Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu tweets about Havildar Shere Thapa of Indian Army earlier this year as he unveiled a bust of the unsung hero, who is still awaiting central government recognition.
He said, “Little we know about Havildar Shere Thapa of the Indian Army who single handedly delayed waves of assault of Chinese Army during the 1962 war in Upper Subansiri sector.”
Thapa of the Indian Army’s 2nd Battalion of Jammu & Kashmir Rifles had killed 79 Chinese soldiers alone and injured many more in the battle fought at the Subansiri sector of Arunachal Pradesh in November, 1962, before laying down his life, according to official records.
Sixty years on, the martyr, lost in the annals of history, is yet to get his due commendation, rued Thapa’s commanding officer 2nd Lieutenant Amar Patil, who retired as a colonel.
Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal East Parliamentary Constituency Tapir Gao had in September last year called on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi and submitted a letter, requesting him to confer gallantry award posthumously on the havildar.
Born in Nepal in 1928, Thapa had served in JAK Regiment Special Force from December 27, 1945 to December 31, 1956 and became part of the Indian Army on January 1, 1957.
He was later appointed as platoon havildar under Subedar Sher Bahadur.
“Thapa was deployed in the protective patrol at Tama Chung Chung ridge near Rio Bridge in Upper Subansiri district to cover the tracks coming from the Sino-Indian border,” the retired colonel said.
“On November 18, 1962 about 200 PLA soldiers sneaked in through the Tama Chung Chung Ridge and ran into the protective patrol of 2 JAK RIF. Havildar Thapa was manning the border from a well-camouflaged vantage point high on the mountains. His gun boomed relentlessly, like a roaring tiger, knocking down many Chinese. He went on firing non-stop without food (as supply lines were cut off) and sleep for three days, while his lone soldier-friend continued changing the carbines, till the duo ran out of ammunition,” Patil told PTI.
The pile of bodies of Chinese soldiers was “so high” that the river failed to carry them, he said.
“When the Chinese firing stopped, Thapa came out of his bunker for a recce. He looked towards the heap of mortal remains with great satisfaction but death was awaiting him. A wounded Chinese soldier fired, killing him instantly,” the octogenarian war veteran said.
The gallant action of Thapa delayed the Chinese advance for nearly 72 hours, he stated.
“In the encounter, over 70 Chinese soldiers, including a senior officer, were said to have been killed,” the retired army officer said.
Thapa may not have won any award but his bravery is remembered by locals, who hold him in very high esteem, he underlined.
The havildar was survived by wife and two children, but little is known about their whereabouts, Patil said.
“People of Arunachal Pradesh consider Thapa their role model. They feel upset about the fact that he was not given the well-deserved gallantry award by the central government. The Chinese, however, recognized his bravery and had placed a wooden epitaph at the spot where his mortal remains were found with an inscription in Chinese recognising Thapa’s fighting spirit,” added Patil.
The Indian Army later constructed a memorial near Rio Bridge, as a mark of tribute to the valiant soldier.
A bridge built by the BRO at Nacho circle in Tama Chung Chung (TCC)-Maza axis of Upper Subansiri district, over the turbulent Tsari Chu River has also been named after Shere Thapa.
Khandu had in January unveiled the bust of the braveheart at his memorial near Rio Bridge, between Limeking and Nacho, where he laid down his life fighting for the country, earning appreciation from locals.
Tiger Baza, a septuagenarian resident of Upper Subansiri, said, “We have long been hearing stories of Thapa’s valour. Many in this part of Arunachal Pradesh look up to him as their idol. It’s time the Centre, too, pays tribute to him with an award befitting his valour and sacrifice.” (PTI)
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