Lt Gen JFR Jacob (retd), who died on Wednesday, had refused to depose against Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw during an inquiry against the latter in 1962.
Lt Gen Depinder Singh, who was military assistant to Manekshaw, revealed, “Jacob was a man of tremendous character. When the inquiry was instituted against Manekshaw, he was one of the instructors at the (Defence Services) Staff College.”
At the time of the inquiry, Manekshaw was Major General and Commandant of the Staff College. “His promotion was stalled due to the inquiry,” said Lt Gen Singh, who later rose to become Army Commander of the Southern Command.
“There were 10 frivolous charges against Manekshaw, such as he was more loyal to the Queen of England than India, that he was more British than Indian, and that he liked pretty girls. There was also a charge of misuse of money. Three-four officers deposed against him, but others stood by him, including Jacob. But he was exonerated,” said Lt Gen Singh, who authored ‘Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw - Soldiering with Dignity’.
During an interaction at the Staff College in Wellington (Tamil Nadu) in 1998, Manekshaw had commented that then defence minister Krishna Menon and Chief of General Staff Lt Gen BM Kaul were against him. After the 1962 war, Menon and Kaul were removed.
The inquiry was headed by Lt Gen Daulet Singh, then Army Commander of the Western Command. After his exoneration, Manekshaw’s file for promotion was sent to then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He passed it on to the cabinet secretary, who wrote on the file that if anything happened to Manekshaw, this would go down as the Dreyfus case. The PM gave his nod to Manekshaw’s promotion as Lt Gen, after which he headed 4 Corps and later became the Chief of Army Staff, leading India to victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Lt Gen Singh, who interacted extensively with Jacob during the 1971 war, said, “He was very capable, very human and rose to become the Army Commander of the Eastern Command. He was an old-school soldier.”
Talking about the Jacob-Manekshaw ties, Lt Gen Singh said, “Jacob was a great friend of Manekshaw and Mrs Manekshaw, but in his books, he gave the impression that he conducted the 1971 war himself. He even mentioned how during the war he once disobeyed the chief’s order, which was not true. He was a Chief of Staff and his job was to take the orders and pass them on.”
In his autobiography, ‘An Odyssey in War and Peace’, which was released in 2011, Lt Gen Jacob had mentioned that Manekshaw, who died in 2008, lacked strategic acumen, promoted sycophancy and angled for post-retirement prospects, as reported in HT (‘Gen Jacob blows away Sam myth’, April 30, 2011).
While serving as Punjab governor and Chandigarh administrator, Lt Gen Jacob brought reforms in the functioning of the Defence Services Officers Institute (DSOI), Chandigarh. “It is now under the Western Command and elections are held regularly. Earlier, it was mired in controversies,” said Lt Gen Singh.