First Army General of India: How was he appointed in Independent India?
There is a beautiful story about how our first army general of India after independence got selected.
India got freedom in 1947. The first speech named ‘Tryst with Destiny‘ was delivered by our first prime minister of India Shri Jawahar Lal Nehru. He addressed the nation with his one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century. On the eve of India’s independence Pt. Nehru spoke, “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history when we step out from the old to the new when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
With India gaining independence, there was a need for the appointment of various high offices office bearers. One of them of the most crucial importance was the appointment of the first general of India. There is a story about how our first army general of India after independence got selected. The story goes on and says that soon after getting freedom from British rule in 1947, the de-facto prime minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru called a meeting of army officers to select the first army general of India from the Indian army.
It is said that Nehru proposed, “I think we should appoint a British officer as a General of The Indian Army as we don’t have enough experience to lead the same.”
People present at the meeting were most loyal and the disciplined lot with a high degree of reverence towards their country. Having learned under the British, only to serve and rarely to lead, all the civilians and men in uniform present nodded their heads in agreement.
There are always exceptions. These exceptions are only responsible for the churning of ideas. In this meeting to one officer, Nathu Singh Rathore asked for permission to speak.
Nehru was astonished and in fact a bit taken aback by the independent streak of the officer, he asked him to freely speak and present his mind.
It is widely rumored that Rathore while speaking on the occasion of the appointment of the first army general of India had said, “You see, sir, we don’t have enough experience to lead a nation too, so shouldn’t we appoint a British person as the first Prime Minister of India?”
Ostensibly, in an environment of such a high-level meeting and in the backdrop of newly acquired independence what can one expect of this pronouncement of the officer. Yeah, one could hear a pin drop silence there.
Nehru was a leader of charisma, the most political and the experienced man. After a pageant pause, Nehru inquired Rathore, if he was ready to be the first army general of India of from the Indian Army.
Rathore most politely declined the offer saying “Sir, we have a very talented army officer, my senior, Lt. Gen. Cariappa, who is the most deserving among us.”
The story furthers and says how brilliant Gen. Cariappa became the first army general of India and Mr. Rathore the first ever Lt. General of the Indian Army.
This article has excerpts from Lt. Gen (retd) Niranjan Malik (PVSM) article on the subject.
The characteristic of courage with a sense of duty and honor displayed by Lt. Gen. Rathore, unfortunately, is increasingly rare to today to find these days, even in our armed forces, forget far away in the political and civilian life.
It appears, all of us or better to say that most of us, in our present day life, is suffering from backbone problems, unable to stand erect and speak our mind.