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Jaswantgarh war memorial stands tall

K Anurag in Guwahati | August 20, 2008 21:44 IST
Last Updated: August 20, 2008 21:47 IST

For any soldier of Indian Army [Images], the famous memorial of 1962 war between India and China at Jaswantgarh stands taller than even the 14000 ft high Sela Pass along the steep, serpentine mountainous road to monastery town at Tawang in western Arunachal Pradesh.

It is not because of the altitude of its location but for the inspiration it gives to Indian soldiers guarding the frontier with China.

A journey towards the picturesque Tawang through pristine hills of Arunachal Pradesh can't be complete without a stopover at Jaswantgarh Memorial that stands testimony to an Indian soldier's unparallel bravery.

And for Indian Army jawans and officials, it is a must-visit site to pay obeisance to Rifleman Jaswant Singh, Maha Vir Chakra, of 4 Garhwal Rifle, who laid down his life  resisting the Chinese Army's march for about 72 hours along with two other soldiers during the 1962 war. 

Singh was then captured and hanged at the same place where the memorial now stands, by Chinese invaders. The memorial is about 14 km away from Sela Pass.

It is more of a temple than a war memorial for Indian Army soldiers. The Army has put a section of its soldiers at round the clock duty at Jaswantgarh to look after the memorial which is located about 500 kilometers away from Guwahati, the gateway to the Northeast in Assam.

The temple-like Jaswantgarh memorial has a garlanded bronze bust of Jaswant Singh who is referred as Baba by soldiers, a portrait of the war hero and his belongings including the Army uniform, cap, watch, and belt. The earthen lamp before the portrait of Jaswant Singh burns round the clock.

For his six caretakers from 19 Garhwal Corps of Indian Army, Baba Jaswant Singh, MVC, still exists. They serve Baba bed tea at 0430 hrs, breakfast at 0900 hrs and dinner at 1900 hrs, oblivious of the reality that that the war hero is no more alive.

They make his bed for him, polish his shoes and deliver the mail sent by his admirers. They even clear the mails the next morning after 'he has gone through them'. They change his bed sheets every Tuesday.

These soldiers not only serve Baba. They reneder yeoman service for travelers along the hazardous portion of mountain terrain. Besides coming to rescue of travelers in trouble, they run a snack store where they serve tea, coffee and delicious samosas and pakoras to refresh the tired tourists, charging a nominal price that goes to upkeep of the war memorial.

The Indian Army sentinels at Jaswantgarh complain about the lack of electricity at the war memorial. It is lit up only for two hours in the evening through a diesel generator.  They also fear that the roadside portion of the memorial is under severe threat from landslide.

One of the three historic bunkers at Jaswantgarh has already been damaged due to landslide while another one is in imminent danger unless something is done urgently to save it.

For the heroic effort of Rifleman Jaswant Singh, of the 4 Garhwal Rifle was awarded battle honour Nuranang, the only battle honour awarded to any Army unit in the Sino-Indian war of 1962.

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