Comments by Maj Gen VK Singh
Watershed 1967 -India’s Forgotten Victory Over China,
By Probal DasGupta
JUGGERNAUT BOOKS, 2020
(Extracts from the Book are given in normal font, with the comments given below in italics)
The book starts with a section titled Praise for the Book. This is the first time I have seen something like this in a book dealing with military history. I will not comment on the contents of the section. After reading the comments given in the succeeding paragraphs, readers can form their own opinions.
Introduction (Page 9-12)
The twin victories at Cho La and Nathu La have only been covered in fragments through articles and papers. This book, based on extensive interviews with the army men who were present at the scene, captures the events truthfully and aims to fix this blind spot in history. This was personally important to me, being a former army officer myself.
The author’s claim that the twin victories a ChoLa and Nathu La have only been covered in fragments through articles and papers is not correct. This subject has been covered in detail in Chapter 8 of Volume III of the History of the Corps of Signals that was written by Maj Gen VK Singh. It is also available on his blog. This includes extracts from the diary of 2/Lt (later Col) NC Gupta, who was then the signal officer in HQ 112 Brigade. This is the most authentic account of the Nathula skirmish, as it was written as and when the events occurred. It has been quoted by Maj Gen Randhir Sinh in his book. After reading the book, it is obvious that the author has copied large portions from the blog.
An account of the skirmish at Nathula is also covered in the biography of Gen Sagat Singh that forms part of the book Leadership in the Indian Army –Biographies of Twelve Soldiers, written by Maj Gen VK Singh in 2005.This is the earliest published account of the action. This too has been used by the Author, without giving any credit.
An interesting side light is that in 2019 I was invited to attend the commemoration ceremony of the centenary of Gen Sagat Singh in Jodhpur. That is where I met the Author. There was a seminar and he spoke about the Nathula and Chola incidents. His book had still not been published till then. I asked him if he had read the biography of Gen Sagat that I had written. He told me that he had read the biography written by Maj Gen Randhir Sinh and was in touch with Gen Sagat’s son and daughter. I told him about NC Gupta's diary and offered to send him copies, along with extracts from the Corps History. Next morning I went to the office of the CSO Brig DK Tiwari. I got photo copies made of the relevant pages from the Corps History. However, the Author did not contact me to collect them. I now understand why. He had already copied them from my blog.
Part 1: The Road to 1967
1. Secret Games: Spies, Soldiers and the Opening Gambit
2. In the Shadow of the Dragon: The War Moves East
3. Protests, Disagreements and a Temporary Truce: Advantage China
Part 1 comprising the first three chapters covers 49 pages. Most of it is irrelevant and has been included just to fill up space.
Chapter 1 - Secret Games: Spies, Soldiers and the Opening Gambit (Page 14-31)
The author has written about several matters, such as a CIA plot to encourage China and Pakistan to attack India; meetings between Sheikh Abdulla and CIA operatives; Pakistani attacks in the Rann of Kutch in July 1965; Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir in August 1965 followed by the full scale war on the whole of the Western Front in September; details of major battles such as Haji Pir, Asal Uttar, Dograi etc. There are 48 notes, mostly referring newspaper articles in Indian and foreign journals.
Chapter 2- In the Shadow of the Dragon: The War Moves East (Page 32-40)
The chapter covers the Goa operation in December 1961; Pakistan’s failed attempts to obtain help from USA and China; and the cease fire between India and Pakistan on 22 September.
In the 1962 war, Harbaksh was the commander of 33 Corps, based in Siliguri in West Bengal, under whose command lay 17 Mountain Division in Sikkim. In the summer of 1965, Sagat arrived to take over the same division.
In the 1962 war, Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh was appointed GOC IV Corps for a short period, when Lt Gen BM Kaul fell sick and was evacuated to Delhi. At that time, 17 Mountain Division was not in Sikkim. It moved to Sikkim only in 1964.
Sometime in the early 1960s, an American couple visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra on a holiday happened to meet Sagat at the city’s Clarks Shiraz hotel. They had been to Lisbon earlier and recalled seeing Sagat’s face on a poster in the city. The poster promised a reward of $10,000 to anyone who would bring the head of the Indian army officer Sagat Singh.8
The incident did not take place in the early 1960s, as mentioned by the Author. It happened later, in 1962, after the capture of Goa in Dec 1961. It has been mentioned on Page 307 of the biography of Gen Sagat Singh written by Maj Gen VK Singh.
