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Autumn of ’62 haunts veteran

- Gadkari flags off Swahid Shradhanjali Yatra
Nitin Gadkari at the programme in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Oct. 18: Acrid memories, which had almost faded away, came flooding back to septuagenarian Naren Chandra Das today as the BJP youth wing launched the Swahid Shradhanjali Yatra here to pay tribute to martyrs of the 1962 Sino-Indian war.

The 75-year-old resident of Balipara in Sonitpur district, who joined the army in 1957, is still bogged down by the losses suffered during India’s worst military defeat at the hands of the Chinese army which attacked the Arunachal frontier on October 20, 1962.

“Though I did not join the war, five to six of my close colleagues, with whom I used to share food from the same plate in the difficult terrain of Arunachal Pradesh along the Sino-Indian border, were killed by the Chinese army. Today, when the Shradhanjali Yatra was launched, I remembered the loss of my colleagues,” Das told The Telegraph.

Das and a few of his colleagues had gone to Pune in 1961 for training and had thus missed the war, which claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Indian soldiers. About 20 youths from Assam were among those who made the supreme sacrifice during the war, which will complete 50 years tomorrow.

Though a border dispute was said to have triggered the war, reports suggest that other issues were also responsible. The war was preceded by a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when India had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama.

The war ended when the Chinese declared a ceasefire on November 20, 1962.

“I was a witness to Dalai Lama’s entry in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh through Lungla in 1959. I was present at the entry point and saw the Dalai Lama. In fact, we had discussed among ourselves that the Dalai Lama’s arrival in the country might lead to a war with China, which eventually happened. Memories of the war will remain with me till my death,” Das said.

The Swahid Shradhanjali Yatra is being organised by the Bharatiya Janata Yuba Morcha. The yatra, which was flagged off by BJP national president Nitin Gadkari here this morning, will pass through Tezpur, Bomdila, Dirang and Tawang before concluding at Bumla, which is on the border, on October 21.

About 90 participants from 19 states across the country are taking part in the rally.

“India suffered its worst military defeat when China invaded and India buckled 50 years ago. At this moment, I do not want make any political statement. But it is high time that India draws up effective strategies to prevent any chance of a repeat of that war,” Gadkari said.