Post-Independence India has not produced many real life heroes. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, who passed away on June 27, was undoubtedly one of the greatest soldiers who walked on this holy land before our eyes. He was the most celebrated fighter general modern India produced. He was an icon not only because of his courage, integrity, patriotism and strategic mastery but also because by all accounts he was a fantastic human being. The Field Marshal, according to the reminiscences of his other decorated contemporaries, ranked along with military geniuses like Rommel, Montgomery, Cariappa and Patton who led brilliant campaigns and raised the morale of their soldiers when faced with insurmountable obstacles in war. His victory over Pakistan, the crushing battering he delivered on the enemy soldiers in 1971 in East Pakistan, his supervision of the creation of Bangladesh established him as a legendary leader of titanic dimensions, but his sense of humour, soldier-like simplicity and grace endeared him to every Indian. For those of us Indians in their prime, Manekshaw was a youth ideal. He might have inspired many youngsters in the seventies and eighties to choose the army as their career option. We salute him.
It is unfortunate that the funeral of this great man also had to become yet another instance of the UPA government'scallous indifference, disdain and contempt for all that India holds in esteem. The controversy could have been avoided. But it is not surprising considering that it has at its helm a person who has not grown up in the political milieu and whose only reference point is a person of foreign origin and who is alien to the country'snational cultural moorings. Though a seasoned politician with impeccable nationalist credentials the Defense Minister, A.K. Antony also by default got bracketed with this lot for his inexplicable absence at the Field Marshal'sfuneral.
From the UPA the country cannot hope anything better. It is not bothered about hurting the national sentiment when it capitulated before a bunch of separatist jehadi hooligans on the safety and sanctity of Amarnath.
The UPA did not find anything unusual in not celebrating the Kargil war victory anniversary or the tenth anniversary of Pokharan-II. It also did not honour India'swar heroes of the Indo-China or Indo-Pak war. With similar irreverence its leaders gave a miss to Veer Savarkar'scentenary.
At the funeral of Sam Manekshaw, the lone Minister of State represented the government. Service Chiefs too gave a miss to the last rites of Manekshaw. The attendance of other politicians was also low. There were not many condolences from Indian politicians, though even the US Democratic Party Presidential candidate Barack Obama did not forget to pay his homage to the great Indian. The Indian politicians as a class live in a world of their own-make belief surrounded by sycophants. They have no time to hear the heartbeats of the people. By honouring men of valour and character like Manekshaw they would have rather ensured their own honour. Their cussedness and colossal boorishness were once again played out by their absence at Manekshaw'sfuneral. In this all parties are to be blamed. But the Indian media thankfully did not fail in giving adequate coverage and spirited editorial pieces on Sam Bahadur.
Actually the facile late explanation given out officially by the UPA government for not declaring a state mourning is in keeping line with its distorted vision of national priorities. In 1993, when Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa passed away his funeral was attended by the Chief Minister of Karnataka and three Service Chiefs. Protocol did not stand in the way. It is only the changed Congress values that are to be blamed. What is of concern here is the singular lack of sensitivity and finesse in this government'shandling of issues concerning national pride.
A political establishment should genuinely represent the state, and reflect the cherished beliefs and values of its people. By insulting Sam Manekshaw quoting the rule book that he did not figure in the warrant of precedence the UPA has insulted itself and let down India. The warrant of precedence is only a bureaucratic roster. The UPA cannot hide behind it. It owes an unqualified apology to the memory of Sam Manekshaw and his family and the people of the country.