Walong, the easternmost town of mainland India, located near the India-China-Myanmar tri-junction in Anjaw district was carved out of Lohit District in 2004. Its name has origins in the Mishmi dialect, ‘Wa’ meaning Bamboo and ‘Long’ meaning place.
The Bamboo town of Walong lies 20 km south of the Tibetan border and is rich in wildlife. Mishmi Hills are home to rare mammals such as the Mishmi takin, Red goral and Leaf muntjac alongside rare birds like the Sclater’s Monal. The region is also home to the Giant Flying Squirrel.
According to the British officials, the first settlers in the area were Miju Mishmis who reared cattle there. One can even find several abandoned villages here where Tibetans took refuge after running away from the north for many years before returning to Tibet.
The breathtaking scenery of the hills and the calmness of the valley was once where echoes of battle cries rung in every ear.
Walong was once threatened by Chinese advances that the Indian Army’s 11th Infantry Brigade fought with valiantly.
We don’t mention the Sino-Indian war a lot when we speak of the great wars that the Indian army has fought and so, today, on November 14, Walong Day, we at EastMojo will remind you of what happened in the eastern-most lands of our country in 1962.
A lot was going on at this small cantonment town on the western banks of the river Lohit that autumn.
While China alleges that since 1960, the Nehru government repeatedly rejected China’s requests for negotiations to settle the border dispute at Arunachal Pradesh Indian history reminds us that the war was a result of the betrayal of India’s trust by the Dragon.
The Sino-Indian war of 1962 is said to be a classic example of how excessive political interference in the Army’s structure can lead to a disaster.
The war was started by China on the 20th of October 1962. The Chinese army had invaded the Indian territory on two fronts, the Aksai Chin Area and the NEFA area. The war lasted for almost a month where Indian soldiers gave their Chinese counterparts a hard time despite being ill-equipped themselves.
The war ended on November 22 with a unilateral ceasefire declared by China. Over three thousand brave Indian soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice at the border and over seven hundred casualties were reported from the Chinese side.
What led to the war of 1962?
Both India and China became independent sovereigns around the same time but with different ideologies. Indian leadership offered blind support to China on all issues and was the first nation to recognise and make ties with the newly formed Communist nation – People’s Republic of China.
The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had declined a seat at the UN Security Council offered by the United States to India, a historic blunder that passed the seat on to China. The decision has had serious ramifications on India as China continues to misuse its veto power against the nation.
The Tibet issue
China’s expansionist policy soon led to the invasion and capture of Tibet in 1950 which was a peaceful Buddhist Country and was vehemently opposed by the people. The Indian government decided to remain silent on the issue despite opposition from the west.
The capture of Tibet made India face a serious refugee crisis as many Tibetans fled to India in self-imposed exile and sought shelter here. India, on humanitarian grounds, provided shelter to the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama and other refugees which China viewed as a hostile act becoming suspicious of the Indian government’s intentions.
This then created a rift between India and China. Dalai Lama then formed a Tibetan government in Tawang Monastery in northeast India’s Arunachal Pradesh. Due to Aksai Chin’s strategically important location in the west and Arunachal Pradesh, which it claimed was a part of South Tibet, China decided to attack the North east Frontier Agency (NEFA).
Covering close to 90,000 sq km of land, this is the largest area that China claimed which was dismissed by India.
What led to the war in the east was China’s intrusion of almost 60 kms inside the Indian territory.
Despite numerous deaths and injuries on both sides and India’s defeat, India emerged victorious in making the Chinese withdraw from the region allowing India to regain its territory.
Today, the McMahan Line or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is considered the international border between India and China.
Ignoring the warning signs
By 1959, the India-China border witnessed serious violent clashes between forces deployed along the border. India also had adopted the ‘Forward Policy’ and built several posts along the north of the McMahan line and the along the East.
The alarming rise in the number of clashes became more evident despite which no efforts were made to prepare for war. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Defence Minister V K Krishnan Menon were warned by General Thorat of the border tensions and urgent measures needed to strengthen the defence along the border.
On October 20, 1962, the Chinese Army launched a surprise attack on the border. The Indian army soldiers fought with 2nd World War .303 rifles which could fire only one bullet at a time whereas the Chinese troops were well equipped with AK-47 automatic assault rifles which China had recently acquired from Russia.
The Indian Army could deploy only 20,000 soldiers at the border against 80,000 well-armed Chinese soldiers despite which the soldiers fought till their last breath.
India lost the Aksai Chin area of Jammu which still remains under Chinese administration however they went back to their previous positions on the eastern front in Arunachal.
Remembering the heroes
Whatever may be the reason behind India’s defeat, be it a political failure, diplomatic failure, failure of the defence ministry, lack of infrastructure along the border, lack of training and equipment or failure of Indian intelligence, the thousands of men that laid down their lives to protect the honour of their motherland shall always remain in our hearts.
Today, Walong houses a grand War Memorial – the Namti Memorial, built in honour of the sacrifices of these Bravehearts. A canopied memorial to the war dead of 1962 was erected next to an airstrip carrying the following verses composed by a Walong veteran inscribed on it:
The sentinel hills that round us stand
bear witness that we loved our land.
Amidst shattered rocks and flaming pine
we fought and died on Namti Plain.
O Lohit gently by us glide
pale stars above us softly shine
as we sleep here in sun and rain.
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