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Lack of courtesy to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

July 4, 2008


Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw was a great soldier and a patriot but I was disturbed when I received an email forward which said that there has been a

complete lack of grace and gratitude, civility and courtesy, decency and decorum on the part of the bold-faced names rapaciously grazing the lawns of power in Delhi and elsewhere, for the brain behind India’s only decisive military victory

The email forward went on to give the names of dignitaries like Pratibha Patil (the commander-in-chief of the armed forces), Manmohan Singh (Prime Minister), Sonia Gandhi (Congress President) and L K Advani (BJP Leader) who were absent at the state funeral and failed to pay their last respects to this soldier, India’s first Field Marshall.

I had earlier read about the controversy created when Defence Minister A K Antony and three services chiefs had skipped the state funeral. Athough two service chiefs were in the country (Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor was in Russia) they sent two star officers to attend the funeral. And “no wreaths were placed on Field Marshal Manekshaw’s bier, on President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s behalf” which is the customary in such cases.

And then I read another article which talked about how “when Britain’s first field marshal died, all the dignitaries attended his funeral and he was buried at Westminister Abbey.”

WelI, the email forward that is going around is informing people about the lapse by our leaders. I wanted to find out who had written the article because like all Forwards, it had come without acknowledgment of the source. A little googling and I found that it was part of the article written by Krishna Prasad, former editor of the Vijay Times, on The whole article had not been forwarded. What was missed out were these facts:

• When Amitabh Bachchan was ill after being socked in the stomach during the shooting of Coolie, Indira Gandhi flew down to Bombay to show her concern.
• When Dhirubhai Ambani died, L K Advani cut short his Gujarat tour to pay his respects to an ’embodiment of initiative, enterprise and determination’.
• When Pramod Mahajan was shot dead by his brother, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekawat had the time to attend the funeral.

Well, I am sure we can make a far longer list of politicians attending the functions (and parties) of influential people and celebrities. But when it came to Manekshaw, few cared to attend his funeral. Surprising that they didn’t bother to follow protocol.

(Photo from

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 4, 2008 8:35 am

    Shocking! That’s putting it mildly. And it goes to show how, cutting across party lines, our political leaders’ priorities lie with money and glamour. As the Sanskrit saying goes, “yatha raja tatha praja”. These are the examples the common citizen will emulate.

  2. July 4, 2008 8:51 am

    It is unfortunate that the people who truly lay down their lives for the country are treated so shabbily.
    The politicians i can understand, but army chiefs not being there seems a little off.

  3. July 4, 2008 9:20 am

    Fortunately the populace saw the king had no clothes and decided to make up for the naked disregard by offering rich tributes — ones that actually matter..

  4. vivek mittal permalink
    July 4, 2008 9:27 am

    These are the real heros of our nation…..I salute Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and pay my tributes

  5. vivek mittal permalink
    July 4, 2008 9:50 am

    In today’s scenario the sanskrit saying changes to “yatha praja tatha raja”…afterall we only elect our politicians..

  6. Sakhi permalink
    July 4, 2008 10:52 am

    Recently i read an article on “Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw ” where it ws stated that todays genertion is aware of salmaan khan’s chest size or kareena’s latest hair colour but are aware of our heroes and the worst part is the youth is not even bothered about it..

    we say we are pround to be Indians and its historya nd heritage but we forget ourown hetoes!

    its a sad state of affair! 😦

  7. Sakhi permalink
    July 4, 2008 10:53 am

    “yatha praja tatha raja”…afterall we only elect our politicians..

    well said vivek! 🙂

  8. July 4, 2008 11:16 am

    Shocking. The politicians are much bothered about how to create ruckus across the country. They wont be bothered unless it’s one of them(in politics) or someone whom they can use to gain mileage in politics.

    The politicians are not professional in their profession. They talk about protocol when they want to visit a small town, close down the entire place with the help of police. They can go all the way across the country for poll campaigns, be it on a helicopter or by road.

    Shame on them.

  9. July 4, 2008 11:20 am

    // “yatha praja tatha raja”…afterall we only elect our politicians.. //

    nothing more than that !!!

  10. July 4, 2008 11:27 am

    The President is the ceremonial Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The Prime Minister is the effective Commander-in Chief.