Chapter 3-Protests, Disagreements and a Temporary Truce:Advantage China (Page 41-59)
This chapter covers the diplomatic exchanges between India and China after some sheep crossed over into India; the agitation outside the Chinese embassy led by Atal Behari Vajpayee, the ultimatum by China to India to vacate Nathula and Jelepla; Sagat’s refusal to vacate Nathula; minor skirmishes in 1965; the marriage of Hope Cooke with the Palden Thondup, the Chogyal of Sikkim; her friendship with Gen Sagat; the Tashkent agreement; and the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
As the Chinese began to amass additional forces opposite the passes and heightened the pressure on India at the border, 17 orders from 33 Corps came in for 17 and 27 Divisions to vacate Nathu La and Jelep La,
This note refers to the article The Skirmish at Nathula (1967) – published in the Scholar Warrior in Autumn 2014.
As soon as India decided to withdraw from Jelep La, China promptly seized the vacated pass. 23
The link is the same as in Note 17, referring to the article The Skirmish ant Nathula (1967)
Meanwhile, opposite the Nathu La pass on the Tibetan side, the Chinese had assembled loudspeakers – twenty-one of them! They blared all day, rebuking the Indians for their actions, screaming that destiny had a rerun of 1962 in store for them. They reminded the Indians about the might of the Chinese army. The slogans, which oscillated between homilies about the virtues of communism that benefited the poor soldier and rubbishing the Indian soldiers, were in Hindi.
However, they had been translated into ‘shudh’ Hindi. Meant to be menacing and threatening, they ended up being incomprehensible to the Indian troops who were used to more colloquial language.
The installation of loudspeakers has been taken from the History of the Corps of Signals that was written by Maj Gen VK Singh. In the Army, Signals is responsible for PA equipment and the loudspeakers at Nathula were installed and maintained by 17 Mountain Divisional Signal Regiment, where he was then serving. This has been quoted on Page 77 of Gen Randhir’s book.
Chapter 4-China’s Psychological Tactics:Softening Up the Enemy Before the Storm (Page 61-68)
This chapter covers in insurgency in Mizo Hills, the bombing of Aizwal by IAF, the beginning of the Naxalite movement; machinations of Hope Cooke in an effort to gain independence from India; and the stand-off at Doklam.
Chapter 5 -1966–67: Warriors Arrive at the Watershed (Page 69 -76)
This chapter covers the organisation of the Indian Army into commands, corps, divisions, brigades and battalions; brief biographical sketches of some officers (KB Joshi, Parulekar, Ram Singh Rathore) and men (Tinjong Lama, Debi Prasad) of 7/11 GR and some officers of 2 Grenadiers (Rai Singh, Bishan Singh and PS Dagar).
Chapter 6 -The Tipping Point: A Tale of Spies and a Breach at the Watershed (Page 77-96)
This chapter starts with the arrest and deportation of two Indian diplomats in Peking in June 1967; India’s retaliation by expelling a Chinese diplomats followed by mob attacks on the Chinese embassy in New Delhi; similar attacks on the Indian embassy in Peking; arrival of 2 Grenadiers at Nathula in August 1967;commencement of laying the wire at Nathula by 2 Grenadiers on 20 August; objection by the Chinese; visit by Corps Commander and Gen Sagat Singh to the border on 1 Sep 1967; patrol led by Maj Bishan Singh surrounded by Chinese leading to scuffle; fencing using concertina coils started on 5 Sep; brawl between Indian and Chinese soldiers at the fence on 7 Sep resulting in injury to the political commissar; meeting held HQ 112 Brigade by Gen Sagat Singh during which Maj Bishan Singh given task of completion of fence; allotment of additional troops from Engineers to assist him.
Chapter 7 - Hellfire at Nathu La (Page 97-105)
The opening paragraph of chapter 7 gives details of signal communications, including the new line laid overnight from the brigade headquarters in Chhanggu to Sherathang where the mortars were located. All posts were connected on telephone and radio. This network was patched to the Divisional HQ. This information has obviously been obtained from the diary of NC Gupta that is mentioned in my articles as well as Chapter 3 of the History of the Corps of Signal, Volume III, which is on my blog. However, no credit has been given for this information.
