Missing Field Marshal rank led to funeral goof up
Attempting to justify ceremonial goof-ups and poor representation of the government at Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's funeral in Tamil Nadu on Friday, Defence Ministry sources attributed the fiasco to the government’s Warrant of Precedence in which the rank of Field Marshal figures nowhere.
A senior official told HT that all ceremonial issues including the protocol to be followed after a dignitary’s death are governed by the Home Ministry’s Warrant of Precedence. It is this Home Ministry order that stipulates the duration of national mourning, whether the flag is to be flown at half-mast, the style of gun salute and who should be represented.
If sources are to be believed, it was at the behest of Defence Minister AK Antony that Manekshaw was accorded a state funeral although there were no explicit provisions for it in the rulebook. But neither Antony nor any of his service chiefs attended the funeral, leading to criticism of the government and the military establishment.
Many felt India’s first Field Marshal was denied dignity in death. Antony said on Monday that the government had accorded “cremation with state honours which shows that we hold him in highest esteem”.
Leader of Opposition LK Advani telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday and sought to know why the national flag was not flown at half-mast in the memory of the Field Marshal, who was widely regarded as the architect of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.
Advani said the PM told him that the matter fell under the purview of the Defence Ministry. “The government would not have had to face this embarrassment had the Field Marshal’s rank figured in the Warrant of Precedence,” an official said.
MoS for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju was the lone representative of the government at the funeral.
Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor announced on Monday that an upcoming multi-facility project for higher military learning would be named after Manekshaw. To be christened Manekshaw Centre, the facility will hold seminars, workshops and conferences on strategic and operational security matters. It is expected to be completed by November 2009.
Paying his last tributes to Manekshaw, Kapoor recorded his message in a condolence book at the Martyrs' Memorial near India Gate. Only Kapoor had a genuine reason for missing the funeral as he was on an official visit to Russia.