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'…I rather like the Chinese'

chandigarh Updated: Apr 02, 2014 17:56 IST
Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Hindustan Times

After a lecture on "Leadership and Discipline" at Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington, Tamil Nadu in 1998, field marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw was asked what was his appointment in the 1962 war and whether he could do anything about the situation.

He replied that around that time, he had been facing an inquiry engineered by the-then defence minister, VK Krishna Menon. "Defence minister Krishna Menon, and general (Brij Mohan) Kaul, who was chief of general staff at the time and budding man for the next higher appointment, disliked me intensely," he told the gathering.

"There were 10 frivolous charges against him, like he was more loyal to the Queen of England than India, was more British than Indian, and that he liked pretty girls… but he was exonerated," said lieutenant general Depinder Singh (retd), former military assistant of Manekshaw and author of "Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: Soldiering with Dignity".

He said: "Lieutenant colonels HS Yadav and Inder Verma and one more officer deposed against him. When he became army chief, he did not touch them. Verma rose to (the rank of) major general and Yadav retired as brigadier." The inquiry was led by lieutenant general Daulet Singh, then western army commander, when Manekshaw was commandant of the DSSC.

Lieutenant general Depinder Singh had written in his book, whose revised edition will be launched on April 3 on the 100th birth anniversary of Manekshaw, that in spite of persistent questioning, he could not ascertain from him the reasons that had led to the inquiry.

After he was cleared, the file was sent to prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who passed it to the cabinet secretary, who wrote on it that if anything happened to Manekshaw, it would go down as the (Alfred) Dreyfus case (officer's conviction for treason, political scandal that divided France from 1894 to 1906). The PM gave his nod for promotion to the lieutenant general, but Menon sent his severe displeasure to Manekshaw to be recorded.

In his address at the DSSC, Wellington, field marshal Manekshaw elaborated" "Then the Chinese came to my help. Krishna Menon was sacked, Kaul was sacked, and Nehru sent for me."

"So your question was 1962, and what part did I play: none whatsoever, none whatsoever. I was here for 18 months, persecuted, inquisitions against me but we survived…I rather like the Chinese," he said.

Manekshaw took over 4 Crops in the North Eastern Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh, on November 28, 1962, after promotion.

When Indira didn't see reason

Lieutenant general Depinder Singh said that field marshal Manekshaw had advised prime minister Indira Gandhi to make lieutenant general Gen PN Bhagat, who was part of inquiry into the 1962 war along with lieutenant general Henderson-Brooks, army chief after his relinquishing the office.

"But she was of the view that Bhagat was pro-Sikh and because of pressure from Maharashtra Congress leader YB Chavan, she had to give extension to general Bewoor.

When Manekshaw asked her how she had reached the conclusion, she said that there were numerous photographs of Bhagat with Sikh troops. He told her that it was because he was colonel of Sikh Light Infantry; but this explanation was not accepted," said Lt Gen Depinder Singh.