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'Most shameful concession...' Congress slams Modi govt over 'dismantling' of Rezang La memorial in buffer zone

The Congress party, led by Jairam Ramesh, accuses the Narendra Modi government of insulting the sacrifices made by Major Shaitan Singh and C Company of 13 Kumaon by allowing the dismantling of a memorial at Rezang La in Ladakh. This move, attributed to buffer zone negotiations with China, has sparked criticism

Most shameful concession Congress slams Modi govt over 'dismantling' of Rezang La memorial in buffer zone
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First Published Dec 28, 2023, 12:05 PM IST

The Congress party has claimed that the Narendra Modi government has insulted the sacrifices made by Major Shaitan Singh and the C Company of 13 Kumaon by allowing the dismantling of a memorial built in their honour at Rezang La in Ladakh. Joining the issue with Konchok Stanzin, the councillor of Chushul in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, "If any proof was still needed that the buffer zones negotiated by the Modi government are in territory previously controlled by India, it is provided by this most shameful concession."

Chushul Councillor Konchok Stanzin had, some days ago, posted on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that the site at which Major Singh fell had been dismantled as it fell in the buffer zone negotiated with China in 2021.

The Battle of Rezang La

In the renowned battle of Rezang La, situated in the Kailash Ranges, Major Shaitan Singh and 113 soldiers displayed unwavering courage, fighting until "the last bullet, last man" against a formidable force of thousands of Chinese troops. A memorial to honour Singh was erected at the very spot where he fell, his lifeless body discovered with his right hand clutching his bullet-ridden stomach.

This historic battle, occurring on November 18, 1962, stands as a testament to unyielding valour in military records. Of the 124 men in Charlie Company, 114 sacrificed their lives at Rezang La, yet they are believed to have inflicted significant casualties on approximately 1,300 better-equipped Chinese soldiers. 

The survivors' accounts, detailing how Indian soldiers took down Chinese forces with bayonets and bare hands, faced initial scepticism from commanders due to the vast difference in the size of the two forces. Singh's company consisted mainly of Ahirs, who were Yadavs, predominantly from Rewari in Haryana.

A new, larger memorial commemorating the Battle of Rezang La now stands in the Chushul Valley, approximately 3km behind the front, well within Indian territory. Inaugurated on November 18, 2021, by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the complex comprises a museum, a mini-theatre screening a documentary on the battle, a substantial helipad, and various tourist amenities. Notably, the unveiling did not mention the destruction of the old memorial, preserving the memory of the valiant soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Buffer Zone

In early 2022, India relinquished control of Rezang La following negotiations between the Indian and Chinese military, wherein the implementation of agreed-upon buffer zones on the ground was decided. 

As part of the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) after the deadly Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, both armies undertook the demolition or relocation of all permanent structures within the buffer zone. Consequently, India found itself compelled to remove the memorial dedicated to Major Singh in adherence to the terms established during the talks.

Most shameful concession, Says Congress

In an extensive post on X, Jairam Ramesh highlighted the historic defence of Rezang La by C Company of 13 Kumaon, led by the legendary Major Shaitan Singh. Describing it as one of the most storied episodes in Indian war history, Ramesh acknowledged the gallantry of 114 men from C Company who fought to the last man and last bullet against a larger Chinese force, potentially saving Ladakh by securing the approach to Chushul airport. 

Quoting Chushul Councillor Konchok Stanzin's disclosure, Ramesh condemned the act of dismantling the memorial as a major insult to Major Singh's memory and the fallen heroes of Charlie Company, viewing it as evidence that the buffer zones, negotiated by the Modi government, encroach upon territory previously under Indian control.

In a critical assessment, Ramesh accused the Modi government of employing a strategy of denial, distraction, lies, and justification (DDLJ) to mask what he termed as India's worst territorial setback in six decades. He pointed out ongoing challenges in eastern Ladakh, where Chinese troops have restricted Indian patrols' access to strategic areas like Depsang Plains and Demchok since May 2020. Ramesh emphasized that despite India's claims of victory in Doklam in 2017, China has strengthened its hold on Bhutanese territory, heightening the threat to India's Siliguri Corridor, also known as Chicken's Neck.

Expressing concern that allowing the Prime Minister to claim public relations successes would result in continued concessions to Chinese salami-slicing tactics, Ramesh urged the need for truthfulness with the Indian public. He called for an explanation of how and when the status quo ante would be restored in Ladakh, emphasizing the importance of transparency in addressing territorial issues.

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