LIEUT GENERAL S.K. SINHA, PVSM
S.K. Sinha is unique among our military leaders, due to the fact that though he was well known in the Army during his service, most of his countrymen came to know of him only after his retirement. He had all the credentials to reach the top, but missed it by a hair's breadth. In 1983, as the Vice Chief of Army Staff, he resigned, when his junior A.S. Vaidya was appointed the Army Chief, leading to an uproar in Parliament, and the Press. Though his career ended in a blaze of controversy, Sinha had avoided discord, and always lived by the book. He was known as an upright soldier, who did his job, without fear or favour. He did not win any battles, or gallantry awards, but his achievements, in so far as they affected the Indian Army, are not small. Few will forget his contribution to the well being of the soldier, by improving his living conditions, salary, and allowances. His forceful arguments, before the Pay Commission in 1971, are still remembered, and became a model for subsequent presentations by the Armed Forces. His contribution to military history is also considerable. He is a prolific writer, and his books and articles on matters military, have earned him esteem and recognition from soldiers as well as civilians. He was also a successful diplomat. One of his major achievements was improvement of relations between India and Nepal, during the period he was the Indian Ambassador in Kathmandu.
S.K. Sinha was born on 7 January 1926, at Gaya, in Bihar, in the home of his mother's parents. His father, M.K. Sinha, who was in the police, rose to the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Bihar State, an office he held for 11 years, from 1949 to 1960. M.K. Sinha's father, A.K. Sinha, had also been IGP of Bihar, and the first Indian to reach the top police appointment. S.K. Sinha lost his mother when he was just four years old, and spent most of his childhood in the house of his grandparents. He began his schooling at St. Joseph's Convent, in Patna, and later moved to the Patna Collegiate School, where his father and grand father had both studied.
In 1939, Sinha passed his Matriculation examination, and joined Patna College, from where he graduated in 1943. By this time, World War II had been going on for four years. At college, Sinha had joined the University Training Corps, and came into contact with several British officers. The nationalist movement was also at its height, and students in Bihar were actively involved, thanks to many of their leaders, such as Jaya Prakash Narayan, and Rajendra Prasad. Two of his uncles were already in the Army, serving in Burma and North Africa, and Sinha decided to follow them. The Indian Military Academy had been established in 1932, and Indians were being granted regular commissions since 1934. However, the grant of regular commissions was suspended in 1939, when World War II began, and emergency commissions began to be given, after a short period of training, at four training institutions, at Dehradun, Bangalore, Mhow and Belgaum. Sinha applied, and after being screened by the provincial board, was called for the final selection board, at Dehradun. Out of a batch of 60, 12 were selected, and Sinha was one of them. He was then 18 years old.
Sinha joined the Officers Training School in Belgaum, in March 1944. Arun Vaidya also joined the same batch, but left after a few months, to join the Armoured Corps Training School at Ahmednagar. He was commissioned two months after Sinha, and thus became his junior. Almost forty years later, when Vaidya was appointed COAS, superseding Sinha, the latter resigned. If Vaidya had continued at Belgaum, Sinha would have remained his senior as he passed out at the top of his batch, earning the Commandant's Baton, which was the war time equivalent of the Sword of Honour. On 10 December 1944, Sinha was granted an Indian Emergency Commission, in the Infantry, and posted to the Jat Regiment.
Sinha joined the Jat Regimental Centre, at Bareilly, where he stayed for six weeks before being put in a draft to go to Burma. He joined 7/9 Jat Regiment, which was part of a jungle training division, located at Saharanpur. After three months intensive training in jungle warfare, he was posted to 6/9 Jat, in Burma. Travelling to Calcutta by train, he embarked on a troop ship, which took him to Rangoon. There, he was told that his battalion, 6/9 Jat, which had been part of 17 Indian Division, had been sent back to India, but would be returning to Burma after a few weeks. Meanwhile, he was told to take a newly arrived draft to 17 Division, which was somewhere North of Pegu. Since most of the men were to go to 4/12 Frontier Force, he accompanied them, and decided to stay on there till his own battalion fetched up.
After spending a fortnight with 4/12 Frontier Force, engaged in intercepting the retreating Japanese across the Salween, Sinha returned to Rangoon. His battalion, 6/9 Jat, arrived after a few days, and was moved to Prome, as part of the Lushai Brigade. In August 1945, after the United States of America dropped atom bombs, Japan surrendered, and World War II officially came to an end. A large number of Japanese were taken prisoner, and kept in POW camps. Part of Sinha's battalion was given the task of guarding one such camp, which held about 10,000 prisoners, and he was appointed the Adjutant. After two months, when the POW camp was wound up, Sinha was promoted Captain and posted as GSO 3, in the brigade HQ.
In March 1946, the brigade was ordered to return to India. However, Sinha had to appear before a Services Selection Board, at Singapore, which was screening officers granted emergency commissions during the war, for grant of permanent commissions. Out of 13,000 such officers, ultimately only 450 were selected, and Sinha was one of them. He now received orders posting him as GSO 3, (Operations), to HQ 15 Indian Corps, which was then in Batavia, now called Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. A few months later, Indian troops were replaced by Dutch troops, and Sinha was posted to the Military Operations Directorate, at GHQ, in Delhi. Yahya Khan, who later became President of Pakistan, and Sam Manekshaw, were also posted to MO, which had hitherto been the exclusive preserve of British officers.
Sinha was posted to MO 2, the section that dealt with internal security. Soon, he was upto his ears in work, due to the communal riots which flared up at several places, after the carnage in Calcutta in August 1946. On 3 June 1947, the date of Partition was announced as 15 August, and the activity became more hectic, as the day drew nearer. Army HQ India was created, and moved to Red Fort, while GHQ remained in South Block. Sinha was sent to Simla, along with a another officer who was to go to Pakistan, to divide the old records. As the task had to be completed within a week, a large amount of material which could not be clearly identified as pertaining to either of the two countries was destroyed. A few days before the actual date of Partition, a party was held in the Imperial Gymkhana Club, to bid farewell to British and Pakistani officers leaving India. It was an emotional parting, and some officers openly wept.
