October 21
10:45 2017

Most of the police and security officials in India might be unaware of the tragic incident of 21st, Oct., 1959, when Chinese army coldbloodly killed nine CRPF officials at Kongka La,  a forward area in Ladakh. They were part of a patrol party of the Intelligence Bureau headed by a daredevil Deputy Central Intelligence Officer (DCIO), Karam Singh who had gone to open a forward check post in that area. Eleven other CRPF officials alongwith Karam Singh were badly injured and subsequently arrestted by the Chinese army. They were severely tortured to confess that they had trespassed into the Chinese territory. When the Indian Govt. strongly protested, the Chinese released the captives and returned the dead bodies on 14th Nov., 1959.

This brutal incident was not sporadic because the China Govt. had the hidden agenda of its expansionist policies once they captured Tibet and questioned the existance of Mcmohan Line. Principles of coexistence i.e. Panchsheel of 1953 wherein it was agre4ed that “all pending questions” related to territorial disputed would be settled amicably, were put on tenterhook. Earlier the Chinese constructed a road in the Aksai Chin are which was undisputedly the Indian territory. When this fact was reported to the Govt. of India by the Intelligence Bureau with recommendation to open armyposts in this area, General Thimayya, Chief of Army Staff, showed his disinclination to such move as he had no means to maintain these posts from his army base at Leh.

After December, 1949, when India formally recognised the Communist Government of China, it was apprehended by IB that China would capture Tibet in the near future and thereafter entire northern border of India which had so far no security problems would be vulnerable and proper vigilant intelligence was required in the coming future vis-à-vis China. IB foresaw that China might infiltrate some unscruplous inner Tibetans who were under their control even when Tibet was semi-independent. In order to thwart such infiltrations, Govt. approved the proposal of IB to open twenty one checkposts to gurad the passes on the Indo-Tibetan frontier from Ladakh to NEFA. This was further endorsed by Major General Himmat Singh Committee which was constituted under the head “The North and North East Defence Committee” by Govt.of India to suggest means and measure to strengthen the administrative, defence, security, communication and intelligence in this region.

Security considerations on the northeran and north-east border was of paramount importance in view of the growing infuluence of Communish China in this region. The Army had a militia battalion in Leh and there was no army post outside Ladakh valley. Mule was the only transport system to carry ration and kerosene in some  forward areas.

In winter from October to middle of June, whole of the forward area was cut off due to minus thirty temperature of this region. Hence for six months there was no communication  in the forward areas of Ladakh region as it was impossible to maintain these checkposts since no helicopters were available from the army for IB. In view of these difficult working conditions, IB worked out an alternative plan of extensive patrolling in the summer. Patrol parties were trekking along the northern route towards Karakoram, the north-eastern route to Aksai Chin, Lingzi Tang etc. and the estern route to Lanak La. Surveys of land done in 1910 provided old and defective maps to IB officials. IB teams under the astute leadership of brave Karam Singh, DCIO, scaled passes which did not exist in old maps and charted new maps of their survey. Commendable efforts of Karam Singh are the sources for the present maps of this region.

These patrol parties were out of communication for over three months from their departure from Leh and their safety was a big anxiety for the top brass of IB till they retured to their base in Leh. In the bare and arid region of north and north eastern Ladakh, goat was the only useful animal to carry food for the patrolling parties since there was not sufficient grass for the mules and terrain was difficult for journey for big animals. Because of this handicap, these brave civilian officers of IB used to carry small weapons to guard against the intrusions of the hostile Chinese. There was no wireless set worth the name for direct communications. Human intelligence about Chinese in Tibet used to be gathered sometime in the next autum after the summer. IB officials used to leave stornes, flags and eating materials to crosscheck the infilteration of Chinese in these areas in the coming summer.   

In this working scenario, Karam Singh led a patrol party and trekked Lanak La, the traditional frontier for centuries, in June 1959. He did not find any intrusion of Chinese at that time and returned Leh to make plans and carry a team of bigger size to open checkposts in these region. Since, Central Govt. declined to spare the CRPF personnel to help IB, J&kGovt. released one company of CRPF to assist the IB in this venture. Karam Singh opened a checkpost at Tsogatsalu on October 17 and at Hot Spring on 19th.  On 20th October, he sent a constable with a local man towards Kongka La where a new post was to be opened. When this patrol pary dis not return, on October 21, Karam Singh with twenty men and a small rear guard moved towards Kongka La in search of the two missing persons. He found hoof marks on the way which gave indications that Chinese horsemen must have arrested the two Indians.

When this patrol party moved forward towards Kongka La, it was ambushed by two Chinese pickets near the bank of river Chang Chenmo which was two miles west of it. One Chinese picket was established on a hill top on the flank of the route by which the Indian party was advancing and nother located in front on the other side of the river. In this ambush eight policemen were killed on the spot in few minutes by the Chinese. Rest of the soldiers retaliated and fired for their safety till their ammunition exhausted. In this encounter, one Chinese officer was also killed by the Indian policemen and some were injured. Their retrieval was cut off by the Chinese piecket on the top of hill. Chinese further brought enforcement from Kongka La and arrested brutally injured twelve policemen including Karam Singh. One constable who was badly injured was left behind  was lateron killed by the Chinese. These arrested Indians were tortured at the prisoner camp at Kongka La on the charges of trespassing the Chinese territory. This area was about 40 miles away from the tradition fronter at Lanak La which Karam Singh has trekked in June earlier. Hence, Chinese intrusion was more than 40 miles inside Indian territory where they killed these Indian policemen. When Indian Govt. strongly protested, the arrested policeman were released on 14th November alongwith the bodies of those killed in the ambush.

This Kongka La incident was severly condemned by the Indian Parliament which observed a silence of two minutes in honour of these brave policemen. This incident was the beginning of a future hostility between the two countrires which culminated further and ended in the Indo China war of 1962. Hence, 21st, October, is observed as Remembrance Day every year by the Police all over India and prcisely termed as Police Day to mark as respect for the bravery of these nine policemen who laid their life for their montherland.    

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