nonetheless, inspired the nation at a time when we needed it. And for that, we must thank the braveheart that was Jaswant Singh Rawat.
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