On 15 August 1947, British rule ended, and India became a free nation. There was widespread jubilation, even though the holocaust of Partition continued for some time. Thousands of refugees from India and the newly born nation of Pakistan poured into each others territory, to escape the wanton carnage that was sweeping across the land, like a raging fire. To establish law and order, and control the flow of refugees, a neutral force, called the Punjab Boundary Force was set up, under the control of the Supreme HQ. However, this was found to be ineffective, and was soon wound up, with each nation being asked to look after law and order in its own dominion. In India, a new Command, designated the Delhi and East Punjab (DEP) Command was set up, with its HQ at Delhi, under Lieut General Sir Dudley Russell, commonly known as Russell Pasha. In September 1947, Sinha was promoted Major, and posted as GSO 2 (Operations), HQ DEP Command.
Besides maintaining law and order in Delhi ans East Punjab, DEP Command was also tasked with organising the evacuation of refugees from both sides. This was mostly done in refugee trains, which had to be suitably escorted, to protect them from being attacked enroute. Russel Pasha decided to establish his mobile HQ in a special train, for which he was allowed the use of the Viceregal train, and he spent several weeks in it, moving between Delhi and Lahore, supervising the evacuation. As a result, several hundred thousand refugees were evacuated, without mishap. The blood bath which had occurred before this organisation had been set up could not be undone, but it proved effective in preventing further loss of life, for the refugees.
On 26 October 1947, Sinha attended what he was later to recall as the most momentous meeting of his career. He was in the club, at about 9 p.m., when a staff car sent to fetch him to the office located him. When he reached his office, he found himself in the midst of a high level meeting, being chaired by the Army Commander. Pakistani raiders had entered Kashmir, and were even then advancing on Srinagar. It had been decided to send Indian troops into the Valley, to defend Srinagar. A brigade was to be sent by air, and another brigade to follow by road. The airlift was to commence next morning, and 1 Sikh, located at Gurgaon, was to be moved first. Sinha was given the task of organising the airlift.
Considering the time and resources available, the task appeared almost impossible. The Air Force could muster only two Dakotas, and the remaining had to be requisitioned from private airlines. Sinha's first task was to warn the troops, and emergency signals were sent to 1 Sikh at Gurgaon and 50 Parachute Brigade, at Gurdaspur, which was to move by road. Only two companies of 1 Sikh were then in Gurgaon, the rest being deployed elsewhere. The CO, Lieut Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai, was asked to concentrate with his battalion, less two companies, at Palam airfield, by 4 a.m. on 27 October 1947, with the rest following on the subsequent day. He was to be briefed about his task, and the battalion issued with rations, ammunition and warm clothing, at the airfield, before emplaning.
Sinha spent the next few hours writing out orders, and passing instructions, for the move of ammunition and stores. He reached the airfield soon after midnight, and when Rai arrived at the airfield at about 3 a.m., he found that Sinha had not only been able to collect the aircraft and stores, but also laid on a hot cup of tea for his troops. He went through the Operational Instruction which Sinha handed over to him, and after issuing orders to his sub unit commanders, decided to have a short nap, till the time they took off. Sinha could not help but admire his calmness, in the circumstances.
There were only seven Dakotas, on the first day, which were to do two sorties each, to airlift the battalion less two companies. At dawn, the first sortie took off, landing in Srinagar a few hours later. As it happened, this was none too soon, and Kashmir would have been lost if 1 Sikh had not landed in Srinagar on 27 October 1947. The raiders were then sacking Baramulla, and would have reached Srinagar the next day. Ranjit Rai, after landing, left a company at the airfield, and rushed towards Baramulla with the remainder of his force. He was able to intercept and delay the raiders, so that reinforcements could be flown in. Within the next few days, a brigade was airlifted, and the threat to Srinagar was averted. Rai did not live to see the fruits of his efforts. On 28 October, while withdrawing from Baramulla to Pattan, under enemy pressure, he was hit by automatic fire, and lost his life. He was later awarded the MVC, for his gallant action.
Within three days, the whole of 161 Brigade, under Brigadier J.C. Katoch, had been inducted into Kashmir, and 30 Dakotas were doing 60 sorties each day. On 30 October, Brigadier Katoch was wounded by a sniper's bullet, and had to be evacuated to Delhi. The situation seemed to have stabilised, but it was not very clear. Since there was a ban on British officers going to Kashmir, Sinha, who was then the only Indian officer on the Command staff, was deputed by Russell to bring a first hand account of the situation. On 31 October, Sinha flew to Srinagar, and was given a detailed briefing at the brigade HQ, by Major Dilbagh Singh, the Brigade Major. After visiting 1 Sikh at Pattan, and 4 Kumaon at Srinagar, he returned to Delhi, and brought the Army Commander upto date with the situation. He also briefed Colonel L.P. 'Bogey' Sen, who was to move next day, on promotion, as Commander 161 Brigade.
As the situation in Jammu and Kashmir worsened, it became difficult for the Army Commander to exercise control over the operations, from Delhi. After the fall of Mirpur and Rajauri, he decided to go to Jammu, inspite of the ban on British officers visiting Jammu and Kashmir, and this led to protests from the British High Commissioner. Russell resigned, and on 20 January 1948, was replaced by K.M. Cariappa, who was then the senior Indian officer in the Army. Sinha continued as the GSO2 (Ops), and served under Cariappa for a year, till the latter became C-in-C, in January 1949. Cariappa was a human dynamo, and Sinha found him to be a staff officers' nightmare. He was full of energy, and was constantly rattling off instructions to his staff, which they found difficult to keep pace with. He would spend at least fifteen days in a month touring the forward areas, and Sinha invariably accompanied him on these visits. Since the General's ADC was left behind to look his household, including his two children, Sinha had to perform the role of the ADC also.
