The last survivor of the small group of Indian soldiers who escorted the Dalai Lama as he fled Lassa in 1959 died at age 85, the regiment said on Friday.
Then a young monk, the 86-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader, fled Tibet after an anti-Chinese uprising failed, arriving in India after nearly two weeks crossing the Himalayas, disguised as a soldier to escape the Chinese military. Tibet became an autonomous region of China in 1965.
Naren Chandra Das, who died on Monday at home in the Indian state of Assam (northeast), then aged 22, had just completed training in India’s oldest paramilitary unit, Assam Rifles.
On March 31, 1959, seven soldiers, including Naren Chandra Das, accompanied the monk to Lumla in Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India.
Last year, the former soldier told the local media about the journey through the Himalayas: the Dalai Lama traveled on horseback and the soldiers on foot, without being allowed to speak to the young monk.
The 86-year-old Dalai Lama, exiled in northern India since fleeing Tibet, and Naren Chandra Das met again, for the first time in nearly 60 years, in April 2017.
“Looking at your face, I realize that I must be very old too,” the Dalai Lama told the former soldier during a ceremony in the eastern Indian city of Guwahati.
The following year, Naren Chandra Das was invited to Dharamsala, situated in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas and where the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan government-in-exile, with permission from New Delhi.
“I went there with my family and he hugged me. He also gave me a souvenir. I will never forget our meeting”, said the former soldier.