On the way to Hanle from Pangong Tso via Chaga la pass I came across a beautiful war memorial. The war memorial is in the middle of nowhere; there are no roads leading up to it. During sumer months glacial streams make it almost impossible to drive through this route and during winter its bitterly cold with the temperature reaching -20 degree centigrade. Driving through this route is only possible during the winter months on frozen glacial streams. The route which touches the Chushul sub sector is an alternative route and no one but the most intrepid traveler will have the courage to take it. Chushul sector is a particularly senstive area because of its proximity to the Tibet border. Chushul is only a few kilometers from Thakung, which is the designated place for flag meetings between the Indian and the Chinese army. In the past, a few individuals have got lost and inadvertently crossed over to Tibet, triggering strong responses from the Chinese army.
Not many are aware of the war memorial at Rezang La, mainly as this area is not accessible to foreigners and even for Indian citizens permissions are hard to come by. Even when you have the required permissions either the Indian army or the J&K police will stop you from proceeding any further than Pangong Tso on one or the other pretext; this is in sharp contrast to other military check posts in the rest of Ladakh, where the army is quite keen to offer any kind of assistance you may require. When you do manage; the 8 hour drive from Pangong Tso to Hanle itself is stunning. You will come across some of the most amazing sights of the snow-capped mountains, a beautiful view of the frozen indus river against the back drop of majestic mountains of the Himalayan ranges. A tip for fellow photographers - this route is the best place in all of Ladakh to shoot stunning landscapes of the Indus river. All this however pales in comparison to the piece of history that the war memorial has to offer. Having experienced the terrain and the weather I get a sense of how challenging it must have been for the soldiers to fight a battle here.
The small dark mountain at the back of the first picture is called Trishul. Its now Chinese property. It was taken over by the Chinese in 1962. The mountain in front - Rezang La is where 13 Kumaon made its last stand on 18th November 1962. Out of the 123 soldiers, 114 who were caught without any artillery support due to the difficult terrain, were killed. 1700 Chinese soldiers were killed in this battle. Rezang La is still India's property. The Indian side was led by Major Shaitan Singh who was posthumously awarded India's highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra. Major Shaitan Singh ordered every soldier to fight till death.There is a beautiful war memorial here for the martyred soldiers. The memorial reads:
How can a Man die Better than facing Fearful Odds,
For the Ashes of His Fathers and the Temples of His Gods,
To the sacred memory of the Heroes of Rezang La,
114 Martyrs of 13 Kumaon who fought to the Last Man.