Sinha accompanied Cariappa on the memorable trip to Naushera, where the Army Commander asked Brigadier Mohd. Usman for a present, in the form of the capture of Kot. It was also during this visit that Cariappa addressed the troops, and made his famous speech, about the country having become "muft" (free). Being on the staff of Cariappa, Sinha was deeply involved with all facets of the operations in Jammu and Kashmir, and was a witness to many historical events. He had the opportunity to fly to Leh, in a Dakota in June 1948, very soon after Thimayya and Mehar Singh made the first historic landing at the highest airfield in the World. He was with Cariappa on 3 September 1948, when the first attack on Zojila was launched, and failed. Sinha was also present at the historic meeting in Srinagar, where the crucial decision to use tanks at Zojila was taken. In fact, it was his suggestion to use tracked weapon carriers, with improvised super structures, to carry the infantry accompanying the tanks.
During the attack on Zojila, Cariappa sent Sinha from Baltal to Matayan, a trek of some 12 miles in the mountains, to get the latest situation from the brigade commander, Brigadier K.L. Atal. On the way back, Sinha decided to take a short cut, and got lost. He soon found himself involved in the attack, which had commenced on Batkundi. He quickly destroyed the secret papers he was carrying, and had to march for many hours in heavy snow, at night, before he reached an Indian post, at Gumri. He was lucky to escape being captured by the enemy, and also being afflicted by frost bite.
On New Year's Day in 1949, a cease fire came into effect, in Kashmir, and all hostilities ceased. 15 days later, Cariappa was promoted General, and appointed the C-in-C of the Indian Army. Cariappa offered to take Sinha as his Military Assistant, an appointment which carried considerable authority and perks. However, when the Military Secretary told him that the appointment was in the rank of a lieutenant colonel, and as per the rules no officer with less than six years service could officiate as one, while Sinha had less than five, Cariappa changed his mind. He did not want to bend the rules. (Today, the appointment is held by a brigadier, an indication of the devaluation of ranks, and responsibility, in the Army).
Soon afterwards, a high level delegation, headed by Lieut General S.M. Shrinagesh, who succeeded Cariappa as GOC-in-C Western Command, was sent to Karachi, for a conference convened by the UN to delineate the Cease Fire Line. The secretaries in the Department of Kashmir Affairs, and in the Ministry of Defence, were members of the delegation, which also included Major General K.S. Thimayya and Brigadier S.H.F.J. Manekshaw. Sinha was appointed the Secretary of the delegation, even though he was only a Major, because of his knowledge and familiarity with the operations in Kashmir, with which he had been associated from the beginning. After a briefing by the Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, the delegation left for Karachi, where an entire week was spent, delineating almost 400 miles of the border, in the presence of representatives of the United Nations. Ultimately, an agreement was signed, that gave India about 600 square miles of additional territory, including the Lolab and Tilel valleys in Kashmir. However, India's claims to Ledigalli and Pirkanthi were not upheld, and these features were awarded to Pakistan, because on 1 January 1949, the day the cease fire came into effect, Indian troops had withdrawn from these two features, and Pakistani patrols had occupied them.
In June 1949, Sinha married Premini, the daughter of H.P. Verma, an industrialist from Uttar Pradesh. The match was arranged by his parents, and Sinha had not met his prospective bride till his wedding, which was held in accordance with Hindu traditions, and included a large dowry from the bride's father. In January, 1950 Sinha was posted as Brigade Major, 123 Infantry Brigade, then located at Amritsar. There was an acute shortage of married accommodation, but the brigade commander, Brigadier Sarda Nand Singh, permitted Sinha the use of the MES Inspection Bungalow for two months, so that he could bring his wife to the station. Soon afterwards, Sinha received orders transferring him to 3/4 Gorkha Rifles. Before Independence, no Indian officers were posted to Gorkha regiments, and the departure of British officers had left a vacuum. As a result, a large number of officers from other regiments had to be transferred to Gorkha regiments, and Sinha was one of them. He joined the battalion, at Gurais, in Kashmir, where it was occupying picquets at high altitudes. He was given command of a company located at a height of 13,000 feet, about six hours climb from the road head.
In 1952, Sinha qualified for the Staff College. Before proceeding to Wellington, he was detailed to undergo the Junior Commanders' Course, at the Infantry School, where he was awarded the rare 'Distinguished' grading. After completing the course at Wellington, he was reverted to regimental duty, and joined 3/5 GR, then located in Jammu and Kashmir, in August, 1953. He served with the battalion for two years, before being posted as an instructor, in the Junior Command Wing, of the Infantry School. The Commandant was Brigadier Sam Manekshaw, with whom he had served earlier, in MO Directorate at Delhi. Sinha was able to settle down, and his family joined him. He had a long tenure of three years at Mhow, and it was here that his son, Yashwardhan was born.
In 1958, Sinha was posted back to 3/5 GR, which was then in Shillong. After a few months, he moved with the battalion to Dalhousie. However, after another two years with the battalion, he moved to Delhi, as DAQMG (Operations), in the Quarter Master General's Branch, at Army HQ. The QMG was Lieut General B.M. Kaul, who had been promoted by Krishna Menon, the Defence Minister, against the advice of the Army Chief, General Thimayya. Sinha soon found that Kaul was a very powerful man, and was virtually running the Army, thanks to his proximity to Nehru and Krishna Menon. Kaul seemed to be happy with Sinha, and after a year, when Thimayya retired, and Kaul took over as CGS, he rewarded Sinha by getting him detailed on a course at the Joint Services Staff College, in UK. Normally, officers of the rank of brigadier, or at least lieutenant colonel were sent on this course, while Sinha was still a major. However, Kaul could bend rules, and he not only got Sinha nominated, but arranged for his attachment to the Naval and Air Wings of the Staff College in Wellington for a month, before proceeding to UK.
