The story of a father’s heroics and a forgotten skirmish with the Chinese.
Inspiration often comes from those nearest to us. For the kin of those serving in uniform, this notion often hits home. For a young woman lieutenant posted in Tenga, Arunachal Pradesh, whose father was a decorated officer in the Indian Army, this is seemingly the case.
However, during an initiation tour, which took her to a post at Kya Pho in the Tawang sector, she was in for a major surprise, reports the Time of India. The post at Kya Pho, which is in close proximity to the Indo-China border, is called Ashish Top. When the young lieutenant asked about the origins of this name, the answer left her gobsmacked.
According to the publication, she found out that the post is named after her father Ashish Das, who retired as a Colonel serving in the Assam Regiment. Soon after this discovery, she called her father about this revelation.
“I was at home when I received a call from the commanding officer of the unit manning Ashish Top. He introduced himself and described how my daughter had broken down on coming to know that the post was named after me,” Das told the Times of India.
“I may have told my family of our unit’s exploits in that sector in 1986, but my daughter was not even born then,” he added. “Even I came to know about this post being named after me only in 2003, 17 years after we beat back troops of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and occupied the post at 14,000 feet,” he said.
He then went on to describe the events which occurred in 1986.
As the PLA often attempts to do along the Line of Actual Control, they made serious incursions into the India side of the border. This time it was in the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, where they also began constructing permanent structures. In response, the Indian Army, under its then chief General K Sundarji, launched Operation Falcon.
During the operation, an entire infantry brigade was airlifted on Russian-made heavy lift MI-26 helicopters to Zeminthang, a place near Sumdorung Chu, but 90 km from Tawang.
“We had to blast our way through Bum La and reached the Sangetsar lake. The Chinese were sitting just across. Our orders were to hold ground, and we dug in. Every officer must have made 17-20 copies of wills in the intervening days and handed them over to their adjutants. We started to move forward a few days later and also blasted Kya Pho that was snowed in. We did not know that we had crossed the Chinese camp but maintained our position. There were attempts to supply rations by air, but the drops landed inside China. I remember surviving on rats. It was only later that skid boards were designed and rations reached us. A helipad was also constructed. There were firefights every day as we proceeded from one bunker to the next,” Das said.
When Colonel (then a Captain) Das’s party was returning to base on the day of Onam, the Chinese troops started firing on them. The men retaliated with Das leading the response, and opened fire on the Chinese, forcing them to step back and drop the chase altogether. They held their position for three days without food.
“There would be heavy firing at night followed by white flares during the day and parleys with the local Chinese political commissar,” Das told the publication.
Finally, a flag meeting between both sides calmed things, as the Chinese struggled for a response. After this success, the Government of India decided to take things a step further and converted Arunachal Pradesh, a centrally-administered territory then, into a full-fledged state.