I went through this interview of Gen VN Sharma by Col Sushant Singh on 20 Sept 2020 published in Caravan Magazine, with a certain amount of disbelief and incredulity.
In general, I would say that the interview is riddled with factual inaccuracies & inconsistencies which need to be brought out to keep the record straight. Allow me to list them out as far as my Unit, 12th Battalion of the ASSAM Regiment is concerned:-
#1 Firstly, the area referred to as Wangdung was not a Village as claimed …there weren’t 3 or 4 huts as told in the interview. Wangdung was just a grazing ground common to Bhutanese, Tibeten and Indian graziers. By the time our patrol reached the area the Chinese army had set up a tented camp in a clearing which was a logistics base for the PLA, on the banks of Sumdorong Chu. It had a lot of infrastructure including a helipad capable of taking Sikorsky and huge Chinook helicopters.
#2 There was no Listening Post of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) there, as told in the interview.For most part it was an unoccupied area from both sides. The IB was located way behind at T Gompa and Sungetsar. They gathered their Intelligence by talking to grazier’s and local shepherds.
#3 The Chinese presence in Sumdorung was noticed first by Local graziers who reported it to the IB, sometime around early 1986, who further reported it up their chain. The Army was told to verify this and a patrol of 12 Assam under Capt SM Tabib was despatched post haste on 16 Jun 1986. The patrol went up to Lungrola and beyond, covering approximately 4 days at an altitude of about 14000 ft. Capt Tabib’s patrol confirmed the presence of Chinese at Wangdung.
#3 At that time, the Brigade Headquarters and the unit were in Gachham and not in Khinzemane as mentioned in the Interview. Gachham is approximately 230 kms from Lungrola area.
Gen Sharma’s claim that Gen Bhupi Malik was the Brigade Commander at that time is factually incorrect.The Brigade Commander of 77Mountain Brigade was Brigadier Bantu Batra, a dynamic Armoured Corps officer. Brig Bhupinder (Bhupi) Singh Malik relieved Batra, long after the events in Lungrola had unfolded and were well firmed in there.
#4 The occupation of Lungrola Pass and Kyapho Ridge line, in a Virgin area, was first done by 12 ASSAM whose CO was Col JS Antal VSM, SM. Incidentally 12 ASSAM was raised on 11 Feb 1985, about 18 months before the operation.
The claim in the interview that it was a Battalion of 5 GR that secured Lungrola, is factually incorrect. Official records would exist wherein events as they happened can be found and verified.
#5 The Chinese didn’t come up to Lungrola ever from Sumdorong Chu. 12 ASSAM pre empted any such moves by pro actively occupying the finger like features leading out and ahead from Lungrola Pass (Battalion HQ ) and dominating Wangdung camp. These positions were occupied by us around mid 1986. They were built up to Company strength posts at Jaya Fort, Tagra Raho, Negi Spur and Kyapho ridge. The deployment gave no room to PLA to come forward.
#6 The incident of the Chinese Brigade Commander being fired at and his topi flying off into the khud, seems to be a figment of somebody’s imagination..it sounds filmy and more for journalistic and anecdotal effect.
There was an incident of firing at Negi Spur location when the Chinese appeared to have gotten together to make a push up.The slope, towards Lungrola. Maj AR Sinha and Capt Ajay Roy brought down a heavy volley of fire over their heads which did the purpose of deterring any aggressive designs they may have had.
Eventually a number of flag meetings were held at Jaya Fort and Negi spur where barbed wire was laid between the two sides.
#7 There was an occasion when the Battalion was ordered to evict the Chinese from Wangdung ….we were ready in our Forming Up Place (FUPs) awaiting the final Go ahead orders.The H hour was changed twice and then we realized that somebody, probably at the higher level had developed cold feet. It never came through and it was status Quo again.
#8 The Gorkha (5GR) battalion which The former Chief is talking about came in to relieve 12 ASSAM temporarily for a few months in end 86,while we were sent back to our permanent loc in Gacham to wind up everything there and come back to Lungrola for the long haul, which we did.
It was 12 ASSAM which was the first unit to move and occupy defences at the virgin pass of Lungrola and the heights ahead and adjoining in mid 86. Various posts were named after persons of the unit who were among the first to step foot and occupy it.
#9 The Corps Commander Gen Narahari, the GOC Gen JM Singh and the Brigade Cdr Brig Bantu Batra were always supportive of our Battalion’s aggressive plans, where we were pro active and the Chinese reacted.
At no stage, were we told to withdraw from any fwd positions we had occupied. Brigadier BS Malik relieved Brigadier Batra and the Brigade consolidated its position during his time with construction of Defencesand aggressive defense posturing.
#10 Lastly , what is said in the interview, Col Pathania mentioning that the 5GR bn had gone ahead of Lungrola (which was the Limit of Patrolling) is factually incorrect as 12 Assam had gone across the Pass first and dug in with all four Rifle Companies in mid 86. We handed over the sit to 3/5GR for a few months in end1986. We wound up our permanent loc at Gachham garrison and came back in mid 1987, to take over and stay out our entire tenure till 1988. Col Antal VSM, SM was relieved by Col Jagdish Pant who consolidated the unit’s position and dominated the Chinese till the unit moved out as per the regular rotation plan.
#11 Finally to conclude, we as an Infantry Battalion were the only unit in the entire Div to be in eyeball to eyeball contact with the enemy from the word GO.
I was a young Captain in the Battalion then, who had established Jaya Fort under the nose of the Chinese . I think there is a need to set the record straight with official records vis a vis with what has been brought out in the interview which will give the factual picture.The historic & good work done by a unit cannot and should not be obliterated by ignoring it & not acknowledging it. Someone in authority needs to rebutt this in the public domain.
To not give credit where it’s due is highly demoralising for the concerned troops.
My unit and all those who served in Lungrola feel strongly about it. It also surprises me that interviews are published without cross checking and verifying facts specially when all the people involved are still around and a single source of memory may be blurred by the passage of time.
These events have also been recorded by the IDSA in an article the link to which is given below.
Col A K. Jayachandran (Retd)