While Sinha was doing his attachment at Wellington, Kaul sent an emissary, to collect evidence against the Commandant, Major General Sam Manekshaw, for his 'anti national' activities. Sinha was asked to give evidence, but he declined. When he came to know this, Kaul threatened to have his nomination on the JSSC course cancelled. Sinha expressed his inability to give any evidence, since he was not aware of any anti national act committed by Manekshaw, against whom a high level inquiry had been ordered, at the behest of Kaul. Ultimately, Sinha was able to proceed on the course, and sailed from Bombay, with his wife and three children, in July 1961.
Sinha spent a pleasant year in Latimer, with his family, and as he could manage to hire a car, they could see a lot of the English country side. During the course, he attended the Gorkha Brigade Dinner. Sinha went in his sherwani, wearing his miniatures, which included the Burma Star. Field Marshal Slim was then President of the Gorkha Brigade. Recognising the Burma Star, and seeing Sinha's dress, he assumed that he must be a JCO, who would have served in Burma in the ranks. He came upto Sinha, and asked, in Hindustani, "Sahib, aap Burma mein kis rank mein thei ?" (Sahib, in which rank did you serve in Burma?). Slim was taken by surprise, when Sinha told him that he had served in Burma as a lieutenant and a captain, and was now doing the JSSC course. Slim apologised for his gaffe, and remarked that he had heard that in the Indian Army officers were getting very quick promotions, and thought that anyone who had been in Burma as an officer would now be a general.
While Sinha was in England, Goa was liberated by Indian troops, and there was a lot of criticism of India's actions, in the British Press. A junior minister in the British Government, who had been a member of the British delegation to the United Nations, came to give a talk on the problems being faced by that international organisation, including its failure to ensure peace in Goa. Though he avoided any reference to Goa in his talk, one of the students raised the issue, and termed India's action as nothing short of international brigandry. In reply to the question, the Minister criticised Nehru and Menon, and warned that India would have to face the consequences of her action. Sinha got up and put up a spirited defence of his country, quoting the American Civil War, as well as the Bay of Pigs, the Suez and Hungary crises. He questioned Portugal's moral and legal rights to hold on to Goa, in violation of UN resolutions, and felt that the international community, instead of criticising India, should be supporting her.
Sinha's stand was appreciated by the audience, as well as the Commandant, who mentioned that if he had been the only British officer doing a course in India, and if the subject of British action in Suez had come up, he would not have dared to defend that action as stoutly as Sinha had defended the Indian action in Goa. Later, Sinha sent a written report of the incident to the Military Attache in the Indian High Commission, in London. It was shown to the High Commissioner, who directed that a copy be sent to Delhi.
After the course, Sinha did an attachment with a British regiment, the King's Own Hussars, which was then part of the British Army on the Rhine, in Germany. When he returned to India in July 1962, he was promoted Lieut Colonel and posted as an instructor at the Defence Services Staff College, in Wellington. Sam Manekshaw was still the Commandant, and he objected to Sinha's posting, on the grounds that he had still not commanded a battalion. Since there were other instructors at the College who had not commanded battalions and Manekshaw had himself not done so, he was on a weak wicket, and Kaul over ruled him. Soon afterwards, the Chinese attacked the Indian positions in NEFA, and the Sino Indian War started, resulting in an ignominious defeat for India. The Indian Army had no experience of fighting in the mountains, and this was one of the reasons for its poor performance. Mountain warfare was now given top priority at all training institutions, and Sinha was given the task of writing out an exercise on the subject. He was sent on an extensive tour to Sikkim, to gain first hand experience, where he also had the opportunity to meet several officers who had taken part in the operations. Later, he wrote an exercise, in the form of a telephone battle, on mountain warfare. This was the first time the subject had been covered at Staff College, and his efforts were appreciated by everyone.
In December 1964, Sinha was posted back to 3/5 GR, as its CO. The battalion was in Fort William, in Calcutta. Sam Manekshaw was GOC-in-C Eastern Command, and Sinha found that he continued to be cold to him, even though this was the fourth time he was serving under him. The battalion was later moved to Kachrapara, about 25 miles from Calcutta. During the Indo Pakistan War, which broke out soon afterwards, the battalion was moved to the border with East Pakistan, and was part of the force earmarked to capture Jessore. Major General P.S. Bhagat, VC, was the GOC, and he had selected Sinha's battalion to lead the advance. The advance was ordered, and was to commence before dawn, but after midnight, orders were received from Army HQ holding up the operation. Ultimately, cease fire was declared on 23 September 1965, and the battalion moved back to barracks, in Kachrapara.
In June 1966, the battalion was moved to Ladakh. It was located at Khatpadambophu, at a height of 14,500 feet. During winter, the temperature fell to minus 30 degrees centigrade, but the Gorkha troops, being hill men, had little trouble adapting to the cold climate. After spending two cold winters in Ladakh, Sinha was promoted Brigadier, and posted as Commander 71 Mountain Brigade, located at Ramgarh, in Bihar. This was the first time he would be serving in his home State, and both he and his family were overjoyed. Ironically, this was destined to be one of his shortest tenures. Just five months after his arrival in Ramgarh, the brigade was ordered to move to Nagaland, to combat insurgency which had recieved a fillip by Naga gangs returning from China through Burma, after having been trained and armed by the Chinese. As it happened, two brigades were inducted, one in Nagaland, and the other in Manipur. 167 Mountain Brigade, under Brigadier Arun Vaidya, moved to Kohima, in Nagaland, and Sinha's brigade to Imphal, in Manipur.