The suddenness of the Chinese actions had forced a bunch of soldiers, over thirty according to accounts, to instinctively make a run for their lives: some even escaping from the scene. This unpleasant chapter of the battle is often dropped from narrations, but to exclude this would undermine the heroism of the soldiers who stood and fought gallantly. Months later, court martials would be held to prosecute deserters, on charges of cowardice.
This clearly brings out the fact that troops ran away from their post. Several were later court martial led for desertion and cowardice.
Bishan, who had tried to prevent the two young officers from embarking on the suicidal mission, 5 provided covering fire to the young soldiers and even downed the Chinese soldier who shot Dagar. Bishan was also wounded in the process and fell unconscious, though he survived the battle, unlike Dagar and Harbhajan. 6
Note 5 . Conversations with Bishan Singh in Jaipur.
Note 6 . Bishan Singh would later be transported to the Siliguri hospital as one of the survivors of Nathu La.
The author only mentions that Bishan Singh was injured. He has totally ignored the role of NC Gupta in saving his life. It is difficult to believe that Bishan Singh did not reveal the true facts during the author’s meeting with him in Jaipur. One can only conclude that this was done deliberately, since that would have brought out the fact of 2/Lt Attar Singh quitting his post at South Shoulder and being taken back to the post by NC Gupta, under orders of the brigade commander.
Sheru Thapliyal was sitting atop Sebu La, watching the action below. He saw Harbhajan and Dagar drop before his eyes. ‘They couldn’t have reached the Chinese bunkers anyway,’ remembers Sheru with sadness. ‘It was like a cruel movie playing before the eyes,’ he recalls. Then the ‘clouds rolled in and I couldn’t see any more’, Sheru reminisces fifty years later. 7
Note 7. Conversations with Sheru Thapliyal in Delhi.
The assertion that Sheru Thapliyal saw Harbhajan and Dagar drop before his eyes does not appear to be plausible. Thapliyal was located at Sebula, about 1 Km away from Nathula. From that distance it is not possible to recognize anyone, from the large number of soldiers involved in the assault. After the incident a couple of officers were asked to write their views of the battle. Apart from the officers of 2 Grenadiers, this included the OC of the Engineer Company. Copies of all these comments are available in Capt Dagar Museum. Interestingly there is also a report of Camel Back OP but none of Thapliyal.
Signal Officer Naveen Gupta and Second Lieutenant Attar Singh, who was among the younger officers in the unit, joined in and ran from trench to trench as he yelled at the men to keep the flock together and respond with fire. The morale had to be kept up.
The above is not true. Naveen did not join Attar Singh and run with him from trench to trench. In fact, Attar Singh was at South Shoulder while Naveen was with the brigade commander.
By then, signal communication with the platoon on South Shoulder had also been lost. On Bakshi’s instructions, Naveen and a signal line repair party proceeded towards South Shoulder with a radio set for the platoon there. On arriving at the post, Naveen found the bodies of a few dead soldiers ahead of the defences. The post wore a desolate look as most men had either been killed or had left the post, barring an abandoned light machine gun (LMG). Naveen grabbed the LMG and fired a few salvos to show the post was still occupied. Bakshi radioed him that reinforcements were on their way and would take a while. To his relief, Naveen soon spotted Second Lieutenant Attar Singh and a group of soldiers coming down the slope, trying to rally the troops. The indefatigable Attar had continued to revive the men’s spirits and managed to get
some of them back on their feet and stay in the fight. In an unusual and unique episode, Attar would later be promoted by Sagat to the rank of captain on the spot, after he was told how the young officer restored the shocked spirits. The Grenadiers had suffered large numbers of casualties at the start, but the officers and men refused to back down and responded with machine guns and rifles. The melee continued amidst a gritty fightback from the Grenadiers.
The author has twisted the facts mentioned by Naveen in his diary. Naveen in fact found the post abandoned. The diary runs into 25 pages of hand written notes. Part of the diary describing the events of 11 September are given below:-
By about 0930 hrs, Chinese fire had intensified and gradually we started getting out of touch with the troops at North Shoulder and South Shoulder. By 0945 hrs we had no contact with anyone on the position on the shoulders even on the Artillery network. It was a panic station for me. All the lines were down and so was the B1 to the pass. I tried to enter the battalion net and the company net but failed. There was no response on any of the almost dozen frequencies of the battalion in use that day for various nets. I asked the operator at Brigade HQ to press in additional radio sets and keep trying for a response directly on ANGRC-9 working to the Artillery OP and CO of the Field Regiment.
