Updated: November 18, 2021 8:13:32 pm
Inaugurating the renovated Rezang La memorial in Chushul on Thursday, on the anniversary of the battle of Rezang La during the 1962 War with China, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the memorial is an “epitome of passion, determination and fearless spirit of the country’s bravehearts”.
Singh made a short speech as he paid tributes to the 114 Indian soldiers who had died defending their position at Rezang La on November 18, 1962. The battle prevented the Chinese from moving towards Leh during the war.
The inauguration of the memorial, built first in 1963, and the presence of the Defence Minister at the event, projects a strong message to China, as the two nations are involved in an over 18-month long military standoff in the region since May 2020.
रेज़ांग ला मेमोरियल भारत की सेना के शौर्य, पराक्रम एवं बलिदान का प्रतीक है। pic.twitter.com/uH7KCM5X64
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) November 18, 2021
Singh said in his speech that the “courage and sacrifice of troops who defended Rezang La and surrounding areas in 1962 will always inspire future generations”. The memorial, he said, is a tribute to our valiant Armed Forces and a symbol of our preparedness to protect the country’s integrity. He said that only those with large hearts can die for their nation, and termed them “spiritual men”.
“It has been India’s character that we have never intended to occupy the land of any other country. But if any country has raised its eyes towards India, then we have given a befitting reply to it. The brave soldiers of our army are capable of protecting every inch of the land of India,” he said.
Rezang La is one of the heights of the Kailash Range in the Chushul Sub-sector, occupied by India in August 2020, that provided leverage in the standoff negotiations. The positions India occupied on the Kailash Ranges allowed the Indian troops to dominate not only China’s Moldo Garrison, but also the strategically sensitive Spanggur Gap, which was used by China to launch an offensive during the 1962 War.
In February, along with the heights over the finger on the north bank of Pangong Tso, India and China had pulled their troops back from these heights as well, where tanks and troops were positioned just a few hundred meters apart. The proximity and the eyeball-to-eyeball situation, through the harsh winters last year, was a major cause of concern for both sides.
Speaking on Thursday at the memorial, Singh said that it will “bolster the feeling of nationalism and encourage tourism”. Singh also appreciated the civilians living in the area and called them “strategic assets” of the nation.
The memorial in Chushul is at an altitude of over 15,000 feet and is very close to the India-China border. It honours the troops of Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon Regiment, who had defended Rezang La and the surrounding areas located at over 16,500 feet on the Kailash Ranges during the 1962 War, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The decision to renovate the memorial was taken when Singh had visited Leh in June 2021, and the work began next month.
“The renovation of the memorial is not only a tribute to our valiant armed forces, but also a symbol of the fact that we are fully prepared to protect the integrity of the nation. This monument symbolises the government’s stand of giving a befitting reply to anyone who threatens our sovereignty and integrity,” Singh said.
He also assured the soldiers of all possible support to fulfill their needs.
The renovation, Singh said, was carried out on the lines of a national-level memorial without compromising with the original structure and sentiments attached to it.
The government said the renovated complex includes a double-storied museum, a mini-theatre to screen a special documentary on the battle, a large helipad and various other tourist amenities.
In the battle of Rezang La, which the government’s statement called a “saga of unparalleled bravery” Major Shaitan Singh and 113 soldiers “had made the supreme sacrifice, fighting one of the world’s rarest ‘last man, last bullet’ battles”. Major Shaitan Singh was bestowed with the Nation’s highest gallantry award, the Param Veer Chakra, posthumously.
मेरा सौभाग्य है कि आज मुझे रेज़ांग ला की लड़ाई में बहादुरी से लड़े ब्रिगेडियर (रिटा.) आर. वी. जटार से भेंट करने का अवसर मिला। वे उस समय कम्पनी कमांडर थे।
उनके प्रति सम्मान के भाव से मैं अभिभूत हूँ और उनके साहस को मैं नमन करता हूँ। ईश्वर उन्हें स्वस्थ रखे और दीर्घायु करें। pic.twitter.com/XoCLUGdzVr
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) November 18, 2021
Among those who were present at the event, especially among those associated with 13 Kumaon, included Brigadier RV Jatar (Retd) who had participated in the battle as a Captain; Major Shaitan Singh’s son Narpat Singh Bhati and the family of the then Commanding Officer of 13 Kumaon, Lt Col HS Dhingra. Singh pushed the wheelchair of Brig Jatar, and said he was “overwhelmed by the feeling of respect for him and I salute his courage”.
Ladakh Lt Governor RK Mathur, Ladakh MP Jamyag Tsering Namgyal, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Vice Army Chief Lt Gen CP Mohanty, Northern Army Commander Lt General YK Joshi were present at the event.
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