During this period, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi decided to visit Imphal. The Lieut Governor of Manipur, Baleshwar Prasad, asked Sinha to coordinate arrangements for the Prime Minister's security, with the police and civil administration. When Sinha approached the civil officials, they told him that they were quite capable of looking after the arrangements themselves, and did not need the help of the Army. Nonetheless, Sinha took the precaution of moving two infantry battalions to Imphal, and a third one at a nearby location. He also moved his own tactical HQ to Imphal.
When the Prime Minister arrived, there was agitation by Meities, who were demanding statehood for Manipur. The police had to lathi charge (a lathi is a long stick, used by the police to quell unruly crowds) a section of the crowd which had gathered in the open ground where the Prime Minister was scheduled to address a public meeting. As soon as the Prime Minister arrived, the crowds became violent, and started pelting stones. She could not address the meeting, and had to leave the rostrum, and return to Raj Niwas (Government House). Riots and arson broke out in the town, and the situation became critical. Without waiting for a formal requisition from the civil government, Sinha ordered his troops to rush to the meeting ground where he could see police vehicles had been set on fire and some people from house tops had opened fire. Seeing soldiers with fixed bayonets rushing towards them, the miscreants ran away. In the melee at the grounds seven policemen were killed and some police vehicles completely burnt.
The Lieut Governor summoned Sinha to Raj Niwas, and asked him to take over the situation, as well as the responsibility for the security of the Prime Minister. The Inspector General of Police, who was also present, confessed that he had no faith in his men. Most of them being Manipuris, they sympathised with the agitating Meities. Sinha assured the Lieut Governor that he would do the needful, and ordered the two battalions already in the town to begin vigorous patrolling. A curfew was ordered, and the third battalion was also brought in. Within a few hours, Sinha had the situation under control. In the evening, All India Radio broadcast details of the disturbances. He received a message from the Army Commander in Calcutta, that the security of the Prime Minister was his personal responsibility. Next morning, the Prime Minister left Imphal. She was seen off at the airport by the Lieut Governor, Sinha, and senior civil and police officials, who looked visibly embarrassed, as prior to the Prime Minister's visit, they had opposed the Army being brought into the Valley.
Early in 1971, Sinha was posted to Delhi, as Director of the Pay Commission Cell. The Third Pay Commission had been set up by the Government, and the cell had been formed as part of the Adjutant's General Branch, to present the Army's case before the Commission. Though Sinha had little experience of financial matters, he had excellent credentials for the job. He had written an article in the USI Journal on service conditions of Army officers, comparing them with civil officers. The article had been referred to by Stephen Cohen in his book about the Indian Army, and also formed the basis of a Parliament question. Sam Manekshaw was now the COAS, and he selected Sinha for this assignment, which turned out to be one of the most important that Sinha was to hold, during his career.
This was the first time the Army, and the other two Services, were being allowed to present their cases to the Pay Commission directly. The earlier two Commissions had not examined the case of the Defence Services, and the Ministry of Defence had taken decisions regarding them, in the light of the Commssion's recommendations for the Civil Services. In the process, the interests of the Services had suffered. The Civil Services had unions and associations to look after their interests, while the Defence Services had none. This was the reason for establishing the cells in the Service HQ. The Ministry of Defence wanted to screen their proposals, but the Service Chiefs did not accept this, and it was finally agreed that they could send their proposals direct to the Pay Commission, with a copy to the Ministry, which could forward their comments, if they wanted.
Sinha had to interact closely with his counterparts in the Navy and the Air Force. The first obstacle was to get the others to agree not to raise issues of disparities within the Services. For instance, the Navy and Air Force were sore that Army officers were entitled to orderlies, while they were not. The Army had a genuine grouse that its soldiers got inferior scales of rations, compared to sailors and airmen. Ultimately, the three Services agreed not to raise these issues, as these would be used by the bureaucrats to create divisions among them, and instead of gaining, they were likely to lose, in the long run. Sinha managed to ensure consensus among the Services. He put in a lot of research, studying the pay scales and other perquisites for the past hundred years or so. Questionnaires were sent to military attaches in Indian missions abroad, to find out the conditions of service of soldiers in foreign countries. To find out the attraction of a military career, for the youth of the country, questionnaires were also sent to students, through the National Cadet Corps. Senior serving and retired officers were asked whether they would like their sons to follow the same career. From the responses to all these questionnaires, a data bank was built up, which proved to be of great help in formulating the proposals.
After a lot of deliberation, Sinha decided to base his recommendations on four broad principles. The first was parity of Army officers with the IAS, in pay and allowances. The second was Class II status for JCOs. The third was equation of the infantry soldier with a skilled worker, and the fourth was treating the erstwhile non combatants, such as cooks, washermen, barbers etc. as combatants, and giving them the status and emoluments of soldiers. The proposals were presented to the Service Chiefs, as well as to the Army Commanders, who fully endorsed them. It was then forwarded to the Pay Commission, which complimented the Army on presenting the most forceful and well researched proposals, backed by cogent arguments. Copies of the proposals, running into 300 printed pages, were sent by Sinha, under Manekshaw's signature, to all formations in the Army, to apprise the Army that its interests had been well looked after, and if the Government did not give them their due, it would not be due to their case not having been presented properly. As a result, Sinha became a well known figure in Army circles.
In March 1971, after the military crackdown in East Pakistan, preparations began for the inevitable showdown. Sinha's work with the Pay Commission was almost done, and he wanted to move to an active formation. He went up to the Chief, and said, "the old G1 is going to war with the old G-2, and the old G-3 is being left out." Manekshaw understood what he meant. In 1947, Manekshaw had been the GSO-1; Yahya Khan, who was now the President of Pakistan had been the GSO-2; and Sinha had been the GSO-3, in MO Directorate, in General HQ, in Delhi. Manekshaw told Sinha that he could not let him go till the Pay Commission had completed its work. Moreover, he hinted that he would be retained in the Adjutant General's Branch, to carry out various important tasks, in preparation for the imminent operations. Sinha was due for promotion, and when the Deputy Adjutant General, Major General T.N. Raina left to take over a Corps, he was asked to officiate in his place.
