When `Sam Bahadur' confronted Indira Gandhi

When `Sam Bahadur' confronted Indira Gandhi
Mumbai, Jun 27 (PTI) There are legends galore about India's best known soldier. One such incident is about how as the Army Chief in 1971, General Sam Manekshaw confronted the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the Bangladesh issue.

The Field Marshal narrated this incident at the inaugural Field Marshal KM Cariappa Memorial Lecture in October 1995 at Delhi.

"There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a Field Marshal. In 1971, when Pakistan cracked down in East Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of refugees started pouring into India, into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting in her office. I was then summoned.

A very angry, grim-faced Prime Minister read out telegrams from the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.

She then turned around to me and said, 'What are you doing about it?' And I said, 'Nothing, it's got nothing to do with me. You didn't consult me when you allowed the BSF, the CRP and RAW to encourage the Pakistanis to revolt. Now that you are in trouble, you come to me. I have a long nose. I know what's happening.'

She said, 'I want you to enter Pakistan. And I responded, That means war!'

She said, 'I do not mind if it is war.'

I said 'Are you prepared? I am certainly not. This is the end of April. The Himalayan passes are opening and there can be an attack from China.'

I turned around to the Prime Minister and said that the rains were about to start in East Pakistan and when it rains there, it pours and the whole countryside is flooded. The snows are melting, the rivers would become like oceans. All my movement would be confined to roads."

Manekshaw told Gandhi that the Air Force would not be able to provide support because of climatic conditions. "Now Prime Minister, give me your orders. The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched said, 'The Cabinet will meet again at four o'clock.'

The Cabinet members started walking out. I being the junior most was the last to go and as I was leaving, she said, 'Chief, will you stay back?'

I turned around and said, 'Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, may I send you my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?'

She said, 'Everything you told me is true.'

'Yes! It is my job to tell you the truth,' I responded. 'And it is my job to fight, it is my job to fight to win and I have to tell you the truth.'

She smiled at me and said, 'All right Sam, you know what I want?' I said, 'Yes, I know what you want!'"

Manekshaw apparently had his way as the Bangladesh war took place seven months later, giving the armed forces ample time for preparations.

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