Saturday, December 7, 2002
M A I N   F E A T U R E

 To the nation, with valour second to none
Ajay Banerjee

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

MORE than 30 years ago, just after the 1971 victory over Pakistan, Field Marshal Sam Harmusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, the then Chief of Army Staff, while addressing the cadets of the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, at the passing out parade, had said, are leaving here this morning as officers, as leaders. You will be going to your units which are deployed at the border. They are facing an enemy whom they have recently fought and vanquished. Your task will be to administer to their needs and to lead them in battle. You will be leading veterans, men who have fought, men who have won, men who are used to good leadership. Make sure you give it to them."

Not much has changed since then. The enemy remains the same, the conditions are almost what they were at that time, and this year as well young officers will be sent to their units as they have been for the past 70 years. Some of them will go on to rewrite warfare history with deeds that will be remembered years later. On December 10 when another batch of cadets passes out of the IMA to become officers, Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw, now almost 88 years old, will review the parade. In 1932 Manekshaw was among the first batch of cadets to pass out of the IMA. Within the past decade officers from the IMA have led from the front and proved their mettle in the Kargil war and in numerous other battles fought on the icy heights of Kargil, Drass, Batalik and the Mushok valley.


This is the 70th year of the formation of the Indian Military Academy and it has come a long way since Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, who was then the Commander-in-Chief of India, formally inaugurated it on December 10, 1932. The institution that to begin with trained 40 men each term, now has a capacity to house about 1650 cadets. What Sir Chetwode said at that time went on to become the credo of the IMA: "The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time."

Photo by Pankaj Sharma

In 1934, even before the first batch had passed out, Lord Willingdon the Viceroy of India, presented the colours to the Academy on behalf of the King. World War II changed everything. Before the war 16 regular courses had passed out of the Academy. Between December 1934 and May 1941 only 524 cadets were commissioned in the Army as against 3887 cadets between August 1941 and January 1946. Independence meant partition for the IMA, as the properties of the Academy were divided between India and Pakistan. The cadets who belonged to the regions that became part of Pakistan and those who opted to go to Pakistan left the Academy on the night of October 14, 1947.

At the end of 1956 the command of the IMA passed on to officers trained at the IMA itself, when Brigadier M.M Khanna, Mahavir Chakra, took over.
In 1960 the Military College was renamed Indian Military Academy. Exactly 30 years after the founding of the IMA, on December 10, 1962, the second President of the Republic of India, Dr S. Radhakrishnan, presented new colours to the IMA, to replace the ones presented by the Earl of Willingdon. In 1976 these colours were replaced by those presented by President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed.

Bravery is probably what the cadets who pass out of the IMA wear on their sleeves. The list of decorated officers who have been part of the institution runs into hundreds. This includes six Param Vir Chakra awardees and 84 Mahavir Chakra awardees. As early as 1937, M. Y. Khan became the first ex-IMA officer to win a gallantry award. He was awarded the Military Cross. In 1941, 2nd Lieutenant P.S. Bhagat was conferred the Victoria Cross for his work in Italy. During the course of World War II, 71 ex-IMA officers were awarded the Military Cross, including Field Marshal Manekshaw for the valour that he displayed while fighting on the Burma front.

After Independence, in the Kashmir operations in 1947, the country’s highest gallantry award, Param Vir Chakra (PVC) was posthumously awarded to Major Somnath Sharma. Capt G. S. Salaria became the second officer to win the PVC in 1961. Later in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, 2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and Major Hoshiar Singh were awarded the PVC.

For the Kargil war (1999) Capt Vikram Batra and Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey were awarded the PVC. During the Kargil operations the Mahavir Chakra was awarded to Maj Rajesh Singh Adhikari, Maj Vivek Gupta, Maj Padmapani Acharya, Capt Anuj Nayyar, Capt N Kengurujay and Lt Keishing Clifford Nongrum for laying down their lives in the highest traditions of the Indian Army. Maj Sonum Wangchuk received the MVC for exhibiting exemplary courage.