The conflict with Pakistan started on 3 December 1971, and by 16 December, it was over. Dacca had fallen, and 93,000 Pakistani soldiers taken prisoner. A new nation, Bangla Desh, was born. Early in 1972, Sinha was promoted Major General, and formally appointed Deputy Adjutant General. He had his hands full, dealing with the cases of pensions of widows of men killed in action, and of those who had been disabled. In addition, the prisoners of war had to be housed, and looked after. One of his major achievements was the grant of liberalised pensions for war widows, which was sanctioned by the Government. They would now get three fourths of the pay of their deceased husbands, and would continue to get pension even after they remarried. In addition, their children would get free education, including reimbursement of tuition and boarding fees, as well as the cost of school uniforms and books.
Perhaps the biggest problem he faced was the POW, whose large number necessitated creation of over a dozen camps, at very short notice. The Indian Army had almost no previous experience of handling prisoners, and Sinha's stint as Adjutant of a POW camp in Burma stood him in good stead. The camps were provided with all amenities, sometimes taking these away from Indian troops, who had to go without them. The Geneva Convention was strictly followed, and the prisoners treated extremely well. On the occasion of Eid, a message was sent to all prisoners from Manekshaw, hoping that they would soon be reunited with their families. A Bara Khana (feast) was organised for the prisoners that day, and Sinha was at the camp in Faizabad, when the message from the Chief was read out. With tears in his eyes, a Pakistani JCO sitting next to him said," Sahib, I now know why we lost the war. Indian Army officers care so much for the soldiers. In my own Army, I never sat next to a General before. Our Generals and other senior officers were too busy playing politics and lived like Nawabs (noblemen). They had little time for us."
In early 1973, Sinha was sent to Italy, as head of an Indian delegation, to a Convention on Application of Humanitarian Rights to Warfare, organised by the United Nations and the International Red Cross. Sinha had to cross swords with Professor Tom Crabb, the leader of the American delegation, who bitterly criticised India for her action against East Pakistan, and also in Kashmir and Goa. Sinha was able to refute the arguments of Crabb, who was gracious enough to apologise, for basing his remarks on wrong facts. Sinha also gave a detailed account of the POW camps, and the laudatory references of the foreign press, including that of a report in the Washington Post, which had said that never in history had any country treated POW in a better manner. On his return to India, Sinha was congratulated for his speech, by Manekshaw as well as Jagjivan Ram, the Defence Minister.
One of Sinha's major contributions towards the welfare of troops was the introduction of the Army Group Insurance Scheme. This was on the pattern of a similar scheme, in vogue in the US Army, during the Vietnam War. According to the scheme, a fixed sum is deducted from the salary of each officer, JCO and soldier. In return, he is insured for a certain sum of money, which is given to his dependant, in case he dies while in service. The scheme also has a savings element, which is suitably invested, and a large sum is paid to the individual on retirement. This scheme has been very successful, and is still in operation.
In January 1973, Manekshaw was to retire. On New Year's Day, the Government announced that he was being promoted to the rank of Field Marshal. The rank was conferred on him by the President of India, at a Special Investiture, held at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 3 January 1973. As Adjutant General, Sinha was responsible for getting the new badges of rank, and the Field Marshal's baton, for which no design was held, since this was the first time that this rank was being conferred in India. He relied on the Encyclopaedia Brittanica for the design, and got badges of rank fabricated in black metal, in the Army workshop, at Delhi. For the baton, he resorted to an innovation, and got a smaller version made of the baton normally carried by a stick orderly, who stands outside the office of the CO. Suitable embellishments were added to the baton. The investiture went off without a hitch, but Sinha failed to get the bureaucrats to agree to give Manekshaw the status, salary and privileges, which a Field Marshal is entitled to, in UK, or the other countries in Europe where this rank exists.
Shortly afterwards, Sinha received his posting orders as GOC 23 Mountain Division, with its HQ at Rangia, in Assam. The division was deployed along the Brahmputra valley, and was part of 4 Corps, which had performed extremely well during the 1971 operations, in Bangla Desh. Lieut General Sagat Singh, who had led the Corps brilliantly during the war, was still commanding it. Unfortunately, Sinha had a short tenure of just over a year, in command of the division, and was posted back to Delhi in 1974 as the Director of Military Intelligence (DMI). After a few months, General G.G. Bewoor, the COAS, retired, and was succeeded by T.N. Raina. Shortly afterwards, Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency in the country.
During the Emergency, the country went through difficult times. However, 'Tappy' Raina was a strong man, and resisted all attempts by the politicians to misuse or politicise the Army, as happened with the civil services. Raina was a Kashmiri, and his perceived proximity to Indira Gandhi helped in keeping the politicians and bureaucrats at bay. During a massive rally held by the ruling party at the Boat Club in Delhi, the Army was asked to provide water tankers, with the drivers in civilian clothes. Raina refused, even though the request had come from the Defence Minister, Bansi Lal himself. A similar request to provide tarpaulins and tents for a Youth Congress rally at Gauhati, organised by Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister's son, was turned down. Once, Bansi Lal brought along Sanjay Gandhi to attend a high level meeting in the Defence Ministry. Raina objected, on the grounds that Sanjay did not have the necessary security clearance, and refused to discuss any thing during the meeting.
