Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sam Manekshaw - Prophet of Hate

In 1942 at the height of the World War II a fierce battle was raging in Myanmar, then Burma, at the Sittang Bridge. A company of the Indian Army was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the invading Japanese forces for the capture of a position, which was critical for the control of the bridge. The young company commander was exhorting his troops when his stomach was riddled by a machine gun burst. Afraid that his company would be left leaderless if he were evacuated, he continued fighting till he collapsed.

His company won the day and the general commanding the Indian forces arrived at the scene to congratulate the soldiers. On seeing the critically wounded commander, he announced the immediate award of the Military Cross -- the young officer was not expected to survive much longer and the Military Cross is not awarded posthumously. Thus began a historic military career that spanned the Indo-Pak wars and the Sino-Indian conflict, the wounded captain surviving to become India's first field marshal.

In 1947 when Pakistan invaded Kashmir, Sam Manekshaw was the colonel in charge of operations at the Army Headquarters. His incisive grasp of the situation and his acumen for planning instantly drew the attention of his superiors and Manekshaw's rise was spectacular, though not without controversy. He was outspoken and stood by his convictions. This, coupled with his sense of humour, often got him into trouble with politicians.

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