    What else can you expect in a nation where the Commander-in-Chief talks to his commanders through interpreters – bureaucrats who have their own axe to grind , with a little knowledge of and a peculiar antipathy to the armed forces?

    Even Obama, possibly the next US commander-in -chief found time to condole Sam’s death. What a shame.

  11. July 4, 2008 11:41 am

    Is there a way to seek an explanation from the President,PM,Defense Minister and the service chiefs on this issue?

    As a citizen, I would like to hear what they have to say.
    Would RTI help in this case? Is the Prez answerable under RTI?


  12. July 4, 2008 11:53 am

    the last 3 quotes is something that describes the poor state of India..
    I am not surprised at all…
    i wonder why it dint come in news till now..
    they should cover the stories like this i would have been oblivious of this if u had not written this post..

  13. July 4, 2008 12:14 pm

    Nita, I am so glad that you blogged about it. I appreciated all the bloggers who had reported on the day of his death.

    This uncaring attitude for Sam amounts to National Shame.

  14. Abha Singh permalink
    July 4, 2008 1:52 pm

    This is most disgusting & shameful…all these blokes (read politicians & protocol-busters) should publically apologize….is there a way to moot this as a large scale wave???

    Are the Lead India participants tuned in?

  15. July 4, 2008 3:13 pm

    Vivek K, I have few good words to say about our politicians, whichever party they belong to!

    amreekandesi, hmm, that’s true. that’s why I had a suspicion in my mind whether they was some serious problem here.

    Vivek M,
    I agree. In a democracy we elect our leaders and get what we deserve.

    today’s heroes are people like Raj T and Narendra Modi…can you imagine the turn out at their…oops better not say it even if it is hypothetical or I will have some people breathing fire! 🙂
    The problem is that we forget our heroes far too soon.

    yeah, that’s their idea of protocol! Self-aggrandizement!

    Vinod, I guess we should expect this kind of behavior from them shouldn’t we!

    Nikhil, questions are already being asked, but it is easy to cook up some reason which makes it appear natural, like a family emergency or national emergency or something. No one can do a thing about that then. The army top brass should be severely reprimanded though. Unless they were out of the country, there is no excuse for them.

    Poonam, Arvind, thanks.

    Abha, Lead India was a marketing campaign which won an international award for the TOI. It was simply a brilliant marketing gimmick! I do hope something good comes of it though.

  16. vivek mittal permalink
    July 4, 2008 4:42 pm


    One of the participants of lead india Mr Sanjiv Kaura has joined Behenji’s party BSP, as Gen secretary..i am not sure working with likes of Mayawati what different he would do..

    he’s a capable and educated fellow, and is willing to do something..but i dont think until he’s in the top brass of a political party or in a responsible position in Govt, he would be able to do any good

  17. July 4, 2008 6:17 pm

    hmm…hypocrisy…funny ,i was just writing about the hypocrisy in our nation…now when in skls and other places we observed silence…but that is all our president and PM can do? Are they good examples to our the next gen?

  18. Ravi permalink
    July 4, 2008 6:49 pm

    I dont know why are you guys making fuss of this issue. Im thankful that atleast the news channels did mentioned this person several times on the day of his funeral. But Im not surprised to see politicians didnt cared to attend the event.. They (politicians) are busy in saving their coalition govt so that they can be in power for some more time to earn enough for their next 7 generations. How could they afford to spend time for some person whom they never heard of?

    Actually we lost our independence on Aug 15, 1947. Lord mountbatten warned that India would go into wrong hands i.e. to our politicians. If US can produce a bill gates how many bill gates india should produce out of its 1 billion population? I wish all these corrupt and selfish politicians would die with diseases that cannot be cured by a million dollars.

    Great people would never get rewarded or respected in India.It is just waste of time and effort in creating awareness among Indians. I wish he is a gandhi or a modi so that he could have get some respect.

  19. July 4, 2008 7:29 pm

    I’m shocked!! even the President didn’t go!! If he had a influential progeny or one having potential in politics all those people would have surely gone.

  20. July 4, 2008 9:26 pm

    As a nation, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. All of us.

    Our armed forces are the least respected of all careerists and the bureaucracy ensures that they are kept like that. Just look at the recent fracas arising out of the fifth pay commission’s recommendations.

