1962: The War That Wasn't


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True Accounts (Books),Biographies & Autobiographies (Books),Military History (Books)

True Accounts (Books),Biographies & Autobiographies (Books),Military History (Books)

In Conversation with Shiv Kunal Verma

1962: The War That Wasn’t By Shiv Kunal Verma

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We died, unsuccoured, helpless We were your soldiers, men of bravery and pride

Yet we died like animals, trapped in a cage with no escape Massacred at will, denied the dignity of battle

With the cold burning flame of anger and resolution With the courage both of the living and the dead,

Avenge Our unplayed livesRedeem the unredeemable sacrifice

In freedom and integrity

Let this be your inheritance

And our unwritten epitaph

Harji Malik, ‘Nam Ka Chu: October 1962’

True Accounts (Books),Biographies & Autobiographies (Books),Military History (Books)

True Accounts (Books),Biographies & Autobiographies (Books),Military History (Books)



After completing almost three years in the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA, now called Arunachal Pradesh), my father, Captain Ashok Kalyan Verma, was posted to the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun as a platoon commander in July 1962. For him, this move would prove to be providential, for within a few months of his departure, 282 of the men and officers he left behind in 2 Rajput would be dead. The others were wounded or overpowered by the Chinese and taken prisoner. Among the handful who succeeded in getting away, some died of cold and starvation, while a few survived weeks of unbelievable hardship and made it back to the plains of Assam through the jungles of the Kameng Frontier Division and Bhutan.

True Accounts (Books),Biographies & Autobiographies (Books),Military History (Books)

True Accounts (Books),Biographies & Autobiographies (Books),Military History (Books)

We had moved into one of the spacious bungalows at the IMA sometime in September and I doubt if there could have been a more picturesque or happier place for a little boy to grow up in. Even though I was barely two years old, I have fleeting recollections of the place: Gentlemen Cadets, better known as GCs, running and cycling along the tree-lined avenues, horses being exercised on the polo ground, the commandant’s buggy with its coterie of resplendent sowars (mounted soldiers) and ponies, our own bungalow opposite the club and the one time a huge black rat snake suddenly appeared, scaring everyone. I remember the fallen leaves strewn on the ground, the imposing clumps of bamboo and the stunning majesty of Chetwode Hall that dominated the Academy.

Then, suddenly, as the colours of autumn gave way to winter, the Academy, like the leaves on the trees, seemed to shrivel into itself. Even to me, it was obvious that something terrible had happened. Brigadier (later, Lieutenant General) Premindra Singh Bhagat was then the commandant of the Academy. An Engineer officer, he had been awarded the Victoria Cross in Ethiopia in 1941, making him the highest decorated officer in the Indian Army at the time of Independence. In his mid-forties, Bhagat’s receding hairline and bushy moustache gave him a dapper and somewhat avuncular appearance. As was the norm with all incoming officers posted to the IMA, he interviewed my father in early October. Glancing up from the dossier which contained Captain Ashok Kalyan Verma’s service record, the commandant asked him if he was happy with his new posting. The usual answer that it was a great honour did not fool the brigadier, who could perhaps sense that the young officer in front of him was holding something back.

The commandant encouraged him to speak freely and the dam burst. My father said he had been posted out of 2 Rajput in July when it was de-inducting from the Lohit Valley where it had been deployed for the last three years. The battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Maha Singh Rikh, had been on its way to Mathura, but even as the men and equipment were being marshalled onto a special train at Missamari (near Tezpur), it had been ordered to redeploy in the Kameng Frontier Division as part of 7 Infantry Brigade. With barely any winter stores or equipment, the men had somehow made their way across Eaglenest to Bomdila, Dirang Dzong, Se-la and on to Tawang. They had then been pushed further north towards the Bhutan-NEFA-Tibet tri-junction. Military circles had been anticipating an armed clash with China, and under the circumstances the only place my father wanted to be was with the men of his battalion.

Brigadier Bhagat had been the Director, Military Intelligence at Army Headquarters, Delhi, prior to moving to the IMA. Obviously he had a reasonable idea of what was happening in NEFA and asked searching questions about the Kibithu and Walong sectors in the Lohit Frontier Division. Signalling the end of the interview, Bhagat said: ‘I know how you feel, but you must now concentrate on training the GCs here—that has to have your entire focus. Let us hope the situation with the Chinese will soon sort itself out and hopefully all will be well.’

Ever since the onset of hostilities between India and China on 20 October, only sporadic news had been filtering through with no clear picture emerging as to what was actually happening. In the last week of November, Brigadier Bhagat called my father to his office. Breaking the news as gently as he could, he said things had gone very wrong for 7 Infantry Brigade and 2 Rajput on 20 October in the Nam Ka Chu Valley. The commandant then said there were hardly any survivors and those who had escaped the massacre were being collected in Ramgarh in Bihar. Being posted back to the battalion was out of the question, but the brigadier suggested my father leave immediately for Ramgarh to find out what had transpired.

Buy your copy today to find out what had really transpired….

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Aleph Book Company; Latest Edition (4 February 2016)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 480 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9382277978
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9382277972
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 739 g
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.97 x 3.02 x 21.59 cm