Factcheck: Was the Landmark at Rezang la Dismantled as Part of Disengagement With China?

New Delhi: On Christmas day, Chushul councillor Konchok Stanzin revealed that the cemented construction which marks the site at Rezang La where the body of late Major Shaitan Singh, PVC was found after the epic battle in 1962 was dismantled by the Indian Army as it fell in the buffer zone agreed upon with China. Most newspapers chose to ignore the news but it was covered, among others by The Wire, The Telegraph and BBC Hindi.

The accompanying picture in the councillor’s post on social media showed a raised plinth construction by 8 Kumaon in October 2020 which says, “At this site, Maj Shaitan Singh, PVC (P) is believed to have been mortally wounded leading his brave men into battle.” On the sidearms of the raised plinths are etched the words, “In memory of the brave soldiers of C Coy, 13 Kumaon” and “May their souls rest in peace”.

On December 29, a question was posed to the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, during his weekly press briefing. In response to the question by Sandeep from News18 India, Bagchi said, “As many of you know, there is a longstanding memorial to the Heroes of Rezang La, on the border. Any imputation that there has been any change in that monument is incorrect. And for any details, I would refer you to the concerned authorities.”

Questioned further by Snehesh Alex Philip of The Print that “Sandeep was referring to was Shaitan Singh Memorial, which is there has that been dismantled or not. The Rezang La Memorial, of course remains where it is,” Bagchi replied: “Look, as I said, the Rezang La Memorial stands there. On the other one, I don’t have any information. As I said, for any details of that one, you would have to ask the concerned authorities, but the one which is longstanding and well known is the Rezang La Memorial.”



The concerned authorities are the army and the defence ministry, both of whom have maintained silence on the matter. Army PRO Lieutenant Colonel Sudhir Chamoli told the BBC that he had no information about the matter and he could not comment on it right now.

However, BJP MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tshering Namgyal told the BBC, “The removal of the old memorial and the construction of a new one is not related to any kind of buffer zone. Has the Government of India said that a buffer zone has been created? We have built a big memorial for Major Shaitan Singh and it is in recognition of his sacrifice. Those who are saying that that area has been made a no-man’s land are not telling the truth. The population of Chushul is living there and the roads there are also the same. It is possible that there was some problem for the people around because people from all over the country used to come and pay obeisance at the martyr’s site and there was tourism. But the memorial of Major Shaitan Singh and his sacrifice have not been diminished in any way.”

The statements of Namgyal and Bagchi point to a deliberate misdirection of the construction at Rzeang La with the memorial at Chushul 27 km away from the site. The Chushul memorial was erected at the cremation place of 96 soldiers of 13 Kumaon in Chushul High Ground and inaugurated on August 5, 1963.

After the 1962 war, the Indian Army was not deployed at Rezang la. It constructed the memorial at Chushul to mark the battle fought on November 18, 1962. Out of a total of 127 all ranks, one officer, two JCOs, and 105 other ranks fell in battle; one JCO and four other ranks were taken prisoner – one of them later succumbed to his wounds. Only four soldiers returned alive. Two of them spoke about it on the 50th anniversary of the battle.

On February 12, 1963, an Indian Army patrol reached Rezang La and discovered Major Shaitan Singh’s body near where he was last seen by his two men. The official Indian history of the war records that his well-preserved body due to freezing temperatures showed that “he had received eight bullets and was still clutching his gun”. Major Shaitan Singh’s mortal remains were flown to Jodhpur on February 19, 1963. Subsequently, Brigadier T.N. Raina, Commander of 114 Brigade personally went to Rezang la with a large party to collect the dead. Rezang la had 96 bodies which were cremated at Chushul, at a site which the battalion headquarters of 13 Kumaon during the 1962 war.

The structure that has been dismantled in February 2021 was the site near Rezang la where Major Shaitan Singh’s body was discovered in 1963, months after the war.

The dismantling was a part of the disengagement plan agreed upon by the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA. This was announced by defence minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament in February 2021, but no details of the buffer zone were provided. Reports state that under the plan, both sides would withdraw from the Kailash range (which India had moved into in August 2020) and the north bank of the Pangong Lake (where the PLA had entered in April 2020). A no-patrol zone would be created on the north bank of Pangong in the contested area, and the PLA would dismantle all the infrastructure it created there. It would also erase the Chinese map, flag and the slogan painted there earlier. There was great disappointment among observers that India had agreed to barter away its trump card in Kailash for only the north bank of Pangong, instead of seeking disengagement throughout Ladakh.

As a senior officer told The Caravan, “The north bank was a priority for us because of its impact on the national morale, as the PLA had painted the China map and flag. We wanted to get that removed.” The landmark at Rezang la constructed in October 2020 was dismantled as part of that requirement.

In a research paper presented to the annual conference of police in New Delhi in January, Leh’s senior superintendent of police P.D. Nithya said India had lost access to 26 of 65 patrolling points in Ladakh from the Karakoram Pass to Chumar along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since 2020. This has led to a shift in the Line of Actual Control “towards the Indian side”, Nithya said.

In March this year, Stanzin had posted photographs on the critical role of ‘locals’ who “stand by the Army in the defence of our motherland. Whether in 1947,1962 or 2020 clashed but always failed to mention their contribution, you won’t get a local contribution in any books, Local had carried the bodies of martyred soldiers on yak from Sirijab & Re-Zangla.” He retweeted it this week.

Photos of ‘locals’ helping the army posted on X by Stanzin.

This article was originally published by a m.thewire.in . Read the Original article here. .