    We need something like the Veteran’s day, or Memorial day every year to honor our armed forces.

  21. July 4, 2008 10:01 pm

    if this is the precedent that politicians are setting, then tommorow’s netas would relegate the defence forces as just another portfolio for them, now, how the hell can govt. say that they are encouraging people to join the armed forces.

  22. wishtobeanon permalink
    July 4, 2008 10:32 pm

    Not surprising again! When have our polititcians ever been responsible or civil? Well all we can do is wring our hands in despair! Is there anything more we can do to get good leaders?

  23. July 5, 2008 7:58 am

    Vivek M, I think these guys have to survive in the political world. They could just be eaten up.

    Vishesh, Well I think our PM certainly has good qualities but I do not share the same opinion of our President.

    Ravi, I guess that even though we know how our politicians are, we still never cease to have expectations! When our hope dies that will be the real end.

    Reema, good point. If Manekshaw’s son was an industrialist or a celebrity all these people would have gone. Today we have become a materialistic society.

    Ramana, that’s a good idea, to have a day like the one you mention. Despite the fact that our Army is the least corrupt of all our institutions (this has been revealed in a perception survey), it is given the least importance!

    Rahul, the govt. cares more about buying arms and taking kickbacks and less about the people that make up the Army.

    wishtobeanon, like you said, not surprising. we will get good leaders though as soon as we get edcuated and our educated people start to vote in large numbers.

  24. vivek mittal permalink
    July 5, 2008 9:20 am

    I think we are in the habit to abuse our politicians…All are not bad..and many are not that bad as we would like to believe
    I would proudly say now “Singh is King”…Manmohan Singh has done it yet it looks now that nuclear deal is going to be through..and Only one man gets the credit..
    Even likes of Amar singh and Mulayam singh deserves some credit..Few days back i read an article by Mr Iyer in sunday times that if L K Advani saves nuclear deal by supporting the Govt on the issue,he would be remembered as a true statesman in the history of india..but now that credit goes to less deserving people like Amar/Mulayam be frank this is the thing i like about people and politicians of uttar pradesh..The role they play and eager to play in National wonder this state has produced best prime ministers of India

  25. July 5, 2008 3:11 pm

    When we watch news on TV, quite often we come across ‘News Flashes’ which read “Two Jawans die in an encounter with the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir”.The Next morning there is a mention of the same in an obscure corner of the news paper.

    The Editor/Journalist doesn’t even feel the need to find out the names of the jawans. They were just ‘jawans’ after all, doing their duty!!

    The present Sam Manekshaw episode is just a Bigger manifestation of this mentality only.

    I am hurt,I am angry ……..But not at all Surprised.

  26. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 5, 2008 4:05 pm


    The callousness by the high and the mighty of the land in the Manekshaw episode is condemnable in a class all its own. It cannot be compared with media stupidities of the kind you mention.

    TV news channels in particular are indecently obsessed with being the “first-to-report” and with “breaking news”, which often leads them, to sensationalise things (I am not suggesting that the death of jawans in an encounter is a trivial matter, but it is more readily trivialised in comparison with a boy or a girl falling into an open borewell in a village on a motorable road, quickly reachable by camera crews and OB vans in an hour’s drive from Delhi. There’s also more self-serving mileage to be derived by the channels from such stories with their photo-ops and bytes than there is from covering a “mere jawan” giving up his life “merely” doing his duty.

    The print media, not bound by similar compulsions, are generally in a position to project things in relatively more realistic perspective, giving each news item its appropriate importance in the overall scheme of things. I repeat, it is not right to use the death of soldiers on duty as an illustrative example of this. But it is genrally a fact that print journalism is guided by more cool-headed professional judgement.

    I have also often heard my army friends (rank Lt. Col. and below) complain that a visit by a TV crew in the midst of operations is almost always an interference and a distraction that they could very well do without, especially when the team is led by a star journalist from one of the “national” channels.

  27. July 5, 2008 5:13 pm

    @ Vivek Khadpekar,
    I am not at all going into comparisons.

    I just think both of these actions emanate from similar kind of attitudinal apathy on the part of our society.

    So I said the latter to be a ‘Bigger Manifestation’ of the former.

    Some where they add up, may be not directly but indirectly yes.

