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Not too long ago, Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob, the Chief of Staff in the Eastern Command HQ at Kolkata during the 1971 war was interviewed on NDTVâ€™s â€œWalk the Talkâ€ program. During his conversation with Sekhar Gupta, the anchor and Editor in Chief of Indian Express, the retired general made the startling revelation that his perception of the war was quite different from that of Field Marshal Manekshaw, the then Army Chief. General Jacob felt that taking Dhaka was the key to victory on the Eastern frontier, where the Army Chief felt that the several intermediate towns en route to Dhaka needed to be secured first. But if this was done, the march to Dhaka would have got significantly delayed.
Keeping Manekshaw in the dark, Gen. Jacob and the Corps Commander moved out a mountain brigade deployed on the China border, augmented the forces and captured Dhaka. General Jacobâ€™s revelation was startling because folk legend around the 1971 victory has largely been surrounded around Field Marshal Manekshaw and Lt. Gen. J.S.Aurora, who accepted the surrender in Dhaka. In the same interview, Sekhar Gupta brought up the instance where both of these officers were posted in Wellington , many years earlier and a court of enquiry was ordered against Manekshaw and Gen. Jacob- then a Major was asked to give evidence against Manekshaw. Gen. Jacob explained that he had declined to give evidence for two reasons â€“ firstly that manckshaw was his boss and giving evidence against his boss wasnâ€™t his ethics.
General Jacob has displayed a characteristic not easily seen these days. He has shared freely that his perception of how the war was to be have been fought was substantially different from that of his boss and hind sight has proved him right and his boss wrong. Yet he bears no rancor and heartache that history has slighted him and he is content that he has done his duty as a soldier and that is all he ever wanted.
A little more than a week after the interview, Gohar Ayub Khan gave an interview to Karan Thapar on CNBC-TV18 , alluding that Manekshaw was a spy who had leaked out the 1965 war plan to the Pakistanis. Although the name in as such was not mentioned , the many clues offered suggested only one name. The Indian defense establishment rose to deny the charges and defend its iconic hero. The loudest voice to defend the nonagenarian Manekshaw who is ailing at the military hospital at Conoor was that of General Jacob who went live on TV to proclaim that Field Marshal Manekshaw is and was one of Indiaâ€™s tallest soldiers and that it was an abomination to listen to such a pack of lies about him.
Denied of the credit that was his due,General Jacob could have chosen this moment to savor this moment when Manekshawâ€™s name was being dragged though the mud. At the least , he could have held his peace and let Gohar Ayub do his talking. Jacob himself is in his eighties and no one would have noticed or commented if he had kept his counsel to himself. But the values that were there decades ago in Wellington had not dried up with age and Gen. Jacobâ€™s voice was the loudest in proclaiming his ex bossâ€™s innocence , especially significant since Manekshaw himself in his old age is unable to defend himself. With such a defiant disclaimer as the one that has come from Jacob ,the accusations against Manekshaw are not likely to gain any further credibility and will gradually die down. In a time when the slightest dust is enough to indulge in mud slinging and character assassination and finish off a personâ€™s reputation, General Jacob has conducted himself with a rare distinction. In saying that he as a soldier performed his duty and was content with that ad then coming out to defend a man who overshadowed him â€“ unfairly it would seem, General Jacob has walked the talk of honor.