India’s Highest Altitude All-weather Permanent Bridge was Inaugurated by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in Eastern Ladakh couple of days ago.
The 1400-ft -long bridge on Shyok River, situated in Sub-Sector North at 14,650 ft has been named after ‘Lion of Ladakh’ Col. Chewang Rinchen. The bridge was dedicated to the nation in his memory at a ceremony.
This all-weather permanent bridge is located in eastern Ladakh at nearly 45 km from the country’s border with China and it is strategically located on the 255-km Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) section of the road between Leh and Karakoram Pass. It will reduce time of travel by nearly half.
Col Rinchen was born on November 11, 1931 at Sumur village, Nubra Valley in Ladakh region, and is known as the ‘Lion of Ladakh’ for his extraordinary acts of courage in defending Leh and Partapur sector.
He is one of only six armed forces personnel to have been twice awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award in the country.
As a young lad of 17 Chewang Rinchen enrolled himself in the Ladakh Guards on 25 July 1948. With hardly a week’s training he organised and trained a local militia unit of 28 youths.
In September, operating alongside Indian Army units, he fought in the Nubra Valley. His grim defence of a position on the Kharu Nullah earned him promotion to the rank of Jemadar (Naib Subedar). In the same month, negotiating a 17,000 feet high snow clad pass under most trying conditions, he helped the capture of Lama House, a vital enemy stronghold.
On 15 December, having marched for three days over high snowdrifts, he put in a fierce attack on a high hill feature near Biagdangdo and captured it. This action was immediately followed by his capture of Tukkar Hill, the last enemy position in Leh tehsil. This last action involved crossing over snow clad hills 21,000 feet high.
Half of his platoon was suffering from frostbite. But under his inspiring leadership and following his example of personal bravery, his men had accomplished a seemingly impossible feat. He was then promoted Subedar. In these actions, Subedar Chewang Rinchen displayed personal bravery, resourcefulness, leadership and dedication of duty of a high order.
(The original citation of MVC is not available. This write-up is based on the contents of a book ‘Hero and Their Deeds’)
Rinchen also served in the 1962 India-China War, where he was awarded a Sena Medal. On 1 April 1964, he was granted a permanent commission in the regular Indian Army with the rank of second lieutenant (seniority from 21 August 1962), and relinquished his commission in the Jammu and Kashmir Militia. He was promoted to lieutenant on 21 August 1964.
In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Rinchen, now a major in the Ladakh Scouts, led the capture of the Chalunka complex of the Pakistani Army and the strategic outpost of Turtuk. For these actions, he was awarded a bar to his MVC, being one of only six Indian soldiers so honoured.
The citation for the second Maha Vir Chakra awarded to him reads:
Operation: 1971 Cactus Lily Date of Award: 08 Dec 1971
Citation: Major Chewang Rinchen of Ladakh Scouts was commander of the force assigned the task of capturing the Chalunka complex of enemy defences in the Partappur Sector. Each of these nine enemy strong points were held by one to two platoons and fortified with mines and wire obstacles.
This operation was planned and executed with professional competence and great zeal. Under most adverse weather conditions, Major Rinchen led his command, displaying aggressive spirit and cool courage, fighting from bunker to bunker, exhorting and encouraging his men to destroy the enemy, making the operation a complete success.
In this action, Major Chewang Rinchen displayed inspiring leadership, indomitable courage, initiative and exceptional devotion to duty in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.
Promoted to the substantive rank of major on 6 February 1978, Major Rinchen retired from active service with effect from 1 May 1980, when he transferred to the reserves.
On 1 October 1983, he was re-employed and assigned to command 246 Transit Camp with the local rank of lieutenant-colonel, while serving with the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. Rinchen finally retired as a full colonel in 1984. He was appointed honorary colonel of the Ladakh Scouts. The Indian Army has named an army shopping complex after him in Leh.
On 21st October 2019 Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the Col Chewang Rinchen Setu, India’s highest altitude all-weather permanent bridge, in eastern Ladakh just 45 km from border with China.
Finally the projects are being dedicated and named after the deserving warriors. It is a true tribute for their patriotism and memory.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth