Lt General J.F.R. Ja­cob – A Leg­end Laid to Rest

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt General P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

WITH THE MOR­TAL RE­MAINS of Lt General Ja­cob Farj Rafael Ja­cob hav­ing been laid to rest, a leg­endry General and a na­tional hero, has tran­scended from his­tory into eter­nal his­tory. Born in Cal­cutta’s Bagh­dadi com­mu­nity in 1923, General Ja­cob as Chief of Staff of East­ern Com­mand played a cru­cial role in the lib­er­a­tion of Bangladesh and se­cur­ing the sur­ren­der of 93,000 Pak­istani mil­i­tary dur­ing the Indo-Pak War of 1971. He had fought in World War II as well as the Indo-Pak War in 1965. He com­manded East­ern Com­mand and also served as Gover­nor of Goa and Pun­jab. As a young of­fi­cer he served in Iraq, North Africa, Burma Cam­paign and Su­ma­tra. He com­manded an In­fantry Divi­sion dur­ing 1965.

On his ap­point­ment as Chief of Staff East­ern Com­mand, he dealt dex­ter­ously in­sur­gen­cies in Na­ga­land, Ma­nipur and Mi­zo­ram in ad­di­tion to giv­ing a crush­ing blow to the Nax­alites. With hor­ren­dous geno­cide un­leashed in East Pak­istan by Lt General Tikka Khan (Butcher of Bangladesh) un­der ‘Op Search­light’ in March 1971 (5,00,000 to three mil­lion peo­ple es­ti­mated mas­sa­cred, thou­sands of rapes and other atroc­i­ties), over 10 mil­lion refugees had flooded into In­dia. At a time cap­ture of even prov­inces of Chit­tagong and Khulna looked dif­fi­cult, leave aside en­tire East Pak­istan, and pos­si­bil­ity of Chi­nese in­ter­ven­tion in the event of any In­dian ac­tion could not be ruled out, General Ja­cob was res­o­lute in his be­lief that a “war of move­ment” to in­clude cap­ture of Dhaka could achieve vic­tory; Dhaka as the cap­i­tal and geopo­lit­i­cal cen­tre of the re­gion and the “war of move­ment” by­pass­ing in­ter­me­di­ary towns al­to­gether since en­emy would have for­ti­fied the in­ter­me­di­ary towns and cities – neu­tral­is­ing en­emy’s com­mand and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture.

This very strat­egy was even­tu­ally ac­cepted, worked beau­ti­fully and re­sulted in the big­gest sur­ren­der af­ter World War II, even de­spite USS En­ter­prise sabre rat­tling in the Bay of Ben­gal and the Nixon-Kissinger duo fum­ing. Speak­ing to a jour­nal­ist much later General Ja­cob said, “Tac­tics may win bat­tles but it is strat­egy that wins wars. Aim has to be very clear. And my aim was to win Dhaka.” The In­dian cam­paign was planned for ex­e­cu­tion in three weeks, but was ex­e­cuted in un­der a fort­night. On De­cem­ber 16, 1971, General Ja­cob flew to Dhaka to get Pak­istan Army’s Lt General A.A.K. Ni­azi to agree to sur­ren­der, which lat­ter had lit­tle choice but ac­cept – a rare feat by General Ja­cob. Dhaka fell, de­spite 26,400 Pak­istani sol­diers in the city and only 3,000 In­dian sol­diers in the im­me­di­ate area. In the words of General Ja­cob, “It was a to­tal vic­tory over a for­mi­da­ble, well-trained army. Had Pak­istan fought on, it would have been dif­fi­cult for us. We ex­pected higher ca­su­al­ties.” Photos of Lt General A.A.K. Ni­azi sign­ing the in­stru­ment of sur­ren­der seated next to Lt General Jagjit Singh Arora, Army Com­man­der East­ern Com­mand adorn mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ments across In­dia.

It is well known that Prime Min­is­ter Indira Gandhi wanted the In­dian Army to go in ear­lier but Army Chief General (later Field Mar­shal) S.H.F.J. Manek­shaw sought time till ad­e­quate am­mu­ni­tion and equip­ping could be pro­vi­sioned. A study of the cam­paign by the Na­tional De­fence Col­lege of Pak­istan gave ma­jor credit to General Ja­cob for metic­u­lous prepa­ra­tion and ex­cel­lent im­ple­men­ta­tion by the Corps Com­man­ders. An ar­ti­cle in The Times of Is­rael in Au­gust 2012, said, “Jack Farj Rafael Ja­cob, wildly ac­com­plished and widely re­spected, is best known for his de­ci­sive role in the 1971 Bangladesh war. In­di­ans and his­to­ri­ans gen­er­ally agree that his courage, strate­gic think­ing and chutzpa changed the course of South Asian his­tory.” Un­doubt­edly a great son of In­dia, Lt General J.F.R. Ja­cob’s name will for­ever re­main etched in gold in the an­nals of the his­tory of In­dia.


Lt General A.A.K. Ni­azi sign­ing the In­stru­ment of Sur­ren­der un­der the gaze of Lt General J.S. Aurora. Stand­ing be­hind (L-R) Vice Ad­mi­ral Kr­ish­nan, Air Mar­shal De­wan, Lt General Sa­gat

Singh, Lt General J.F.R. Ja­cob (with Flt Lt Kr­ish­na­murthy peer­ing over his shoul­der).

AD gun­ners in ac­tion dur­ing the war

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