War hero, formally a prisoner of war in China.

The real-life stories of war heroes. This blog is my tribute to the unsung heroes of the country.

A small district of Ghazipur in the state of Uttar Pradesh which is also known as “Saheedon ki dharti”/ “The land of Martyrs”, the place which gave the nation an infinite number of soldiers like PVC Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hameed, the nation knows about him. When we dive into the city, we find stories of similar soldiers in almost every village.

We all know about the wars India fought after independence, on one side we have Pakistan, and on the other side we have China, both proving time and again their love for India. As a country, we have lost numerous soldiers to these wars and conflicts. Subedar Radhe Krishna Singh, who hailed from one such village, Marullahchak from the same city, had his share of grit. He happens to be my grandfather; I am sharing his story as my tribute to him.

 Talking about my grandfather who was commissioned in the Rajput regiment of the Indian Army in somewhat 1950s, his career span was approximately Thirty years. In his tenure of almost thirty years, he fought several wars, the Liberation of Goa, in 1961 and the Sino-Indian War of 1962. During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, he was held captive by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

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The Sino-Indian war witnessed 2Rajputs in the battleground, the battalion was deployed in a trackless wilderness, where no mules could go, and no civilian population lived which could help logistically. Lack of winter clothing added to the hardships of the men on these snowy heights. By the time the fighting commenced, the Chinese had occupied all the dominating heights in the area. A massive assault came on the Rajput front and in the fierce fighting that ensured, the battalion repulsed several determined attacks. The positions were soon enveloped from both sides and the battalion was cut off. Despite heavy odds against them the men of 2 Rajput did not give in and fought until the end.

Not a single man was awarded any gallantry medal as there was no one left to write the citations because there was no officer or JCO who was not killed or seriously wounded and taken POW. When the Commanding officer, Lt. Col. M.S. Rikh was released from the POW camp, he wrote up the citations, but the Indian government and Ministry of Defence made excuses and did not pay any attention to them. There is a memorial erected to those who fought at Namka Chu, which is a tin shed with names still missing from it, and names of people who were not present there have been put up. Out of 513 all ranks of 2 Rajput in battle, 282 were killed and 81 were wounded and captured. 90 others were taken prisoner when they tried to break out. Only 60 other ranks, mostly from the administrative elements, got back. Apart from 2 Rajputs, the 4th battalion of the Rajput regiment was deployed at Sela-Bomdila under Lt.Col. B. Awasthi where they had their share of fighting. The Valour of the Rajput regiment being one of the oldest battalions of the country is etched in the military history of the country.

Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) captured more than 3,900 Indian soldiers, amongst these one was my grandfather, he was kept in captivity for almost six months and released after the Indo-Sino agreement for releasing all the prisoners of war.

What we know is history but what the family goes through, only a few know. My Grandmother, the Late Kalawati Singh used to recall the difficult period; how the technology was very limited, and they had to rely on letters from the government. The helpful part was my grandfather’s elder brother was also serving with the army at that time, he provided updates, and he was the one who was constantly in touch with the authorities.

Once there were rumors about my grandfather dying in captivity, which sent the whole family into darkness and left them with grief and guilt of not being able to see him for one last time. Fortunately, it was a rumor and later proved to be false. The agreement between both countries was a ray of light for them and marked the return of my grandfather after six months.

All the POWs were mistreated while held captive by the Chinese force is the dark aspect of war. Before PLA captured the soldiers, they were hiding under the mound of dead bodies of those who died fighting and surviving on leaves when they were out of food and out of contact with the Indian side. This was war trauma which my grandfather told his family after returning, it still gives me chills across my body.

Later, three of his sons went on to serve in the defence force, two in the army and one with the navy. My grandfather’s life was such, that he even saw his son in war. My father was deployed in Jammu and Kashmir during Operation Vijay, commonly known as the Kargil War of 1999. He used to listen to radio broadcasts throughout the day and teach my mother through maps. These are the memories that my family holds and will continue to cherish for the rest of their lives.

Those who witnessed him closely narrate his bravery, his impactful personality, his deep voice straightforward personality, all his traits are heard, I could never witness his powerful aura in real-time. Talking about my grandfather, I never had the privilege of meeting him in person he died of his illness in 1999 before I was born. I could not get firsthand narrations of his experiences on the battlefield. What remains precious for me is that I share my blood with him, I had the privilege of feeling his presence through his stories narrated by his elder brother, my grandmother, my father, and my uncles. This small yet impactful history of my family is our lineage and his legacy, it needs to be preserved and passed on to the next generation with pride.

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