Letâ€™s celebrate memory of a true hero On Tuesday, February 28, when all the newspapers and news channels would be busy covering the next phase of the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, there would be some attending the function at Imphal to commemorate the centenary of a true national hero â€” Maj Bob Ranenglao Khathing, who won NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh) back for us. I too would have remained ignorant about Bob Khathing, whose compelling story I desire to narrate today, but for school senior Wing Commander (retired) UG â€˜Unniâ€™ Kartha, whose painstaking research helped him find about a faceless nation builder. Kartha says that in 1966, when he joined National Defence Academy, his Divisional Officer in Foxtrot Squadron was a nephew of Bob; the same kind of man, with the same genes, simply an incredible, resilient, unstoppable, hardcore soldier. The story of Maj Bob Ranenglao Khathing is one of incredible, resilient and unstoppable heroics. He was the man who in 1951quietly retrieved Arunachal Pradesh back to India. However, the true story of Maj Khathing remains hidden from public view even after 50 years, though the Indian Official Secrets Act has a lifespan of only 30 yrs. In 1903, alarmed by the Chinese and Russian influence in Tibet, Col Francis Younghusband of the British army led a military expedition to subdue Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama (predecessor of the current one Tenzin Gyatso ). Thubten took asylum in China. In 1914, Henry McMahon, the then British foreign secretary, finally managed to get Thubtenâ€™s envoy into Shimla to sign a free trade agreement between Tibet and India. As part of the agreement, they also signed a treaty demarcating the southern boundary of Tibet. Under the Shimla agreement, the border between India and Tibet had three buffer Kingdoms â€” Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. East of Bhutan was the large stretch of sparsely populated and utterly inhospitable land. It was referred to as the Dirang Dzong of Tawang. Dzong in Tibetan stands for fort. It became North East Frontier Agency in 1954 and Arunachal Pradesh still later. Tawang became a contentious territory only around 1951, when China advanced into Tibet. Here the story of our hero commences. Khathing was born on February 28, 1912 in Manipurâ€™s Ukhrul district. In 1939, when WW-II started, he enrolled in the army and was sent to the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. Commissioned into the 9/11 Hyderabad Regiment (now Kumaon Regiment), he had KS Thimaya (later Army Chief) as his company commander and TN Raina (also to become an Army Chief) as fellow subaltern. After the war was over, for his exemplary sacrifice and valour, he was awarded the Military Cross and made a Member of the British Empire, but also demobilised. In 1951 he was inducted into the IF AS (Indian Frontier Administrative Service) as an assistant political officer. One day, he was summoned by Assam Governor, Jairamdas Daulatram. â€œBob, do you know where is Tawang?â€ Jairamdas asked him. â€œNo Sir,â€ Bob answered. â€œHe who controls Tawang shall control the far east,â€ Jairamdas said and after a pause the Governor asked, â€œDo you think the Chinese should control it?â€ Bob answered the way only he could have, â€œNo Sir.â€ Thereafter, Jairamdas opended up, â€œNeither the Centre nor I have the ability to get the C-in-C Roy Boucher to agree to a military expedition for this task. We need someone to do it quietly. Keeping in mind your war record, I cannot think of a better man to do it.â€ Bob answered immediately. â€œI will do it.â€ Within three weeks, he drilled his men into a tough bunch with high morale and camaraderie. The drill came to the notice of Major TC Allen, the last British political and intelligence officer of the East, based in Dibrugarh. He visited Bob, who told Allen to either come with him to Tawang or face close arrest under guard till the expedition was over. Allen, a keen mountaineer, applied himself with zest as Bobâ€™s second-in-command. The expedition started out from Lokra on January 17, 1951, and it reached Bomdila on January 25. On January 26, he hoisted the Tricolour in front of the Dzong and invited all the inhabitants to a feast. From here on, February 1 started the March to Tawang. Bob and his force reached Tawang on February 7, after some real tough trek through most inhospitable Himalayan terrain. On February 20, the local chieftain submitted to Bobâ€™s persuasive tactics and agreed to accession of Tawang, which rightfully belonged to India as per the Shimla Agreement. After the accession ceremony, Bob had a final task to do, to go back to the Governor and inform him that he had carried out his duty, to everyoneâ€™s satisfaction, without firing a shot (except for the fireworks for entertainment). So he set out downhill to Tezpur with a small retinue leaving the expeditionary force in charge of Allen. The Governor sent a Dakota to pick him up from Tezpur and they flew to Delhi and went to see Prime Minister Nehru, who was livid. â€œWho asked you to do this?â€ he vented his anger at the Governor. â€œI wish you had the good sense to consult me before you commissioned this colossal stupidity?â€ he mourned. â€œI want a complete black out on this incident,â€ he ordered the PMO. India acknowledged its control over NEFA only in 1954 when Bobâ€™s men were replaced by Special Security Bureau. Bob went back to Tawang in 1986, for celebrations on Arunachal becoming a full-fledged state. This nation acknowledges Arunachal as an integral part of India, but was still to recognise the heroics of the expeditionary force. Like all old and bold soldiers, he did not die; he simply passed away, having done his duty well. Unni says, â€œOne soldier to another, three cheers; Long live Maj Bob Ranenglao Khathing MC, OBE, hip hip....â€ PS. We promise to bring soon the complete story of Bob Khathing.