Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, MVC, Indian Army

Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat, MVC

During the 1962 war with China, the 4 Garhwal defended bridge No.3 near Nuranang along India's northeast frontier.

Early on the 17th November, the Chinese lauched two successive attacks to dislodge the Indians from this position. But the Indians held on. The third attack was a three-pronged one, supported by heavy mortar and artillery fire. A medium machine gun threatened the defences of the Garhwal platoon.

Rifleman Rawat and two others, a Lance Naik and another Rifleman volunteered to destroy the machine gun. As the Lance Naik provided covering fire, Rifleman Rawat and his companion hurled grenades, that killed and wounded some Chinese soldiers. Rawat then rushed forward and snatched the gun from the Chinese. However, while returning, he was struck fatally on the head by enemy fire. He died holding the gun he had captured.

Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat was awarded the Mahavir Chakra posthumously for his exceptional courage and initiative.

An Indian soldier who lives even after death
(By Syed Zarir Hussain, Indo-Asian News Service)

Jaswant Garh (Arunachal Pradesh), Oct 24 (IANS) Forty years after his death, an Indian rifleman has become a 'major general' and is still believed to 'command' troops guarding the dizzy heights along the frontier with China.

Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat of the Fourth Garhwal Rifles, an infantry regiment, is perhaps the only soldier in the long and chequered history of the Indian Army who has earned regular promotions even after death.

Rawat remained at his post at an altitude of 10,000 feet and held back advancing Chinese troops for three days all by himself during the winter war with China in 1962 along the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh before he was shot dead.

The rifleman may have died, but soldiers say his spirit lives on.

Rawat gets an unofficial promotion at regular intervals. He is today a major general, and the post he held to repulse the Chinese is called Jaswant Garh in recognition of his courage.

Rawat's bravery has earned him a distinct place in the Indian Army along the unfenced 1,030-km Sino-Indian border. For the troops he is their guardian angel.

Myth, folklore and superstition are so strong among the soldiers that the battle site has been converted into a Hindu temple, with troops giving Rawat the status of 'baba' or saint.

"Troops passing by this route, be it a general or a soldier, make it a point to pay their respects at the shrine of Jaswant Singh or else they invoke his curse," warned Ram Narayan Singh, a soldier.

"A major general once refused to pray at his shrine while crossing the area, saying this was just a superstition. He died in a mysterious road accident a few kilometres away."

The Garhwal Rifles is today deployed along the winding border with China and the unit makes it a point to permanently keep at least half-a-dozen personnel to take care of Rawat as if he were alive.

"For us he is immortal and continues to protect and bless us in this treacherous mountain terrain," a Garhwal Rifles soldier posted at Rawat's shrine said.

Soldiers behave as if Rawat is still alive - an orderly cooks for him daily, makes his bed, irons his clothes and polishes his boots. His shrine is protected round the clock.

"Each morning his bed is found crumpled and his freshly ironed clothes lie crushed on the floor," another soldier said. "He is here all the time although we cannot see him."

According to locals and soldiers posted near Jaswant Garh, Rawat's spirit roams the area. Some claim dreaming about him. "The respect Rawat commands even after his death is something very rare in the Indian Army," Major Jaideep Ghosh told IANS. "I have never seen anything like this -- a dead soldier still influencing the troops."

Legend has it that the Chinese troops after killing Rawat beheaded him and carried his torso as a trophy because he alone stood guard against the rampaging invaders - armed with just a vintage .303 rifle.

But after the ceasefire, a Chinese commander, impressed by Rawat's bravery, returned the head along with a brass bust of Jaswant Singh. The bust, created in China to honour the Indian, is now installed at the site of the battle.

"A nation that does not honour its dead warriors will perish," an army commander remarked as soldiers lit earthen lamps at night at Rawat's shrine.