FORMER Indian Army chief Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw died at the military hospital in Wellington in Tamil Nadu on Friday. The 94- year- old was suffering from acute bronchopneumonia. In arare gesture, the government decided to accord Manekshaw astate funeral, complete with a21- gun salute (right).
Though defence minister A. K. Antony condoled the death, he didn’t attend the funeral. Instead, minister of state for defence M. M. Pallam Raju attended the last rites of the officer who scripted India’s 1971 military victory over Pakistan. When asked about Antony’s absence, ministry officials hinted at the paucity of space which would have made it difficult to accommodate the minister and his entourage.
The three service chiefs, who are all four- star officers and junior to the late field marshal, also chose to stay away from the funeral ceremony which was held at Coonoor Tamil Nadu.
They sent their representatives. President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces, is on an Indore tour and sent her condolence message.
Calling him one of India’s greatest soldiers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Manekshaw has inspired several generations of Indian soldiers over the past half acentury. am sure his legacy will continue live with us for years to come,” Singh said. Former Navy chief, Admiral (rtd) Arun Prakash told MAIL TODAY :“Field marshals don’t retire, the rank is given for life.
The nation honoured him for his military achievements when he was alive, so he also deserves the highest honour after death.” Asenior officer said, “The state funeral should’ve been held in the Capital and all dignitaries should have been there.” Manekshaw was buried beside the grave of his wife Siloo Bode in Udhagamandalam as per his wish.
The funeral of India’s most decorated soldier was aprivate affair with only close relatives and members of the Parsi community in attendance. Though there is aParsi tradition of keeping the body in the open and allowing vultures to feed on it, Manekshaw’s body was buried. Amass was held in the graveyard where family members paid floral tributes to the departed soul. The rites lasted about an hour.
Hundreds of people atop buildings and trees adjacent to the graveyard watched the last rites. Security was tight in and around the graveyard with police and army officials controlling the public and the traffic.
Earlier, the body was brought to the graveyard in an open flower- bedecked military truck from Wellington. Manekshaw, who became ahousehold name after the 1971 victory led the creation of Bangladesh, had been hospitalised at the Wellington Military Hospital for some time due aprogressive lung disease.
His condition had become serious in the past few days and he was being treated in the intensive care unit.
suman. sharma@ mailtoday. in