The story of Jaswant Singh Rawat is awe-inspiring for its selfless heroism and bravery. In the last phase of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, Jaswant Singh Rawat fought off a section of Chinese troops over 3 days single-handedly an entire troop of hundreds of Chinese army men on a mountain, is a legend revered by jawans who are now posted near Jaswantgarh, the place where he was martyred.
It was the tail end of the Indo-Chinese war in 1962. The Sino-Indian border, an unfenced 1000-kilometre stretch at altitudes of 14,000 feet, characterised by freezing climes and inhabitable rocky terrain, was the unfortunate battleground. The Chinese troops were advancing over the Himalayan border, claiming Indian land, while the Indian troops bravely fought them off. Weeks before the ceasefire was called for between the two countries, Jaswant Singh Rawat’s battalion, The Garhwal Rifles, was engaged in an intense battle with the Chinese army at Nauranang. Soon though, the battalion was called back, citing lack of resources and manpower.
But Rawat, a true-blue soldier, decided to stay back and fight. According to local legends, he enlisted the help of Nura and Sela, two local Monpa girls from Arunachal Pradesh, to set up a firing ground, in what would be called the battle of Nauranang. He picked three areas to set up his weapons. For the next three days, he incessantly fired at the Chinese army from these spots. Almost 300 soldiers were shot dead.
The Chinese army, fearing that they were up against a large troop, stopped in their tracks. The illusion that Rawat had wanted to create worked. The Chinese troops had no clear idea about the number of men they were up against, and had no way of finding out. It took time, but the enemy troops finally learnt the truth. On November 17, 1962, Rawat was surrounded from all sides by the Chinese troops. When the attack began, he knew he would be captured. He then shot himself dead to avoid ending up their prisoner. Meanwhile, a grenade blast killed Sela, but the troops managed to capture Nura alive.
The legend goes on to say that the Chinese troops cut off his head to take home as a souvenir. After the war, the Chinese army returned his head, and, impressed by his valour as a lone warrior, also gifted a bust of Rawat made of brass. Some stories say that Rawat didn’t kill himself but was caught by the Chinese troops and hung. Soon, the ceasefire was ordered, and the war was over. The area where Rawat last stood his ground was named Jaswantgarh. A hut was built over that area, where a dedicated staff prepares his bed, shines his shoes, irons his clothes, all as if he were still alive. He was bestowed with the Mahavir Chakra posthumously, and is still considered a serving officer. He is the only soldier in the history of the Indian Army who has risen through the ranks after his death. He was ‘promoted’ to the rank of Major General 40 years after his death, and is still believed to ‘command’ troops guarding India’s eastern frontiers with China. It is said that the jawans posted in Arunachala Pradesh or those who pass by Jaswantgarh, even today, stop to pay their respects.