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Ladakh Standoff: When 120 Indian Army soldiers killed more than 1300 Chinese troops

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Sept. 2, 2020, 3:07 p.m.

Leh: Tactically, Chushul is a region that can be used as a launchpad during combat between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China in case of armed conflict. 

Even during the 1962 war, China used the northern and southern sides of the Pangong Lake against India. 

Major Shaitan Singh and his 120 braves of the 13th battalion, Kumaon Regiment, displayed legendary courage and valour to decimate the plans of the Chinese troops at Rezang La, about 20 kilometers from Black Top.

More than 1300 Chinese soldiers reportedly died in the Battle of Rezang La. China has not recovered from the dreadful memories of that battle till date.

Rezang La is about 20 kilometers from Black Top, on the southern banks of the Pangong Lake. 

On hearing the tales of Rezang La, the soldiers of the Chinese Army fall into silence, their minds begin to recall the scene of the 1962 war in which more than 1300 Chinese soldiers were killed. Rezang La, which is situated at the Chushul Valley, has witnessed the indomitable valor of Major Shaitan Singh and his soldiers.

Major Shaitan Singh’s unit was responsible for the security of the Chushul Valley in Ladakh. During the India-China war 58 years ago, he Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) started to display movement on the LAC started to increase. The soldiers of the Indian Army stationed in Ladakh were beginning to guess that China is looking to do something big in this area. 

The Indian Army was fully prepared to respond to every move of China. But Indian soldiers did not have as many state-of-the-art weapons as their Chinese counterparts. Even in this region, where the temperature plummets below zero even during summer, proper winter clothing were not provided to the Indian troops. 

However, with their spirits as high as the Himalayas, the valiant warriors of the Indian Army fought like tigers on different fronts in Ladakh.

China invaded India in October 1962. The C Company of the 13th battalion, Kumaon Regiment was stationed in Ladakh, commanded by Major Shaitan Singh. The battalion had 120 personnel. 

When China attacked India, our soldiers were armed with outdated weapons. Neither did they have the the required facility to survive the severe cold, but on the strength of courage, Major Shaitan Singh and his soldiers attacked the enemies. According to some estimates, more than three thousand Chinese soldiers were confronting 120 Indian soldiers at Rezang La.

Chushul Valley, Ladakh

That date was November 18, the year 1962. The Indian Army battalion stationed at Rezang La lost contact with its base on the night of the November 17. It was a very cold night, but 120 Indian soldiers kept guard throughout the night with full vigor. When the first rays of dawn broke, the entire Chushul Valley was covered with snow. Everything was quiet, but suddenly the entire valley echoed with a flurry of bullets.

Thousands of Chinese army personnel attacked the Indian Army position with a heavy volume of machine gun and artillery fire. The responsibility of protecting Chushul Valley was in the hands of Major Shaitan Singh and the 120 men of  C Company of the 13th battalion, Kumaon Regiment. Almost all of these men were Ahirs from the Rewari district of Haryana. 

Despite facing fearsome odds, these 120 soldiers of the Indian Army decided to fight till their last breath.

Major Shaitan Singh’s last conversation with the soldiers

Seeing the fierce attack of the enemy, Major Shaitan Singh told his soldiers, “We are 120, the number of enemies may be more than us. We are not getting any reinforcements or artillery support from behind. It may be that no one among us will survive and all of us will become martyrs. Those who want to save their lives are free to retreat, but I will fight till death.”

The entire company decided to face the enemy till their last breath. The strategy was not to waste a single bullet. One bullet, one enemy.

The heroic soldiers of the 13th Kumaon displayed legendary courage and determination and drove back successive waves of Chinese attacks. 

Major Shaitan Singh played an important role in the battle by going from one platoon to another platoon to encourage and guide his troops amid a volley of bullets. The zeal of the Indian jawans began to swell due to the leadership and tactics of Major Shaitan Singh. 

Despite being hit by several bullets, Major Shaitan Singh continued to fight.

Major Shaitan Singh, who was badly injured, was heavily bleeding. Two of his soldiers were carrying him. Meanwhile, Chinese soldiers attacked him with machine guns. Major Shaitan Singh, seeing the life of his comrades in danger, immediately asked them to retreat, but the fellow soldiers hid him behind a big boulder. 

Major Shaitan Singh continued to attack the enemies even after being badly injured. When Major Shaitan Singh fell disabled by wounds in his arms and abdomen, his men tried to evacuate him but they came under heavy machine-gun fire. Major Shaitan Singh then ordered his men to leave him to his fate in order to save their lives.

In this battle, 1300 Chinese soldiers were killed by 120 Indian soldiers. A total of 114 of the 120 Indian soldiers were also martyred. 

Impressed by Major Shaitan Singh and his soldiers, the Chinese soldiers called him a great warrior. 

The bravery of Major Shaitan Singh and 120 Ahirs of C Company, 13th battalion, Kumaon Regiment, established a new saga of bravery and indomitable courage in the history of military warfare.

Major Shaitan Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for displaying indomitable gallantry in Chushul

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