Stirring send-off to ‘Sam Bahadur’

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SOLDIER’S GENERAL: Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw at a military parade on October 23, 2004 in New Delhi.
SOLDIER’S GENERAL: Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw at a military parade on October 23, 2004 in New Delhi.

Special Correspondents

Hero of Bangladesh war was a great motivator; stood up to political pressure

Samspeak: “If anyone tells you he is never afraid, he is a liar or a Gurkha!”

UDHAGAMANDALAM/NEW DELHI: Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw was given the final salute in a state funeral with full military honours in the Nilgiris on Friday. He died at the age of 94 early on Friday at the Wellington Military Hospital where he was battling lung disease.

He was considered one of the country’s great war heroes. The victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war that he masterminded helped create Bangladesh.

The body was buried in a Parsi graveyard in Udhagamandalam, next to where lay buried his wife Silloo, who died seven years ago.

Union Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju placed a wreath on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Central Government. State Khadi Minister D. Ramachandran placed a wreath on behalf of the Tamil Nadu Government.

Representatives of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the Royal Bhutan Army and the three forces of Bangladesh, the Southern Command and local wings of the forces placed wreaths.

Around noon, the body was kept at the Madras Regimental Centre parade grounds, Wellington, for about three hours to enable the public to pay homage. Thousands of people, ranging from officers of the armed forces and civil officials to members of the public, filed past. The queue seemed endless.

The body was then placed in a coffin and taken in a flower-bedecked military truck to the graveyard, 20 km from Wellington. The last rites were performed by Manekshaw’s family members in a private ceremony under Zoroastrian customs.

‘Sam’ Maneskhaw was a soldier’s General who led daring military assaults, planned his moves meticulously, read his enemy’s mind well and backed his men even when the political leadership was bearing down on him. He was a great motivator.

The list of his awards is long, beginning with the Military Cross he got during the Second World War. A fortnight before his retirement, Manekshaw was made a Field Marshal.

He was the second Indian to be thus decorated after K.M. Cariappa. In between, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1968 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1971.

But more impressive was his personality — handsome, self-assured, with a trademark handlebar moustache. These were backed by raw courage, determination and a sharp military mind.

He could stand up to politicians while losing none of his wit.

Sam ‘Bahadur’ was so called because of his long association with the Gurkha regiment after his parent force, the Frontier Rifles, was allocated to Pakistan.

One of his sayings, which has passed into Gurkha regiment legend: “If anyone tells you he is never afraid, he is a liar or a Gurkha!”

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