Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw is no more.
Commander Vijay Kumar, a retired Navy officer and a friend of mine, sent in this mail in memory of the great soldier…
“Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw popularly known as SAM Bahadur or simply SAM is no more. He passed away today. Even after 35 yrs since he hung his uniform he still remains the most admired Army Chief from India. Vigour, Dash and Elan – typical traits of a great soldier , he had them all.
I had the occasion of interacting with him for about 10 mts during one of the cocktails when I was in Staff College. That time he was about ” 80 ” yrs of age , still standing erect like a ram rod and enjoying his “Dimple” drink. He was bubbly , candid and retained a terrific sense of humour even at 80. His professional views were interspersed with some wise cracks and some suttle pondy stuffs which threw us into laughter but the ladies could only blush… Boy ! mus say the ol man had a fair collection of it.
Here are excerpts of a high level Cabinet meeting held to take stock of emerging situation in East Pakistan in Apr ‘ 71 as brought out in the NIC website of Indian Navy
General Manekshaw, in an interview to the naval magazine “Quarterdeck 1996” stated:
“Sometime in April, there was a cabinet meeting to which I was summoned. Smt Gandhi was terribly angry and terribly upset because refugees were pouring into West Bengal, into Assam and into Tripura. She said to me `Look at this – so many are coming in – there is a telegram from the Chief Minister of Assam, a telegram from ……….., what are you doing about it ?’
I said “Nothing. What has it to do with me ?”
She said `Can’t you do something ? Why don’t you do something ? I want you to march in !’
I said `That means war’ and she said `I don’t mind if it is war’.
So I sat down and I said `Have you read the Bible?’
Sardar Swaran Singh said `What has the Bible got to do with it ?’
`In the first book, the first chapter, the first paragraph of the Bible, God said “Let there be light and there was light” – so you feel that “Let there be war and there is war”. Are you ready ? I certainly am not ready.’
Then I said, `I will tell you what is happening. It is now the end of April. In a few days time, 15 to 20 days time, the monsoon will break and in East Pakistan when it rains, the rivers become like oceans. If you stand on one side you can’t see the other. I would be confined to the roads. The Air Force would not be able to support me and the Pakistanis would thrash me – that’s one.
`Secondly my armoured division is in the Babina area, another division is in the Secunderabad area. We are now harvesting. I will require every vehicle, every truck, all the road space, all the railway space to move my soldiers and you will not be able to move your crops and I turned to Shri Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, the Agriculture Minister and said `if there is a famine in India, they will blame you. I won’t be there to take the blame’. Then I turned around and said `My armoured division which is supposed to be my strike force has got twelve tanks which are operational out of the whole lot’.
YB Chavan asked, `Sam, why only twelve ?’
`I said `Sir, because you are the Finance Minister. I have been asking, been pleading, for months. You said you have got no money that’s why.’
`Then I said “Prime Minister, if in 1962, your father had asked me as the Army Chief and not Gen Thapar and your father had said “Throw the Chinese out”, I would have turned around and told him “Look, these are the problems”. Now I am telling you what the problems are. If you still want me to go ahead, Prime Minister, I guarantee you 100 percent defeat. Now, you give me your orders.’
Then Jagjivan Ram said `Sam, maan jao na’.
I said `I have given my professional view, now the Government must take a decision’.
The Prime Minister didn’t say anything. She was red in the face and said “Achccha, cabinet char baje milenge’. Everybody walked out. I being the juniormost, was the last to leave and I smiled at her.
`Chief, sit down’.
So I said `Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, do you want me to send in my resignation on the grounds of mental health or physical ?’
She said `Oh, sit down Sam. Everything you told me is true ?’
`Yes. Look its my job to fight. It is my job to fight to win. Are you ready ? Have you internally got everything ready ? Internationally, have you got everything ready ? I don’t think so. I know what you want, but I must do it in my own time and I guarantee you 100 percent success. But I want to make it quite clear. There must be one Commander. I don’t mind, I will work under the BSF, the CRPF, under anybody you like. But I will not have a Soviet telling me what to do and I must have one political master who will give me instructions, I don’t want the refugee ministry, home ministry, defence ministry all telling me. Now, make up your mind’.
She said “All right Sam, nobody will interfere, you will be in command.”
`Thank you. I guarantee you accomplishment’.
Rest is History. Now , was’nt he truely a great military leader.
SAM Bahadur Sir, your mortal remains may now go the way of Parsee crematorium, fed to birds, but we all know ——” Great Soldiers don’t Die , they only merge into History ”