Around this time from the vantage position at Central Bump the Commander saw over a dozen troops running down the slopes of South Shoulder towards Sherabthang. He also observed that some of them had shed their helmets, packs and even rifles as they ran down. This created a panic for us. The Commander asked me to call South Shoulder but there was no response. We tried to observe the area of South Shoulder but could see no movement. The shelling on the South Shoulder had also increased.
Under the circumstances perhaps there was no other option for the Commander but to ask me to send someone to South Shoulder to restore the communication. While I had a line party and spare radio sets with me it was decided that a radio be sent to South Shoulder a distance of around 500 mtrs. The route was open at places and involved going down around 300 mtrs and then up around 200 mtrs. The linemen with me were new to Nathula and had never gone to South Shoulder. Havildar Bhakuni of the Rover had gone there many times. The choice was therefore between him and me. Seeing the gravity of the situation and the shelling the Commander said, “OK, Commando (my pet name in Brigade HQ), off you go”.
I reached South Shoulder at around 1000 hours. To my astonishment I found the post totally abandoned. I informed the same to the Commander. He asked me to look around for wounded if any and remain at the post and keep him in picture. From the bunkers on South Shoulder I could see the Chinese in their bunker across. By this time intermittent fog had started setting in. I informed the Commander that I can see a few dead soldiers in the area ahead of our defences close to the fence. Barring this there is no one on the post that was designed for a platoon of Infantry. I resorted to intermittent firing from my carbine to indicate that the post is still occupied. Soon I found an LMG in its bunker. I then used it very carefully to try and depict our presence on the post.
At around 1100 hrs the Commander informed me that re-enforcements are on their way but would take at least three hours to reach and that I must hold on till then. A little later he asked me to go around 100 mtrs down South Shoulder where he had spotted around six soldiers sitting behind a huge rock. After firing a few salvos of LMG I went down. I found six Jawans of 2 Grenadiers including 2/Lt Attar Singh (fresh from IMA), one Havildar and four Jawans. I made Attar Singh speak to the Commander. Thereafter we all went back to the post and organized ourselves.
By 1200 hrs the fog had intensified. As I was watching from one of the bunkers I saw one of the dead moving. He was just next to the fence barely 10 mtrs from the Chinese bunker. Taking advantage of the fog I went ahead to try and recover him. To my surprise it was Major Bishan Singh, Tiger of Nathula who had been injured in the initial firing. He was a 6 foot tall Jat. He was badly injured. With great difficulty I managed to lift him and partly drag him into our defences. Once inside I made him speak to the Commander. After the Commander had been briefed by him the Commander asked me to evacuate him using the four Jawans and asked me, Attar Singh and the Havildar to remain at the post. Ten minutes later the Commander asked me to return to the area of Bumps leaving the radio set with 2/Lt Attar Singh.
As would be obvious from the words in the diary, Attar Singh was not trying to rally the troops but had abandoned the post along with his men.
As regards the fact that Attar Singh was promoted to the rank of Capt by the GOC, this happened due a misunderstanding. These orders were given by the GOC when he was informed on radio that the post had been reoccupied by Attar Singh. In fact, he even ordered that Attar Singh should be recommended for a VrC. The real story was narrated by Naveen only after he returned to the Brigade HQ. When Gen Sagat came to know this he was enraged and ordered the officer to be stripped of his rank and cancelled the orders recommending him for a gallantry award. At this stage, Brig Bakshi felt that removing the rank would hurt the feelings of the men, whose morale was already quite low. On his advice, Gen Sagat permitted him to continue wearing the rank. This has been mentioned in the Notes at the end of the article “The Skirmish at Nathula (1967)” that has been given in the Notes s by the Author at several places.
