When a young Indian Army lieutenant punched a Chinese PLA major on his nose, at Muguthang, and sent blood oozing from his nose, he nearly provoked an escalation that his officers had not bargained for.

The officer's infantry unit had stopped the intruding Chinese PLA at Muguthang last week, and were furious at the Chinese commissar for shouting, "This (Sikkim) is not your land, this is not Indian territory... so just go back."

Brought up in a military family – his grandfather a veteran of the Royal and then Indian Air Force and his father a colonel in the Indian Army – the officer could not stomach it anymore.

“What Sikkim not our territory? What the hell!” he shouted back. Then, as one PLA major moved menacingly towards his senior officer, a captain, the lieutenant flew into him and punched him in the face.

The Lieutenant Was Patted For Bravery, Yet Admonished For ‘Provoking a Bigger Spat’

The Chinese major collapsed with a thud and his name tag came loose – a good souvenir to carry back – but the lieutenant left it alone, as his colleagues pulled him back.

After being admonished for a while by senior officers, for provoking a bigger spat, and being congratulated by officers from command and divisional headquarters at Kolkata and Sukna, the lieutenant was preparing for a commendation. But, the senior commanders could not land at Muguthang because of bad weather.

This author was unable to retrieve the lieutenant's contact numbers, as he is posted at a forward location, and his officers and his retired colonel father are not willing to share it with the media.

One colonel in Sikkim advised this author to "not blow things up too much because if the Chinese feel humiliated, they will create more trouble."

Another brigadier, in the 33rd Corps headquarters in Sukna, told this author that the Chinese are in the habit of ‘specific targeting’.

In this case, the hierarchy-conscious Chinese could surely target ‘the small Indian lieutenant’ for hitting ‘the big Chinese major’ (meaning a junior hitting a senior officer).

His father, the retired colonel, also refused to talk as a media report might 'harm my son's career'.

The penchant for secrecy drilled into the soldiers and officers does not go away, even after retirement, and the retired colonel is understandably worried that the media glare on his son may upset the top brass, who want to scale down tensions with the Chinese and not up the ante.

The Father, Also an Officer, Reminisces When He Captured A Hilltop

But the retired colonel, also an Assam regiment officer like his son, recalls his days, when he captured a hill top in Sumdorong Chu during General K Sundarji's ‘Ops Falcon'. That hilltop is now named after him.

"My daughter, also a legal officer in the army, climbed the peak named after her father in 2018 and the local commander called me up to speak to me. He wanted to speak to the officer after whom the peak he is defending is named after," said the lieutenant's father, insisting “we soldiers can discuss our past but not our present, so leave my son out."

“The Chinese are no great soldiers, they have a lot going in their favour – logistics, weapons, terrain, and communication. But when it comes to raw courage and strength, determination and patriotism, they just cannot match us,” was all that the retired colonel was prepared to say.

“I chased them away from the hill we captured... they were stunned (to see) our braves charging into thick machine gun fire. They just panicked and ran,” he added.

On being asked about his son, he said, "I just cannot get his number" and "please speak to his senior officers."

"I never share anything about the army on my social media," says an entry in his Facebook page.

Much Praise For the Young Soldier Who Took on a Chinese Major

Though for diplomatic reasons, the Indian Army will not go ga-ga over the incident and will downplay the whole thing, there is a quiet admiration for the young officer who ‘took on a Chinese major much bigger than him.’

"This is exactly the kind of junior commander we need. There is a great tradition of such officers, who lead Indian soldiers into battle. Remember 'Dil Mange More' Vikram Batra,'" said Probal Dasgupta, author of 'Watershed', a book that brilliantly details how the 1967 border battles with the Chinese at Nathu La changed the confidence of the 1962-hit Indian Army and helped it win the 1971 war against Pakistan.

Dasgupta was also a former Indian Army major and now works as a corporate consultant.

The lieutenant's grandfather served in the Royal and then Indian Air Force and retired as Master Warrant Officer. His father, a graduate from St Xaviers College in Kolkata, joined the army in late 1970s and did his unit proud in 'Ops Falcon'.

His sister, a legal graduate, is a law officer in the Indian Army as well, and is posted at Hyderabad. She had climbed the hill top named after their father, standing at 14,000 feet, in 2018 and called the retired colonel from there.

The lieutenant, a technical graduate from Bangalore, preferred the infantry and was commissioned in 2019. The family has been covered extensively by the media in West Bengal, where it is rare to find three generations in the army.