R Dutta choudhury
GUWAHATI, Oct 22 – Wrong policies of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon led to the debacle of India in the 1962 war with China, said Col (Retd) Pallury Krishna Mohan, who had to spend three months in China as a prisoner of war (POW) after he was captured near the McMahon Line on the first day of the Chinese aggression.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Col Mohan, who had to suffer permanent disability following his injury in the war, said that Nehru and Menon took unmindful and unintelligent decisions at that time. He said that the unconcerned political leaders took decisions from Delhi without knowing the ground realities and there was no planning and preparation to take on the Chinese. “ The Indian Army personnel were not equipped with proper clothes and shoes to survive in that condition and even faced grave shortage of ammunition. But the Army men followed the orders from Delhi like obedient soldiers and paid a heavy price as a large number of soldiers were killed and injured. This game of war is a mad man’s game and should not be repeated,” he added.
Recollecting his traumatic days, Col Mohan, who was a young Captain and medical officer of the 2 Rajput of the Indian Army, said that he had returned from leave to join his unit in Missamari in September, 1962 and then his unit was moved to a forward post near the international border in Arunachal Pradesh. They were first taken by a chopper, which landed at Lumpu helipad before they walked to a forward post. In the first week of October, the Army general along with the Corps commander, divisional commander and Brigade commander gave a pep talk to the men of the 2 Rajput, 9 Punjab and 19 Gorkha Rifles units of the Army and asked them to “throw away the Chinese from the Indian territory”.
Col Mohan said that on October 12, one platoon of Indian Army, led by one Major Choudhury went ahead to the area, which was reportedly occupied by the Chinese and the Chinese Army encircled the men and attacked them. Several died and other, including the Major, who were badly injured, managed to return. The injured were given preliminary treatment and sent back for further treatment and that was the end of the first day of the war.
In the meantime, the movement of the Chinese Army increased along the border and in the early morning of October 20, there was heavy shelling from the Chinese side followed by a full scale attack. Col Mohan said that he was sitting in a bunker when the attack was launched and a flame thrower launched by the Chinese caught him off guard and he was hit on his thigh. A bullet pierced through his thigh bone making him immobilized.
Recollecting the horrible experience, Col Mohan said ,”I was lying wounded on the ground along with others who were injured in the first attack and the bodies of our colleagues who lost their lives were also lying there till the evening. Only in the evening, improvised stretchers were brought in and that is how I was captured by the Chinese. I remember that we were taken across a river and we were kept for the night in a camp. A Chinese soldier offered me a bottle of rum but I threw that away and later they offered me some water. That was the first drop of water that I got after getting injured in the morning, “ he added.
Next morning, his injured leg got preliminary treatment and he, along with the other POWs were taken to a monastery near Lhasa. Around 500 POWs were kept in the monastery and they were made to sleep on the floor and the daily food consisted of only rice and radish. The medical attention was very questionable and primitive in nature.
The Chinese brought in maps of India and asked all the POWs to point their native places in the map but the reasons for doing so was not known and Col Mohan and several others gave wrong impression of their native places. “We got fed up with inadequate food, lack of treatment and their behavior in general but there was nothing that we could do. Once in anger, I wrote a few derogatory words in my mother tongue Marathi in a piece of paper but somehow the Chinese got hold of the paper and they immediately confronted me asking about the contents of what I wrote. But I did not tell them the truth,” he added.
Col Mohan said that he and a number of other POWs were repatriated on December 31, 1962 and they were handed over to the members of the Indian Red Cross in Jhung. From there, the injured persons were evacuated to Delhi and “I had to spend 18 months in Hospital before I could come out. However, my injured leg was never fully healed,” said.