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'You are the brains behind my moustache'

By Salil Kumar in New Delhi
Last updated on: May 03, 2005 16:17 IST
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The death of Lt General J S Aurora, hero of the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh, on Tuesday was received with shock by the defence fraternity in New Delhi. Here are some reactions:

Lt General (retd) A M Sethna
Former vice-chief of the Indian Army and member, National Commission for Minorities

"I am shocked, frankly. We worked closely together for many years. I think it was around 1950. He was a lieutenant colonel and I was a captain.

I knew he was not well. It became difficult for him after he lost his wife. His daughter was looking after him.

General Arora was the army commander during the '71 war. He gave all of us a free hand. He always used to say that 'you are the brains behind my moustache'.

Also see: Bangladesh war hero Gen Aurora dead

One of the incidents that I remember clearly is this: the general, his ADC and I were in a helicopter. This is just before the war began. We were going to visit Maj Gen Dalbir Singh, GOC, 9 Division. His troops had shot a Pakistani armour. That was also when Pakistani troops had overshot some Indian territory.

Suddenly the pilot pointed out to the Pakistani Sabres flying over us. The Indian air artillery was firing at them.

The general, who was, I think, sitting next to the pilot, was dozing. The ADC asked me, "Shall I wake him up?" The general heard him. He said, "What?" The ADC then pointed out to the Sabres. By then the pilot had dropped altitude and we were flying very low.

The chopper came down to some 4ft and we all jumped. There were Sabres and the Indian artillery was taking aim at them. And we were in the middle!

The other thing that I remember is that the general used to be feted wherever we went. He was a paratrooper and in the old days they used to wear the wings on the sleeves. Wherever he went there was so much commotion that they used to fall off. The general would say, 'Meri chidhiya fir se ud gayi!'"

Lt Gen (retd) Jagdish Chander
Former DG, Army Service Corps

"He is a famous hero who was responsible for a lot of the army's achievements.

It was because of him that Bangladesh was liberated. The country has lost a great soldier.

I did not have a lot of interaction with him, but I knew him, of course. He was very senior to me. I was still a captain in those days (at the time of the '71 war). He was an erect soldier, very straightforward."

Vice-Admiral V K Singh
Director General, Armed Forces Medical Services

"General Arora was one of the finest officers that the army had. And even after retirement he was involved in a lot of social work.

He was very straightforward and honest to the core."

From Rediff Archives:
An exclusive interview with Lt General J S Aurora
Gen Aurora Chat transcript

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Salil Kumar in New Delhi