A Tibetan soldier working for a secret regiment of the Indian army died hours after recapturing a mountain top that India lost to China in their war of 1962, marking the first-ever publicly recognized Tibetan military casualty against the People’s Liberation Army.
Nyima Tenzin, 51 was on patrol on Aug. 29-30 when he died from a landmine laid by the Chinese on the treacherous disputed, Himalayan border that for the past few months has become an issue of serious contention between India and China.
The Epoch Times visited the soldier’s family currently observing 49 days of mourning prayers in their home in a Tibetan refugee colony on the outskirts of the town of Leh, 125 miles from the border region where he died.
“He recaptured the Black Top and was patrolling to another post when he got martyred on the way,” Dhundup Tashi, Tenzin’s brother-in-law told The Epoch Times while Tenzin’s wife, Nyima Lhamo, 45, and son, Tenzin Daod, 14 were observing daily prayers in the family’s courtyard—their offering included the food that Tenzin liked.
Black Top was captured by the Chinese in the 1962 war with India and according to Tenzin’s family, he played a key role in recapturing the strategic height that gives the Indian army an advantage over the PLA. Indian media reports that thirty Chinese soldiers were injured in the clash.
“On the same day, he had telephoned his mother and wife in the morning asking them to offer Solka (special prayer). He said there’s some risk. I need to go for a special task,” recollected Tashi.
On Aug. 30, at about three in the morning, Indian army staff along with a Tibetan representative visited Tenzin’s home and disclosed that he has been “martyred.” His coffin arrived on the third day draped in an Indian flag and later adorned with a Tibetan flag, which is banned in the People’s Republic of China.
His funeral on Sept. 7 was attended by a senior leader of India’s ruling party who was accompanied by Ladakh’s representative to the Indian Parliament, also from the ruling party that Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads.
Special Frontier Force
Tenzin belonged to the Special Frontier Force, also called the Vikas regiment—a guerilla type, covert, specially-trained paramilitary unit based near the central Himalayan town of Dehradun and established after the India-China war of 1962.
The Vikas Regiment was initially trained by the American CIA and Indian intelligence services. During the 1971 war between India and Pakistan that led to the formation of Bangladesh, about 3000 Tibetan commandoes of the SFF were deployed in a secret operation—56 then lost their lives, according to the Dhaka Tribune, a Bangladeshi media.
Inside the Tenzin household, all the relatives had gathered offering support with the elaborate Tibetan prayers that happen from morning to evening for 49 days. His youngest, 5-year-old son Tenzin Goyalgsen, played outside on the dusty, narrow road, oblivious to the fact that he will never see his father again.
“My father worked for 35-36 years for the army. He used to tell us that he loves India and the Tibet country a lot, and he will even give his life for it,” said his sobbing daughter, Tenzin Zompa, 17.
Zompa said her father was to retire from service next year and he had plans for her education—he wanted her to become a doctor. The family had purchased their first car a few months ago and had plans for local sightseeing once he returned.
Minutes before Zompa arrived in the room, Tenzin’s mother, Dawaplazom, 76 sat expressionless, rotating her rosary beads while Tashi’s wife offered butter tea to the people gathered in the room.
“I was 22-year-old and pregnant with my oldest son when we migrated from Tibet to Chamthal, Hanle. We lived there till 2009 when we migrated to Leh,” said Dawaplazom before leaving the room.
Dawaplazom is one of over 100,000 that migrated to India after Mao Zedong ordered the People’s Liberation Army to march into Tibet and after the Dalai Lama had to flee Lhasa. She stays in one of the eleven Tibetan refugee colonies in Leh.
Tenzin was the only one among her three sons who joined the SFF and Tenzin’s 14-year-old son, Tenzin Daod has no thoughts of following in his footsteps.
“Don’t tell lies. Don’t do bad things. Never do drugs,” Daod recalled his father’s advice.
“Whenever he visited home for a holiday, he would buy me everything I wanted,” said the shy teenager, reclining in a corner of the green-painted room, layered with carpets visibly trodden by many mourners.
All this while Lhamo, who had finished with the prayers in the courtyard, sat watching, while her hands worked on the beads of a Buddhist rosary.
“My husband, the caretaker of my family is gone. I have a little one,” said Lhamo pointing at Goyalgsen. “I tell my children to never give up and to be like their father.”
While the situation on the disputed border in eastern Ladakh between India and China continues to remain tense and all routes to the border from Leh are closed, Tenzin’s family has many immediate things to take care of.
Tashi points at the overbearing cost of the 49-day rituals that must be performed because Tenzin didn’t die a natural death. “It’s for peace for his soul,” he said while adding that the family also prays for the soldiers currently stationed at the border.
“China has no humanity. They are Rakshasas (Demon),” said Tashi. “Our soldiers are sitting there. We pray that they protect our territory.”