Havildar Shere Thapa: 1962 War Hero Who Saved Upper Subansiri from Chinese

Havildar Shere Thapa

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Wednesday unveiled the bust statue of great warrior of 1962 Indo-China war, Havildar Shere Thapa during his visit to the quaint little village of Taksing in Upper Subansiri District.

CM Khandu speaking on the occasion mentioned how little we know about Havildar Shere Thapa, who single handedly delayed the waves of assault of the Chinese Army for hours during the 1962 war. 

Havildar Shere Thapa is the forgotten Sino-India War hero who is no less a martyr than Jaswant Singh Rawat. It was at the Rio Bridge in between Taksing and Nacho in Upper Subansiri district that the brave heart laid down his life fighting for the country. 

Hav Shere Thapa, born in Nepal on 27th December in 1928 and served in the Jammu and Kashmir Regiment Special Force from 27th December 1945 to 1956.

He became part of the Indian Army on 1st January 1957. He qualified in MR-1.ACE-1 and TTT-1 to get promoted as havildar in the year 1962. He was part of A Company and was appointed as platoon Havildar under Subedar Sher Bahadur.

In November 1962, he was deployed in a protective patrol in Tama Chung Chung ridge near Rio Bridge in Upper Subansiri Valley of Arunachal Pradesh covering the track coming from the Indo-China border.

On 18th November in the year 1962, the Chinese Army (People’s Liberation Army) launched an offensive attack in Subansiri Sector of NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh) and contacted the protective patrol at about 3 pm. 

The protective patrol was established in rocky outcrop area south of confluence of Ngo stream, the main source of Subansiri River dominating steep slippery track from border coming down to Tama Chung Chung ridge.

As the enemy approached down the slippery slope and came within effective range, Subedar Bahadur ordered the patrol to open fire. During the fire fight, Rifleman Inder Singh operating LMG No 1 sustained injuries and Havildar Thapa took over the LMG and kept on engaging the enemy effectively.

After some time, the patrol ran low on ammunition and Subedar Bahadur decided to withdraw. 

However, Havildar Thapa volunteered to cover the platoon during their withdrawal and relentlessly kept on effectively engaging the Chinese. His light machine gun boomed relentlessly, like a roaring tiger. One after another unsuspecting Chinese soldiers were killed and fell into the Ngo River without anyone to count. 

Brave Shere Thapa, hiding in a very advantageous position, fired non-stop as his lone soldier-mate continued changing the carbines.

The People’s Liberation Army of China had sneaked through the Tama Chung Chung Ridge. Thapa had positioned himself on a vertical slope – an invincible high mountain ridge on one side, steep slope down to the Ngo stream, the source of the Subansiri River, on the other side. He had located the most strategic place, either to stop or kill the advancing Chinese soldiers.

Thapa did not notice any more Chinese after emptying all magazines with the fired brash khokas lying scattered. He confidently came out of his bunker for a recce. Death was waiting for him. He peeped towards the heap of corpses with great satisfaction. A wounded, but alive Chinese soldier, lying on the heap along with his colleagues fired, killing him instantly.

The corpses of the Chinese soldiers were piled up so much that the river failed to carry them. 

Political interpreter Chader Mangha along with many villagers, who carried supplies, arms and ammunition for Thapa’s Army section, were witness to his bravery. 

Mangha, who died in 1994,was given a commendation certificate by the Government of India in recognition of his service to the nation and promoted to the rank of political assistant. 

Even the Chinese had respectfully buried him and erected a wooden board as a memorial with inscriptions in Chinese praising his bravery and sacrifice. This unique gesture of respect by the enemy is very rarely seen in the history of warfare. 

The locals who had witnessed the battle informed that the Chinese had suffered more than 150 casualties including 70 dead with one senior officer. Later on the Chinese radio reported that they had suffered 155 casualties.

Havildar Thapa died on 18th November 1962. He was survived by wife Dilli and his three daughters Dhanisara, Syani and Nurma.

After the unilateral withdrawal of the Chinese Army, the locals retrieved remains of Havildar Thapa, performed last rites and built a monument to honour his brave sacrifice. The 56 Inf Div GOC had placed a plaque at the memorial. Since then, the locals have been revereing Havildar Thapa as the saviour of Subansiri district.

While correct information on 1962 Indo-China War is still shrouded in mystery, conclusive evidence is proof of the pitch battle, beyond Tawang and Walong (Tibet-Burma-India tri-junction) sectors.

Villagers inhabiting the Indo-China border claim that the PLA had sent its troops through passes, including Taksing, Mechuka, Anini, etc where the forces camped waiting for orders. 

Had the war prolonged, China would have launched a multi-pronged attack but withdrew its forces after cessation of firing, following 29 days (Oct 18 to Nov 16, 1962) of fierce battle, leading to the humiliating defeat of the Indian Army.

Havildar Thapa sacrificed his life in the Middle sector (Upper Subansiridistrict) while protecting Mother India. His mortal remains were brought to Lemiking. 

Until his last breath, Thapa knew well that without any road and communication then, expecting any support from the base camp was well nigh impossible. He decided to face the enemies as a brave soldier of Mother India. 

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