To the few that had had enough of the tough battle and who decided to retreat to a safer shelter, a rude surprise awaited. Sagat had decided to move closer to the scene of the battle. Like a no-nonsense army drill sergeant out to catch cadets who had loitered outside the precincts without permission, the general had started to marshal the troops that had abandoned the battle, shouting at them, herding them back into action. Sagat stood on the road coming down from Nathu La trying to stem the rout. He even threatened to shoot anyone he found moving to the rear. Sagat hated to see his troops run away from the Chinese. When he saw a few men struggling to keep up, he screamed at them, scolding, lambasting those who had gone astray, finally collecting them like a schoolteacher at picnic and steering them back into class – up towards the forward posts, into their harnesses and back into the battle. Most of the soldiers stayed and fought valiantly, some attaining martyrdom. There were still a few who had deserted the battle that day. Over
thirty soldiers faced court martial later for cowardice. 9
Note 9. https://theprint.in/defence/remembering-the-war-we-forgot-51-years-agohow-
This note gives reference of my article WHEN THE CHINESE GOT A BLOODY NOSE. However, this article makes no mention of Gen Sagat collecting the deserters like a schoolteacher at a picnic and steering them back. But the information about Sagat threatening to shoot deserters is true. This had been told to me by Gen Sagat himself when I met him at his home in Jaipur in 1997-98. I had several meetings with him in connection with his biography, before he approved the draft. I had shared this with Gen Randhir Sinh when he was writing his biography of Gen Sagat.
In fact, 2 Grenadiers was not the only battalion that showed traces of cowardice under fire. Similar instances occurred in other units, including NC Gupta’s own company as entries in his diary reveal.
Chapter 8 - The Battle of Cho La (page 106 -120)
This chapter describes the actions of 7/11 GR in the battle of Chola. It is entirely based on the regimental history of the regiment “The Path of Glory: Exploits of the 11 Gorkha Rifles” written by Gautam Sharma and the Author’s conversation with Lt Col KB Joshi. The Author has totally ignored the role of 10 JAK Rif, which was awarded one MVC and three VrCs. The name of the brigade commander, Brig Kundan Singh has also not been mentioned. The regimental history of written by Col Gautam Sharma, mentions the name of the brigade commander and his conversation with Lt Col KB Joshi. It is not understood why the author has chosen to ignore his name. It now appears that the whole aim of writing the book is to eulogize the 7/11 GR. The Author has devoted 15 pages to the chapter, while the chapter which describes the battle of Nathula has been given only 7.
Part 3 -Epilogue - After the Watershed Battles
The Epilogue covers subjects such as the war in 1971, the creation of Bangla Desh and the merger of Sikkim with India with the assistance of RAW. All these are irrelevant to the subject of the book, which is professed to cover the battles of Nathula and Chola.
The author has written 23 pages (121 -144) on the Epilogue, with 78 Notes. In comparison only 9 pages have been devoted to the battle at Nathula (97-105) and 15 pages (106-120) to Chola.
At first glance, the book appears to be dealing with an important event in India’s military history. This view is supported by some of the comments listed under Praise for the Book. Shekhar Gupta opines “This is a valuable addition to the still thin genre of military historiography in India.” Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam (retd), feels that it is “Meticulously researched”. Shiv Aroor calls it “A book that should forever emblazon 1967’s victory against China in India’s public consciousness as much as 1962’s defeat.”
After reading the detailed comments given above, chapter wise, I am not sure how many will agree with these words of praise. The author can be called a storyteller, but certainly not a military historian. He seems to have done hardly any research, except for taking snippets from articles. Except for the regimental history of his own Regiment, the 11th Gorkha Rifles, he has not consulted the regimental histories of The Grenadiers, The Rajput Regiment and The Jammu & Kashmir Rifles. Of course, he has made to attempt to go through the war diaries of the units or the formation HQ.
This being his first book he can perhaps be excused for gaffes such as using incorrect ranks, names and decorations. In the introduction, he mentions that under the leadership of Lieutenant General Sagat Singh, young officers and soldiers of the Indian army defeated the Chinese at Nathu La. At that time, Sagat Singh was major general, not a lieutenant general. Ranjit Singh Dayal, the captor of Haji Pir is called Rajinder Singh Dayal; Gen Shiv Charan Singh, GOC 27 Division is called Ramcharan Singh. Brig MMS Bakshi’s is said to have been awarded a VrC in 1965, whereas he actually got an MVC. According to the book, Mhow stands for Military Headquarters of War whereas it is the name of a village called Mahu in the vicinity. He also has a disconcerting habit of giving names without mentioning the rank. For instance, he mentions Kul Bhushan, Parulekar, Tinjong Lama, Debi Prasad etc. without their ranks. Kulbhushan is sometimes referred to as KB. His full name with rank Lt Col KB Joshi or Kul Bhushan Joshi is rarely mentioned. Since the battalion has another KB (Krishna Bahadur), this sometimes leaves the reader confused. Using names without ranks may be the norm in articles and stories; it is almost never done in a book on military history.
