The Ghost who keeps Vigil on the Border
As narrated by Col A Krishnaswamy, VrC, VSM** (Retd)
17th November is celebrated every year by the Indian Army as the *Nuranang day* when a handful of brave men beat back three PLA attacks,before being betrayed and martyred. This is the story of Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, Mahavir Chakra (Posthumous) also known as the “Ghost who keeps vigil on the border with China”
Rifleman (RFN) Jaswant Singh, number 4039009, was serving with the 4th Battalion of the Garhwal Rifles. On 17 November the battalion was subjected to repeated Chinese assaults. A Chinese medium machine gun (MMG) located at a vantage point close to their A company lines was proving to be a menace. Jaswant, Lance Naik Trilok Singh Negi and RFN Gopal Singh Gusain went after the Chinese MMG. After approaching within 12 metres they threw grenades at the bunker and charged it, killing a number of Chinese and capturing the MMG. Jaswant took the MMG and began crawling back towards the Indian lines but he and Trilok were fatally hit by Chinese automatic fire when nearing safety. Gopal Gusain was wounded but managed to drag the MMG into the Indian post.
This turned the course of the battle and the Chinese retreated, leaving some 300 dead behind. Jaswant was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (P) and Trilok and Gopal the Vir Chakra.
It was the final phase of the Sino-Indian War in November 1962. Even as his company was asked to fall back, Jaswant Singh remained at his post at an altitude of 10,000 feet and held back Chinese soldiers for three days assisted by two local Monpa girls named Sela and Nura (in some versions one or the other girl is not mentioned). They set up weapons at separated spots and maintained a volume of fire that made the Chinese think they were opposed by a body of troops. Finally the Chinese captured the man who was supplying rations to Jaswant and he revealed to them that they were opposed by only one man.
They attacked in force, Sela died in a grenade burst, Nura was captured and Jaswant shot himself with his last cartridge when he realized that he was about to be captured. It is alleged that the Chinese cut off Jaswant Singh’s head and took it back to China. However, after the ceasefire, the Chinese commander, impressed by the soldier’s bravery, returned the head along with a brass bust of Jaswant Singh. The bust, created in China to honor the brave Indian soldier, is now installed at the site of the battle.
Jaswant Singh’s saga of valor and sacrifice continues to serve as an inspiration to all army personnel posted in this sector. He has become a ‘Baba’ – a saint. At the spot where he fought, a small temple has come up with the bust of his and many of his personal effects. A marble plaque commemorates him and 161 other men of his battalion who died in the battle of Nuranang, a Battle Honour for which was awarded to Garhwal Rifles. This shrine, known as ‘Jaswant Garh’, is situated between Se La and Jang. Indian Army personnel passing by this route traditionally pay their respects here, irrespective of rank. Jaswant is treated as if he is alive, his boots shined and his uniform and accoutrements cared for by Army personnel posted at the shrine. He has received all his promotions in time, and has reached the rank of Honorary Major General as of date.
*That’s why they say true soldiers never die!*
[The narrator is a decorated veteran of the 1971 Bangladesh War]