General who called a spade a spade

Lt Gen Daulat Singh had the temerity of warning the government that ‘it is imperative that political direction be based on military means’. This dictum stands true even today

Shriniwas Joshi

THE bust of Lieutenant General Daulat Singh was once again the talk of the town when a 29-year-old youth Lokesh Chand from Mandi stood up on the head of the bust of the General at General Daulat Singh Park on the Ridge. The report says that on way to Solan to appear in an examination, he passed a night here in a hotel. Early morning, when more than half of the town was asleep, he got up and reached the park and started shouting while standing on top of the bust. His shouts attracted the public and the police. He was dragged down to find way to the mental hospital. The bust got damaged in the scuffle and the pedestal stands there without its pride and boast. 

The plaque below the bust of the General reads: “Lt Gen Daulat Singh was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Command from May 8, 1961, to November 22, 1963, at Shimla. The General led the Army with distinction, displaying visionary and strategic military leadership. His life was cut short by a helicopter accident in Poonch (J&K) on November 22, 1963, while on a reconnaissance mission of an operational area. The Government of Himachal Pradesh, in recognition as also to commemorate the distinguished service of the General to the nation, constructed and dedicated this park to the residents of Shimla in April 1964. The park was inaugurated by Lieutenant General (later Field Marshal) SHFJ Maneckshaw on April 2, 1964.” 

I have seen General Daulat Singh coming to office, sometimes on foot. What smartness! What alacrity! General Manekshaw (Sam Bahadur) was appointed GOC-in-C Western Command with its headquarters at Shimla after the tragic death of General Daulat Singh. Here, I may tell the readers that Sam’s journey in the Army was controversial. An inquiry was initiated against him for ‘anti-national attitude’. His promotion was held for 18 months during this time. A court of inquiry headed by General Daulat Singh had exonerated him. 

The ill-fated helicopter, Alouette, called HAL Cheetah, that crashed near Poonch city killed not only Lt General Daulat Singh, but Lt General Bikram Singh, General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps; Air Vice Marshall Erlic Pinto, Air Officer Commanding Western Command; Major General Nalin Kumar Dhirajlal Nanavati, General Officer Commanding 25 Infantry Division; Brigadier SR Oberoi, Commander 93 Infantry Brigade and Flight Lieutenant SS Sodhi. 

Why so many top officers were travelling in one helicopter? The answer is that never before an accident of the type had happened and we Indians wake up when something happens. Changes were made in the movement of convoys like their timings, halt locations, movement etc. after Pulwama terror attack resulting in the death of 40 CRPF jawans. The attitude that was there in 1963 is continuing till date. That time, too, as cautionary rule, the government banned senior officers of the armed forces to ever travel together. Many conjectured that the helicopter was sabotaged, but the Indian Army ruled it out and said it was an accident. 

Why were the officers going to Poonch? Poonch city used to get electricity and water by a channel from Betar Nullah. The headwork of the channel was located in a place occupied by Pakistan. In October 1963, Pakistan blew the headwork. Poonch became waterless. The Army was assigned the task of constructing a new water head. By November 21, 1963, the Army could restore the complete water supply and total electricity. The officers were going to inspect that when the accident occurred. 

Lt General Daulat Singh was born at Lahore on January 4, 1911. He was the alumnus of Saint George’s College, Mussoorie, and married to Uma Devi of Kapurthala. He is known as the Hero of Sino-Indian War of 1962, which we badly lost. Why then a Hero? The Western Command which was under General Daulat Singh did great despite India being at a disadvantageous position. The Chinese faced stiff resistance at Daulat Beg Oldi near the entrance of Karakoram Pass, at south of Pangong Lake at Chushul and at the head of the supply road down to Leh. 

General Daulat Singh was candid and upfront. Jawaharlal Nehru, Krishna Menon, General Thapar and General BM Kaul had implemented a flawed ‘forward policy’ despite Indian Army not being adequately equipped. The policy involved moving patrols and posts into Chinese-occupied territories with the naive belief that China would not attack a non-violent nation. In July 1962, General Daulat Singh had requested that the forward policy be suspended or more brigades be added to the present strength in the Western Command. His plea was ignored. 

He had the temerity of warning the government that “it is imperative that political direction be based on military means”. This dictum stands true even today. Shimla is proud of having a park in the name of a brave General, who was so straightforward in his dealings and believed in calling a spade a spade. 

Hero of Sino-Indian War

Lt General Daulat Singh was born at Lahore on January 4, 1911. He was the alumnus of Saint George’s College, Mussoorie, and married to Uma Devi of Kapurthala. He is known as the Hero of Sino-Indian War of 1962, which we badly lost. Why then a Hero? The Western Command, which was under General Daulat Singh, did great despite India being at a disadvantageous position. The Chinese faced stiff resistance at Daulat Beg Oldi near the entrance of Karakoram Pass, at south of Pangong Lake at Chushul and at the head of the supply road down to Leh. General Daulat Singh was candid and upfront. Jawaharlal Nehru, Krishna Menon, General Thapar and General BM Kaul had implemented a flawed ‘forward policy’ despite Indian Army not being adequately equipped. In July 1962, General Daulat Singh requested that it be suspended or more brigades be added to the present strength in the Western Command. His plea was ignored. 

Tailpiece

“If you put on the military uniform, you’re a prima facie hero. Generals are the epitome of that.” — HW Brands 

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