As already mentioned in Chapter 8 - The Battle of Cho La, the Author has totally ignored the role of 10 JAK RIF and its CO, Lt Col Mahatam Singh, MVC. In addition to the MVC for the CO, the battalion was awarded three VrCs. This is an unacceptable lapse and amount to an insult to the unit.
The most glaring lacuna in the book is the distortion of facts relating to 2 Grenadiers. The only authentic version of the battle is the diary of 2/Lt (later Col) NC Gupta, which gives a day by day account of the occurrences from 11-14 September 1967. Its authenticity cannot be questioned because it was written on a daily basis as the events occurred and not in hind sight after 40-50 years like this book and some articles written by a few others. The diary clearly brings out the instances of cowardice, especially the vacation of South Shoulder at a critical juncture. The war diaries and regimental histories either ignore this altogether or gloss over it. Often, units resort to this due to a false sense of ‘Izzat’. Achievements are often glorified while failures are either totally omitted or watered down. This makes them unreliable for penning an authentic historical account. Sometimes, one gets a true picture only after comparing the unit records with those in the brigade or divisional HQ. This falsification of records is a dangerous trend that bodes ill for India’s military history.
The regimental history of The Grenadiers, titled The Grenadiers – A Tradition of Valour, was written by Col. R.D. Palsokar in 1980. Writing about the South Shoulder, he writes:
At one stage it appeared that the force fighting from the South shoulder was wiped out as it was the main target of the Chinese. The troops could not hold it and had to fall back. When the Chinese fire died down, they once again occupied the feature. The South Shoulder would have remained unoccupied had 2nd Lieutenant Attar Singh not been there. His personal example inspired the men to stay fast.
Col RD Palsokar (Guards) is a well known military historian, who has penned a large number of regimental histories and biographies. It appears that what he has written is based on the inputs given to him by The Grenadiers, which is not his parent Regiment.
Another example of this falsification syndrome is the article titled “The Nathu La skirmish: when Chinese were given a bloody nose” by Sheru Thapliyal in the Force journal. He writes:-
2 Grenadiers were initially shaken up due to the loss of Capt Dagar and injury to their CO but found their man of the moment in Lieutenant Atar Singh who went round from trench to trench to rally the troops and was later promoted as Captain on the spot.
I have noticed that some officers, especially from the Infantry, take offence when they come across critical comments about their own or even other Regiments. On page 82 of his book A Talent for War: The Military Biography of Lt Gen Sagat Singh, Maj Gen Randhir Sinh has described the evacuation of South Shoulder in these words:
2/Lt NC Gupta, who was the Brigade Signal Officer and received a Sena Medal for his actions, was ordered by Bakshi to go to South Shoulder as the position seems to have been vacated. Gupta held on to the place until relieved by Atttar Singh and then evacuated the badly injured Bishen Singh in the face of the enemy. 21.
Note 21. Personal account of Brig NC Gupta in History of the Corps of Signals.ibid. He is less than charitable towards people and units in his first person account.
One can understand the author’s unhappiness at the mention of the evacuation of South Shoulder, which he has not quoted in full, glossing over the role of Attar Singh. But is he justified in his observation that NC Gupta has been less than charitable towards people and units? In fact Gupta has mentioned several other cases of cowardice in other units, including his own company.
THE MISSNG PAGES FROM NC GUPTA’S DIARY
The story of 2 Grenadiers would not be complete without relating the episode of the missing pages of Gupta’s diary.
After the incident a few officers were asked to write their views of the battle. This included the OC of the field company. Gupta told the Commander that he has written it down daily on whatever paper he could find at Sherathang. This was mainly the reverse of radio logs on the sheets that have a blue line margin on the left. After about a month or two when Gupta was handing over to Capt Amar Singh to go on annual leave, the Brigade HQ gave him back the file. Like any other young officer, he kept it in his luggage and left for home. He never saw it after that. After his marriage he did give it to his wife to read but he is sure she understood nothing. This file remained at his family home in Faridabad, unread by anyone including Gupta himself.
