'Fifty years down the line, she still remembers her son and feels proud of the fact that he gave up his life for the nation...'
Tarun Vijay salutes the memory of Indian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in that unequal war of 1962.
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Those who keep repeating with political naivete that India was defeated in the 1962 war with China simply insult those soldiers who sacrificed their lives defending the motherland.
They showed incredible brevity and courage and fought till the last man and the last bullet. They did what they were ordered to do. They carried out their orders till the last breath and embraced death with a grace and elan that befits only the warriors of supreme order.
The nation still repeats the lines that Lata Mangeshkar sang in the unforgettable song Mere Watan Ke Logon -- 'When the nation was celebrating Diwali, they were playing Holi with their blood.'
Jaswant Singh Rawat was one of them. He was just 17 when he was inducted into the 4 Garhwal Rifles. He was a jawan who was trained for only six months, given a 3o3 single bullet fire gun and sent to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh to defend the nation.
Brigadier R S Rawat described that day's ferocious battle in graphic detail recently at a function to felicitate the veterans of the 1962 war. He spoke about how the Bhullas (it means boys in Garhwali) cut the trees and used their huge trunks to cover bunkers with three layers of wood, how they threw mortars over it and gave the enemy the harshest time before finally succumbing to the unending waves of attack by an adversary who possessed far superior arms, automatic rifles and wore better winter clothing.
Our jawans had ammunition that belonged to the era of the Second World War, as well as inferior guns and clothing which could not resist the spine-chilling icy winds in Chushul and Tawang. Yet they didn't yield.
Those who were well ensconced in their warm, comfortable and secure rooms in Delhi yielded to the enemy and bid a pathetically worded farewell to their men in uniform and the patriotic civilian people.
The men in white caps were defeated in the 1962 war, not the brave men in olive green uniform.
Jaswant Singh Rawat's mother Leela Devi Rawat is 92 years old and lives in Dehradun.
We felicitated her at a graceful function and Uttarakhand Governor Aziz Qureshi got off the dais to touch her feet.
Fifty years down the line, she still remembers her son and feels proud of the fact that he gave up his life for the nation. Living in a small house with her younger son and daughter-in-law today, she vividly recalls the day when her Jaswant went away to join the army.
When the news of his martyrdom reached her, the future had looked impenetrably dark, yet the glory of her son's sacrifice kept the light intact. Jaswant remained a living soldier even after his mortal remains had been consigned to the flames.
The army maintained his room, he got promoted every year and he retired as a major general. His temple in Tejpur reminds everyone about not just the valour of the Indian soldier, but also his immortality.
Such is the level of faith for soldiers' sacrifices in India. Such is this Indian society which believes in martyrdom for the nation in the most unbelievable manner. According to Hindu scripture, a soldier goes to Surya Lok, a heaven made of a thousand suns, after his martyrdom in the line of duty. This explains the Indian family tradition of sending the best child to the armed forces.
The 1962 war shattered the belief in the honesty and sincerity of India's political rulers. A plethora of articles and analyses have been published on how in the 1960s, ordnance factories were manufacturing coffee machines and lipsticks, when we should have been making guns and how Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was waxing eloquent on the uselessness and meaningless of maintaining a huge army at an enormous cost when India didn't have an enemy.
Even during the war, the Communist parties in India sided with China and Nehru had some of their leaders arrested under charges of sedition. Workers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh helped the soldiers on the front.
The Nehru government invited the RSS workers to participate in the 1963 Republic Day Parade to honour them. It is ironical that today, the Communist parties seem to have become strange bedfellows with the Nehruvian Congress and the political rulers look at the RSS with hatred.
Let us forget all that and look forward. Do we have that kind of leadership today and will we be able to thwart any other Chinese action against us?
China is fast emerging as our largest trade partner, but it still keeps the border dispute open. Top army officers and defence analysts maintain that China remains the biggest threat to India.
Are we ready to at least equal China's military might? Is there political will across party lines to look into our defence preparedness and have a consensus on securing our borders?
The biggest threat to national security does not come from external aggression, but from within. The corrupt leadership and the lethargic babudom that corrodes the nation's defence and allows the enemy to buy a 'win' is as bad a threat, if not a worse one, to our defence as is the foreign invader.
The 1962 war was the political defeat of foolish governance, but the defence forces did their bit in exemplary fashion.
On the 50th anniversary of that war -- rather the resistance to the Chinese attack -- the most sensible thing would be to salute the indomitable spirit of the Indian soldier and ensure a public debate on our present defence preparedness.
The Chinese must be made to feel that they inflicted a scar on the Indian psyche that is hard to erase They have to understand that unless they show sensitivity towards Indian peoples' feelings, no enduring friendship can be shaped, the increase in the volume of trade partnerships notwithstanding.
The use of force to settle a bilateral dispute is strictly unacceptable in today's world and to ensure that it is respected, India has to grow enormously in military stature. A powerful and formidable military power alone can win long lasting friendships and peace in the region.
Empowering India will be the best tribute to the brave soldiers who laid down their lives to defend their motherland in 1962.
Tarun Vijay is a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Rajya Sabha from Uttarakhand.