An hour after Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh, people come across a unique memorial-cum-mandir of Jaswant Singh Rawat alias Jaswant Baba. The story of Jaswant Singh Rawat is inscribed in a plaque at the memorial. The caretaker of the memorial also takes pride in recounting Jasawant Singh's heroics. Jaswant Singh of the 4th Battalion Garhwal Rifles held off the enemy for 72 hours single-handedly. He ran from bunker to bunker- firing and creating an illusion of many soldiers present. Two local girls helped him to carry the ammunition. The story goes that rather than give in when the Chinese soldiers were at their doorstep, Singh hanged himself. Army convoys on the way to the border make it a point to stop and pay homage at the beautifully maintained memorial. The jawans (soldiers of the Indian army) at the outpost treat everybody passing through with tea.
It was the final phase of the China 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 the rampaging Chinese for three days single-handedly. He was helped by two local girls -- Sela and Nura -- during the heroic battle that ended after the Chinese discovered the post was being defended by a solitary soldier. His love story with Sela is still remembered in Arunachal and on her honour the Sela Pass is named!
So enraged were the attackers that they 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 honour the brave Indian soldier, is now installed at the site of the battle, a location now known as Jaswantgarh. Jaswant Singh's saga of valour and sacrifice continues to serve as an inspiration to all army personnel posted in this sector.
Army personnel passing by this route, be it a general or a jawan, make it a point to pay their respects here. Jaswant, who was awarded a Mahavir Chakra for his bravery is not the only soldier to be honoured thus. We find several memorials built along the way. One of them in fact is right on the border at Bumla honouring Subedar Joginder Singh who won a posthumous Param Vir Chakra for his bravery.
In a way, the Indian Army is trying to overcome the one big blot it has on its record by officially recognizing the 2420 dead warriors in the 1962 conflict. The Army has constructed a huge war memorial at Tawang. The magnificent Tawang War Memorial, inaugurated by the then Eastern Army Commander Lt. Gen. H R S Kalkat in November 1999, has a 40-feet high Stupa as its centrepiece.
A plaque at the entrance which says, 'A nation that does not honour its dead warriors will perish' indicates the Army's willingness to accept its defeat and learn lesson from it. Old timers say the war memorial is the first real attempt by the Army to honour those who died fighting a vastly superior and well-prepared enemy.