On April 3, 2012, patriots of India celebrated the 98th birth anniversary of one of India’s military legends, the incomparable Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. So much has already been written about his exploits that they need not be repeated. My thoughts instead went to how our establishments in India frequently get things wrong and then scramble like crazy to make amends.
When he passed away in June 2008, many of us were shocked that the highest ranking Government representative at his funeral was the Minster of State for Defence. The President of India was too busy touring in Indore, PM Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were busy with higher priorities. They did not consider it high priority enough to personally pay homage to a great soldier and thereby really to the institution of the Indian Army. I am sure if a political leader had expired, most would have fallen over each other to make their presence felt.
The Defence Minister did attend a ceremony on Sam Bahadur’s birth anniversary, perhaps to make up for his earlier lapse. If Sachin Tendulkar, with all respect to him, can be considered seriously for the Bharat Ratna, I see no reason why the honour should not be posthumously bestowed on Sam Bahadur. I am sure Sachin himself will be the first to admit that his feats are comparable, to say the least!
In paying homage to a great soldier, let’s remember two of Sam Bahadur’s famous quotations. In 1962, he was placed in command of the 4 Corps when it was retreating from the advancing Chinese. Sam’s order to his troops: “There will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued.”
About his beloved Gurkhas, Sam said,”If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”]