During his tenure as DMI, Sinha visited several foreign countries, to inspect the offices of the military attaches in Indian embassies. He first went to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, and then on a another trip to UK and France, followed by Sweden and Sri Lanka, where he accompanied the Chief. Much against his will, he found himself in Delhi's cocktail circuit, as he had to attend parties at all embassies, as part of his duties. However, his appointment did have some advantages too. Almost twenty years earlier, as a Major, he had written a book, Operation Rescue, about the Kashmir operations in 1947-48. He had sent the manuscript to MI Directorate, for security clearance, but this had not been granted by the Government, for political reasons. Now, Sinha used his influence with the IB and Ministry of External Affairs, and was able to get their concurrence for its publication. Security clearance was accorded, and the book was published. It ran into four editions, and proved very successful.
In December 1976, Sinha was posted as GOC 10 Infantry Division. He had done only a truncated tenure in command of a division earlier, and was keen to complete the mandatory period, which would make him eligible for further promotion. He moved to his new assignment, leaving his family at Delhi. The division was located in the Jammu sector, with its HQ at Akhnur, on the banks of the Chenab. The Corps Commander was Lieut General K.V. Krishna rao, who later became the Army Chief. Some time after his arrival at Akhnur, Indira Gandhi lost the elections, and the Emergency ended. Sinha did not stay for long as a divisional commander. His turn came up for promotion to Lieut General, and he was posted back to Delhi as the Adjutant General.
Sinha had worked earlier as Deputy Adjutant General, and was conversant with the issues related to his new job. One of his first tasks was to convince the Government to remove the disparities in rank, pay and status, between the civil services and the Army, which had gradually crept in after Independence, and were causing demoralisation in all ranks. He submitted a proposal for a cadre review for the three Services to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which endorsed it, and it was forwarded to the Cabinet under the signature of the three Chiefs. To improve promotion prospects, Sinha had proposed that additional appointments be created in all selection grade ranks, as had been done for the civil services. He proposed the grant of a second lieutenant's rank, with pay, to officer cadets during training, as was being done for IAS and IPS. On commission, the officer would get the rank of a lieutenant, and the rank of a CO would thus automatically be upgraded to that of Colonel, from Lieut Colonel. The Army Commanders were to be upgraded to four star rank of full General, to differentiate them from Corps Commanders, who were Lieut Generals with three star rank.
After the proposal was accepted in principle by the Government, Sinha was asked to make out a detailed proposal, and present it to the Defence Minister. The presentation was attended by the Cabinet Secretary, the Secretaries of Defence and Finance and the three Service Chiefs. Sinha made comparisons, with a lot of statistical data, between the Indian Army and those of foreign countries, as well as with the pre Independence Indian Army. He also compared the conditions prevailing in the Services with those among their counter parts in foreign countries as well as the civil services in India. At the end of the presentation, the Defence Minister as well as the secretaries were convinced of the anomalies, and the need for correction. Mr Subramaniam, the Defence Minister, told Sinha; "General, you joined the wrong profession. You should have been a lawyer."
Most of Sinha's recommendations were accepted. However, two important ones, dealing with grant of rank of Second Lieut to cadets, and the upgradation of Army Commanders to four star rank, were not accepted. As a result, the age profile of COs, who were now Colonels, increased. This age imbalance has had an adverse effect on their ability to lead troops in battle. Sinha also tried to resolve the issue of protocol, and the relative precedence of ranks, between the Armed Forces and the Civil Services. However, his efforts did not meet with much success. For Major Generals and above, the Order of Precedence was issued by the Central Government. For Brigadiers and below, State Governments were asked to decide the issue on their own, based on guidelines issued by the Central Government. Most of them did not follow these guidelines, causing misunderstandings and unpleasnt incidents, which sometimes still occur.
Another project which bore fruit due to Sinha's efforts was the Army Welfare Housing Organisation (AWHO). A chance meeting with the Secretary in the Ministry of Housing, who had lived with him in the same officers mess 30 years earlier, when he was a Naval officer, enabled him to get five acres of land in RK Puram, in New Delhi, allotted to the AWHO. About 400 flats were built in the complex, which was named Som Vihar, after Major Som Nath Sharma, the first recipient of the PVC. Similar complexes were made at several other stations, where land was acquired from State Governments. The AWHO envisaged deduction of a small sum of money from the salary of officers, JCOs and men, who joined the scheme. After contributing for about twenty years, they would be given a house, around the time they retired. This way, it would be possible for them to own a house, without heavy expenditure, or the headache of constructing one themselves. It would also give a feeling of security to the soldier, and his family. Unfortunately, the scheme has been drastically amended, and is now similar to the self financing schemes of various Government housing boards, where the entire cost of the house has to be paid, within two to three years, before allotment.
Sinha was also responsible for the establishment of the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES). After the 1971 war, the Army received one crore rupees as its share of prize money, for goods seized on high seas. Sinha decided to use this sum for opening schools, for children of Army personnel. The Army Public School was established in Delhi, and an Army School in each Command. Today, there is a string of Army schools all over the country, where the fees are subsidised, and children of Army personnel given admission even during mid session. This has considerably eased the problems of soldiers, who have to move on transfer frequently.
After two and a half years as Adjutant General, Sinha was posted as GOC of the Strike Corps, then located at Chandimandir. His immediate superior, once again, was Lieut General Krishna Rao, who was GOC-in-C Western Command. In mid 1981, Krishna Rao took over as COAS, and Sinha replaced him, as Army Commander, in Simla. During his tenure, Sinha witnessed momentous events, which were later to change the Nation's history. During the Asiad held in Delhi in 1982, there were reports that Sikh extremists were planning to disrupt the games. As a precautionary measure, all Sikhs travelling towards Delhi were subjected to body searches, and harassed, when passing through Haryana. Surprisingly, even Army officers were subjected to this treatment. Sinha took up the matter with Army HQ, but did not receive any support.
