Pragmatic | Two tales for the Vijay Diwas

On Manekshaw’s offer to resign and the War memorial at India Gate

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the birth of Bangladesh — midwifed gloriously by the Indian armed forces — here are two tales from that era. The first one from a few months before the war, and the second, a month or so after the victory.

The first story pertains to the April 1971 meeting of Indira Gandhi’s cabinet where Sam Manekshaw offered to resign. The offer was declined. And the rest is history. In Sam Bahadur’s own words:

The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched said, “The Cabinet will meet again at four o’clock”.

The members of the Cabinet 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?”[IEB]

No one could have done better than Sam Manekshaw. Read the complete anecdote here.

The second tale is about the war memorial at India Gate in Delhi. Originally constructed by the British in the memory of those who died in the First World War, it was  inaugurated as National Memorial to India’s War Dead, of all wars, on January 26, 1972 by Mrs Indira Gandhi. Mr MS Gill recounts that tale:

All this happened 36 years ago, and the National War Memorial is a long-established sacred place, at the heart of the Capital. The story of World War I, and the British War Graves Commission is dead and gone. We are a free people, and the India Gate is ours. I made some comment then, which needs to be repeated, in the hope that somebody will take some notice. Governments normally never do. The memorial was patched together in a great hurry, on January 24 and 25, 1972, so that the Prime Minister could inaugurate it on 26th.

The architects did not get the time to plan the suitable integration of the plinth, with the flame, into the Lutyens’ Arch. The symbol of a helmet on an inverted gun is hackneyed. An almost identical memorial arch, which perhaps provided the inspiration for the India Gate, exists in the shape of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Underneath that Arch at ground level is buried an unknown soldier of France. Over his head, shaped like a sun made by placing swords in a circle, with hilts lying inwards, burns an eternal flame.[Tribune]

We should have done better than this. Read the full story here.

To paraphrase Churchill, “Before 1971, we never had a victory. After 1971, we never had a defeat.” Happy Vijay Diwas, everyone.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.