On 15th January 1949, India got its first Indian army Commander-in-Chief; Field Marshal KM Cariappa. Army day is celebrated on this day to celebrate this proud and memorable occasion. He took over from General Roy Butcher. According to recently declassified British records, it has been revealed that Gen Butcher was not loyal to India. He advised the Indian Cabinet against sending in troops to liberate Hyderabad. At this instance, Sardar Patel asked for Gen Butcher’s resignation. Cariappa took over and Indianized the army in subsequent years.
Kodandera “Kipper” Madappa Cariappa, (28 January 1899 – 15 May 1993) was born in Madikeri, Karnataka. Cariappa completed his education in Presidency College, Chennai and joined the British Army. He started his career in 2nd Battalion of the 88th Carnatic Infantry. KM Cariappa served the British in both first and second world war. His important achievements include Operation Kipper in Kashmir and smooth division of British Indian army into Indian and Pakistani constituents during the process of India’s partition. After four years of service as the Commander-in-Chief, Cariappa retired on 14 January 1953. He has been decorated with the highest rank in the army i.e. ‘Field Marshal’ for his distinguished services to the country. The only other person who has earned this rank is Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw.
In his book ‘Leadership in the Army, Biographies of Twelve Soldiers‘ , Gen. VK Singh writes :
Cariappa experienced some of his finest moment during the Kashmir Operations. Operation Kipper, which successfully captured Naushera and Jhangar was planned by him. This was followed by Operation Easy for the link up with Punch and Operation Bison for capture of Zojila, Dras and Kargil. Had he been given additional troops and necessary permission he would have succeeded in pushing out Pakistanis out of Kashmir, plans for which had already been made. Unfortunately this did not come about due to the intervention by the United Nations after an appeal from India. Characteristically, Nehru to the decision to appeal to the UN without consulting the armed forces
This incident sparked off the difficult relationship that Cariappa had with Nehru. Nehru never trusted Cariappa’s or any other army chief’s advise. As a result of this haughty attitude, India suffered humiliation at the hands of Chinese in 1962. In an interview to the Open Magazine the army veteran said:
“I had told Nehru long ago, and repeatedly, not to trust the Chinese. I had warned Menon in no uncertain terms. They paid no attention. Bilkul nahi.
If Nehru had heeded to the suggestions and advice of the illustrious Cariappa, we would not be struggling with the threat of a two and half front war today. The animosity between the two personalities explains why Cariappa did not get Bharat Ratna under successive governments.
He Is My Son No Longer
During the 1965 war, Field Marshal Cariappa’s son, Nanda, an IAF pilot, was shot down in Pakistan and captured as a POW. Once General Ayub Khan got to know that Nanda was Cariappa’s son, he got in touch with his former boss. Field Marshal Cariappa was once Ayub Khan’s senior in the British Indian Army. His biographer Vijay Singh recounts that Cariappa scoffed at the idea of special treatment to his son. Cariappa said to Ayub Khan ;
“He is my son no longer. He is the child of this country, a soldier fighting for his motherland like a true patriot. My many thanks for your kind gesture, but I request you to release all or release none. Give him no special treatment.
Field Marshal KM Cariappa Should Get a Bharat Ratna
While speaking at the Cauvery College in Karnataka’s Kodagu District on November 4 2017, army chief Bipin Rawat reiterated the popular demand that Field Marshal KM Cariappa should be awarded Bharat Ratna. The army chief said:
“It’s time to recommend Field Marshal KM Cariappa for the Bharat Ratna,” asserted General Bipin Rawat, who was here to unveil the statues of Field Marshal KM Cariappa, and Padma Bhushan and Distinguished Service Order (DSO) awardee General Kodendera Subayya Thimayya, at Cauvery College in Karnataka’s Kodagu District.”
While obliquely hinting at some of the undeserving people who have received the award, he right said
“If others can get it (Bharat Ratna), I see no reason why he (Field Marshal KM Cariappa) shouldn’t be a deserving personality for the same,” he added.
This is absolutely true. We must never forget, the first PM, who never took KM Cariappa’s advice but gave a Bharat Ratna to himself.
It is thus time to rectify this historic wrong. India as a country has to learn to be eternally grateful to the greats who crafted this country, and give them their due. It is time, that Field Marshal KM Cariappa gets recognised for the great man he was.