War hero Sam Manekshaw dead, accorded state funeral

June 28th, 2008 - 12:01 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Chennai/New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) Former Indian Army chief Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, the iconic architect of India’s 1971 military victory over Pakistan, died at a military hospital early Friday after developing acute bronchopneumonia. He was laid to rest with full state honours at Ooty in Tamil Nadu in the evening. The end came just after midnight at the Military Hospital in Wellington. Manekshaw was 94.

The body was first taken to Manekshaw’s residence in Conoor for performing traditional Parsi rituals. It was then brought to the Madras Regimental Centre where it lay in state for mourners to pay their homage.

In a rare gesture, the government ordered a state funeral for Manekshaw, including a 21-gun salute and deputed Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju to represent it at the ceremony.

Manekshaw’s body was taken in a gun carriage on its 13-km journey to the Ooty hill station, where he was interred next to his wife Siloo’s grave as the shadows lengthened.

His daughters Maja Daruwala and Sherry Batliwala survive Maneksahw. His wife had passed away in 2001.

Tributes poured in soon after the news of Manekshaw’s death was announced.

“Sam Bahadur (as Manekshaw was affectionately called by the troops who served under him) was the architect and the inspiring leader of the operations and the consequent military victory in what is now Bangladesh. Military historians will forever record the strategic brilliance and the inspirational leadership of Sam Bahadur,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a condolence message.

“His demise has left behind a void that will be really hard to fill. Field Marshal Manekshaw will be fondly remembered by our armed forces and the nation alike,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in his message.

“Sharp and witty till the end and imbued with an indomitable fighting spirit, he will continue to live on in the minds of committed citizens and will inspire them to take the nation forward,” Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said in his message.

The Indian Army is extremely disappointed over the lack of high-level civil and military representation at the state funeral with even Defence Minister A.K. Antony failing to make it to the ceremony.

The fact that Pallam Raju was the senior-most government representative at the ceremony has not gone down well with the army, more so as Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major also were conspicuous by their absence.

“The army chief (Gen. Deepak Kapoor) is on an official visit to Russia but at least the defence minister and the other two service chiefs should have attended the funeral,” an army officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Antony warded off queries about the low-key civilian and military presence at the funeral.

“As a special case, the government decided to organise a state funeral. Earlier, it used to be only a military funeral. My colleague Pallam Raju has been sent to represent the government,” Antony said.

Manekshaw, who became a household name after the 1971 victory led to the creation of Bangladesh, had been hospitalised at Wellington for some time due to a progressive lung disease. His condition had become serious in the past few days and he was being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Born April 3, 1914, Mankeshaw was a part of the first batch of officers to be commissioned from the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in 1934.

He was the Indian army chief from 1969 to 1973 and was elevated to field marshal just before his retirement.

He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award, and won the Military Cross for his leadership in Myanmar, then Burma, during the Second World War when he was wounded.

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