  28. July 5, 2008 11:54 pm

    Those were different times
    these are times when it is all ok – chalta hai – times of degeneration, times where even army people are appointed depending upon their political connections.

    Nyways what do we expect of our leaders – Nothing except that they dont make more of a mess for the country and its people .

    I agree with the wise Vivek – we get what we deserve…

    I guess no field in India is really clean! – Nita.

  29. July 7, 2008 6:24 pm

    His soul would be happier without the politicians attending his funeral Nita.
    Manekshaw once commented about the politicians: ‘I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor, a gun from a howitzer, a guerrilla from a gorilla – although a great many of them in the past have resembled the latter’.

    Thanks Prerna, I too had heard about Manekshaw’s contempt for politicians. I guess that is why they kept away from his funeral! No excuse at all ofcourse as they should have followed protocol. I think they have proved Manekshaw’s words right. I wonder if they know what a field marshal is!! Maybe they don’t know the difference between a field marshall and a misfield! – Nita.

  30. July 8, 2008 3:14 pm

    well said Prerna

  31. Sudhir Jatar permalink
    July 8, 2008 6:37 pm

    A friend of mine, Shashi Ramdas, put it aptl.
    The Raksha Mantri said, “It was a collective decision of the Government” (as to who should attend the funeral).
    That one line is loaded with meaning.
    Shashi’s reading is:
    (a) The issue was discussed at a very high level where the PM and some Cabinet Ministers were present.
    (b) I’m certain some bureaucrats, at least the Defence Secretary, were also present.
    (c) I’m equally certain that the bureaucrats must have advised the unsuspecting PM and Ministers NOT to attend the funeral.
    (d) I’m equally certain that the bureaucrats must have advised the PM and Defence Minister to tell the Air Force and Naval Chiefs NOT to attend the funeral and that they should depute a 2-star AVM/RADM to do so. And, I am certain, the two Chiefs were told (ordered) accordingly.
    (e) They may have justified this by saying that the VCOAS (3-star) was representing the Army to which Sam Bahadur belonged and it was therefore appropriate that the other two Services should depute only a 2-star ranker.
    (f) In the same way, the argument would have been made that there was no need for the PM or Defence Minister to attend as the three Services were being represented by 3-star and 2-star rankers, and the presence of the Minister of State for Defence would be quite adequate.
    (g) As far as our President is concerned, the poor lady is probably not even aware that she is the Supreme Commander/Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services. Even if she knows it, she may not know what that august position implies!!!
    (h) The bureaucrats would also not have bothered to tell the netas that a Field Marshal is a “serving officer” for life and that Sam Bahadur was NOT just another retired General. (I am of course assuming that the bureaucrats know this, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they are blissfully aware of this fact!)
    There is a very interesting “what-if” rider. “What if the Air Force and Naval Chiefs had defied the “order” and attended the funeral?”!! So also, “What if the Army Chief had cut short his visit to Russia to attend the funeral?”!!
    I would like to add, “The government would have conveyed its desire that the two chiefs need not attend the funeral but “we leave it to your best judgement”, putting the two chiefs in a bigger quandary. Knowing the spineless nature of our chiefs, both would have decided in consultation with each other not to rock the boat!

  32. DMP permalink
    July 27, 2008 9:49 am

    Hi Friends,

    Lets be proud that none of the culprits were present during this great man’s final parade… His soul will rest in peace as he was not touched by any politicians… He was laid in peace with pure hands and hearts around him….

    Jai Hind!!!

  33. stud.boy99 permalink
    November 19, 2008 9:01 pm

    hi nita… its not related to the this blog. but i found it easier to write here than opening email and writing to nita@gmail…. so wht i wanted to say is that can u write something abt Indira Gandhi?? its her birth anniversary today… see for people’s views on her at this site..

    Thanks for the suggestion and I will certainly put this topic in my draft folder. It is indeed a good suggestion as few people of the younger generation are aware of what she was all about. However for me to write about such a serious subject means a lot of research, and finding an angle to it. Also I need to feel some inspiration. So I will probably write about her, but am not sure whether I will do it in the next few weeks or few months. – Nita.

  34. September 9, 2012 8:24 pm

    A leader like Mrs. Indhira Gandhi has so much of appreciation and faith. That is political leadership.


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