After I finished writing Volume II of the Corps History in 2006, I started work on Volume III, which covers the period 1947 – 72. By this time Gupta had moved to Australia but came to India every year for a couple of months. Sometime in 2009, I asked him for some inputs about the Nathula skirmish. Gupta told me that he had a diary of the events at Nathula and would hand it over to me. After locating the diary Gupta thought that he should he should read it, to revive his memory. When he opened it, he was horrified when he found nine pages missing. These were the pages which covered the actions of that fateful morning. When Gupta told me this I asked him to recollect the incidents as best as he could. Accordingly he made an endorsement on the handwritten pages that nine pages are missing (this endorsement still exists on the original, which is now in HQ 17 Mountain Division). After adding the details of these nine pages from memory, Gupta came to the Corps History Cell office in Signals Enclave and handed it over to me. (Surprisingly his re-collection was good, as he discovered later). We kept the diary for some time and returned them to Gupta after making copies.
In June 2016 Mr Vijay Dagar, the nephew of Late Captain PS Dagar, VrC of 2 Grenadiers obtained Gupta’s address from the Signals Directorate. He then visited his house at Faridabad Since Gupta was in Australia he met his younger brother Gp Capt S Chandra who stays next door and learnt from him that Gupta would be coming to India on 10 June for his knee surgery. He left his card and took Gupta’s number.
When Gupta reached India, he called VijayDagar and told him that since he was getting admitted in Army Hospital R&R after five days, they could meet after his operation was over. However, Vijay came to the hospital to meet him and told him about the museum he had made in memory of his uncle, Captain PS Dagar, at Rotala, near Najafgarh. He invited Gupta to visit the museum when he had fully recovered. Gupta promised to do so and told him that he would present him a copy of his diary.
In August 2016 when Gupta went to visit the Capt Dagar museum to present them the diary, he found that it had a lot of memorabilia that Vijay had collected from various sources. But the best was yet to come. He was stunned to see the missing nine pages of his diary in the museum! Vijay told him that he had got it from a clerk of 2nd Grenadiers. Perhaps the clerk kept a colour photo copy for himself and gave him the original.
Then, putting two and two together things all fell in place. Obviously, someone had removed the nine pages from the file when Gupta had submitted it to the Brigade HQ. The other officers had also given their comments. Copies of all these also comments were also there in the Museum. Interestingly there is also a report of Camel Back OP but none of Thapliyal. On his return from the museum, Gupta added the original nine pages to the diary held with him. He also shared copies with the Corps History Cell, where they are still available.
In September 2019 Gupta was invited by HQ 17 Mountain Division to attend a commemoration ceremony to be held at Nathula, on the anniversary of the operation. I was also invited but could not go due to other commitments. Gupta went for the ceremony along with some other members of his family. He presented the original copy of the diary to the GOC. The first page has an annotation on the top in red ink by the brigade commander, Brig MMS Bakshi, MVC, “Notes of 2/Lt Gupta.”
Mr Vijay Dagar is a very dedicated person, who has located almost all the surviving prime witnesses of the fate day when Capt PS Dagar lost his life at Nathula. These include:
- Maj Cheema, OC 70 Fd Company living in Noida
- Maj Bishen Singh living in his home town.
- Maj Chadrashekhar living in Chennai.
- Capt Attar Singh living in Noida.
- A JCO of Grenadiers living in Najafgarh. Then a young sepoy.
Mr Vijay Dagar has visited and met all of them personally. He knows many more individuals who were present that day and are still alive though they did not play a major role in the battle. He visits the unit almost every year with his son and a few relatives on 11 Sept. He deserves the real credit for keeping the legacy of Nathu La alive.
The missing pages from Gupta’s diary point to the disturbing trend already mentioned – the falsification of military records by units. That the unit could resort to even removing documents from higher HQ, which they perceived cast aspersions on their performance in battle, speaks for itself.Significantly, the ERE in the Brigade HQ at that time was from the Grenadiers. This is indeed a serious matter and needs urgent attention from those concerned with our military heritage and history.