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Army officer scales peak, stumbles across outpost named after her dad

Author: Jayanta Gupta
Publication: The Times of India
Date: March 9, 2018
URL:      https://m.timesofindia.com/india/army-officer-scales-peak-stumbles-across-outpost-named-after-her-dad/amp_articleshow/63225642.cms?

A young woman lieutenant in the Indian Army, posted in Tenga, Arunachal Pradesh, was on an initiation tour recently, which took her to a post at Kyapho in the Tawang sector. The post was named "Ashish Top". Her curiosity aroused, she asked how an army post in Arunachal Pradesh got the name. When she did learn who Ashish was, she was speechless. It was her very own father, Ashish Das, who retired as a colonel of the Assam Regiment, who — at that very moment — was at the family's home.

A call from Ashish Top to home followed as soon as she digested the "stunning discovery". "I was at home when I received a call from the commanding officer of the unit manning Ashish Top. He introduced himself and described how my daughter had broken down on coming to know that the post was named after me," Das told TOI.

"I may have told my family of our unit's exploits in that sector in 1986 but my daughter was not even born then," he added. "Even I came to know about this post being named after me only in 2003, 17 years after we beat back troops of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) and occupied the post at 14,000 feet,"he said.

Das recalled how the 1986 events unfolded. The PLA made deep incursions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Sumdorong Chu Valley of Arunachal Pradesh and began constructing helipads and permanent structures. Later that year, Indian Army chief Gen K Sundarji launched what was to be later known (though never officially acknowledged) as Operation Falcon. An entire infantry brigade was airlifted to a makeshift landing area at Zimithang, near Sumdorong Chu.

"We had to blast our way through Bum La and reached the Sangetsar lake. The Chinese were sitting just across. Our orders were to hold ground and we dug in. Every officer must have made 17-20 copies of wills in the intervening days and handed them over to their adjutants. We started to move forward a few days later and also blasted Kyapho that was snowed in. We did not know that we had crossed the Chinese camp but maintained our position. There were attempts to supply rations by air but the drops landed inside China. I remember surviving on rats. It was only later that skid boards were designed and rations reached us. A helipad was also constructed. There were firefights every day as we proceeded from one bunker to the next," Das said.

He remembers it was Onam when he, along with a small party, set out to return to base when they realised that the PLA was after them. Das (then a captain) opened fire on the Chinese, which forced the latter to give up the chase. The men remained there for three days without food. "There would be heavy firing at night followed by white flares during the day and parleys with the local Chinese political commissar," Das recalled.
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