Sela Pass: Memories of Jaswant

This one is a tale of love and bravery redefined. Those were some ice-cold chilly times and only the sound of bullets pierced through the moisture-laden heavy winds in the alpine ranges of the North-Eastern frontiers. That atmosphere gave birth to one of the little-known spine-chilling finest moment of love and bravery in India.

The Indo-China battle is nearing its end and the result almost visible to everyone with the Chinese hovering in the alpine ranges of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and the Indian troops withdrawing in the face of the Chinese onslaught but one man hasn't still lost hope.

He was as cunning as the obstructions in the opposite side and with the help of his beloved Sela, single-handedly fought the Chinese soldiers for 3 days by actually fooling them. He is none other than the brave martyr Jaswant Singh Rana.

On October 20, 1962, Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rana of 4 Garhwal Rifles, laid down his life in the battle of Nuranang and was later awarded the Mahavir Chakra. Sela was a local girl who loved Jaswant but her father didn't approve of it.

During the 3 days great heroics, Sela used to carry ammunition from the army camp along with food and water to Jaswant. Jaswant Singh was the only one who decided to stay back when the Indian troops retreated from Nuranang. With the help of his beloved Sela, he managed to stay off the enemy advance for 72 hours. Sela helped him in loading the guns and bringing him meals.

Jaswant Singh was at an advantageous position on a hilltop overlooking the two river valleys. He positioned himself in a long trench and placed a few guns in different directions and tied the shutters with ropes and randomly fired from them. The Chinese had come through the river route, who thought that the Indian army had a huge Indian battalion at different locations, so they didn't move forward, whereas he was just alone.

The Chinese did not realize that the Indian Army had retreated till Jaswant Singh was betrayed by the girl’s father, who went over to the other side to inform the Chinese troops of the actual position in the Indian side, due to the disliking of his daughter's intentions. The invaders then surrounded his positioned and captured him. He was tied to a tree and strangled with an iron wire and beheaded.

The Chinese cut off Jaswant Singh's head and took it back to China and after the ceasefire, the Chinese government, impressed by the soldier's bravery, returned the head along with a brass bust of Jaswant Singh, as a memento for his sharp wit.

The bust, created in China to honor the brave Indian soldier, is now installed at the site of the battle, a location now known as Jaswant Garh, en route to Tawang. In the meantime, the soldiers found out Sela also, after which she jumped from a hillock in her agony when she understood the fate of her beloved.

The Sela Pass, world's second highest pass at 14,000 feet, is a symbol of love and courage and named after this brave girl. For the soldiers guarding the frozen Sela Pass, Jaswant baba, as was popularly called, continues to be a source of life and inspiration.