Shortly after this, Lala Jagat Narain, a prominent editor of Punjab was assassinated. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, a militant Sikh leader, was suspected to be involved in the murder. He was staying in a Gurudwara (Sikh temple), at Mehta Chowk, between Amritsar and Jullunder. The police in Punjab was reluctant to arrest him, and asked the Army to help them. This was not agreed to. The Chief Minister of Punjab spoke to the Prime Minister, who ordered the Army to arrest Bhindrawale. These orders were passed to Sinha, who spoke to the Army Chief, pointing out that it was wrong for the Army to undertake a task which was the responsibility of the Police. If the Police failed, then the Army could be called out, in aid of civil power, as provided by law. He also said that he wanted more time, for carrying out reconnaissance, before undertaking the operation. Krishna Rao spoke to the Prime Minister, and she rescinded her orders.
The Police went to arrest Bhindrawale, at Mehta Chowk. He said that he would come out after 48 hours. The Police waited outside the Gurudwara for two days, by which time a sizable crwod had collected. When Bhindrawale came out, the Nihangs ( members of a Sikh sect, who carry arms) attacked the Police, who had to open fire, killing several people. Bhindrawale was taken to Ferozepore, but was released after a few days due to lack of evidence. His release was greeted by celebrations throughout Punjab, and he became a hero. He moved to Amritsar, and entered the Golden Temple. The rest is history.
In January 1983, Sinha was posted to Delhi, as Vice Chief of Army Staff. Since there were just six months left for Krishna Rao to retire, and Sinha was the senior Army Commander, it was assumed that he would be the next Chief, and his move to Delhi only served to reinforce this impression. After he took over as Vice Chief, Krishna Rao indicated that since Sinha would be taking over from him in a few months time, all other Principal Staff Officers should work through him, so that he was kept fully in the picture. During the next five months, Sinha and Krishna Rao worked closely, and evreyone took it for granted that Sinha would step into Rao's shoes when he retired.
On 29 May 1983, Krishna Rao informed Sinha that the Government had decided that Arun Vaidya, who was GOC-in-C Eastern Command, would be the next Army Chief. Sinha was taken aback, and told Krishna Rao that he would be putting in his papers soon. Rao tried to dissuade him, but Sinha had made up his mind. He returned to his office, and after dictating a letter of congratulations to Vaidya, wrote out his application for premature retirement, which he handed over to the Military Secretary the same day. The announcement of Vaidya's appointment as Army Chief was made on the radio in the afternoon, but it was only next morning that the newspapers carried the story. Most of the papers had it on the front page, and along with the news of Vaidya's appointment, also gave the news that Sinha had resigned.
Though Parliament was not in session, some MPs button-holed R. Venkataraman, the Defence Minister, in the Central Hall, and questioned him on the reasons for Sinha's supersession. Later that day, P.K. Kaul, the Defence Secretary, sent Ram Mohan Rao, the Director Public Relations, as an emissary to Sinha, advising him that he should withdraw his resignation, and the Government was ready to make an amicable settlement with him. Sinha refused, and told the emissary that he was not interested in a settlement, which probably meant a gubernatorial or a diplomatic appointment. Shortly afterwards, Sinha was requested by Ram Mohan Rao to meet some Press correspondents, who wanted to meet him. Sinha initially refused, but subsequently agreed to meet them.
When questioned by the Press, he refused to comment on his supersession, and said that as a disciplined soldier, he had accepted the decision of the Government. The Press asked him if he felt that appointments in the Army were being made based on political considerations, and whether it was his family's proximity to Jaya Prakash Narayan which had been responsible for his supersession. Sinha declined to be drawn into a controversy, and requested the Press to keep politics away from the Army. Next morning, Sinha's statement in the meeting with the Press was prominently reported in all newspapers. His stating that he had chosen to fade out of the Army, accepting the decision of the Government to supersede him, and his reference to Arun Vaidya as a dear friend and a competent General won him many admirers. It created a wave of sympathy for him, in the Army as well as among civilians, most of whom felt that he had been unfairly treated. He received a large number of letters, appreciating his stand, from several retired officers, which included two former Chiefs, Cariappa and Kumaramangalam. Apart from officers who had served with him, he was surprised to get letters from soldiers and civilians who had come to know of him only after reading the newspapers.
A few days later, there was a joint statement in the Press, by six prominemt MPs, which included Charan Singh, Jagjivan Ram, L.K. Advani, H.N. Bahuguna, George Fernandez and Dharam Vir Sinha. They severely criticised the Government for its interference in the professionalism of the Army for short term political gains, and praised the dignified reaction of Sinha, at his supersession. They demanded a debate in Parliament, on the subject, in the forthcoming session. When the House met, the members tried to raise the issue. However, in the Lok Sabha, the Speaker did not permit a discussion on grounds of security. In the Rajya Sabha also, the Chairman disallowed a debate, leading to angry exchanges between the treasury benches and the Opposition, some of whom quoted the instance of Thimayya's resignation, and the debate in Parliament that followed.
Though the official reason cited by the Government for Sinha's supersession was lack of combat experience, when compared to Vaidya, the actual reasons could be one of many others. Some felt that his proximity to Jaya Prakash Narayan, whose very name was anathema to Indira Gandhi, had sealed his fate. Others felt that his views on the role of civil servants in the higher defence organisation, and the need for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), were not liked by bureaucrats, who lobbied to get him sidelined. Another reason could be his penchant for wresting concessions from the Government, which had made him popular with the soldiers. A senior journalist, Kuldip Nayar, wrote:"Sinha's brilliance was his undoing."
Sinha's request for premature retirement was accepted by the Government. Before he left Delhi, he called on the Naval and Air Force Chiefs, who greeted him warmly. However, when he went to call on Venkataraman, the Defence Minister, he was cold, and did not even offer him a cup of tea. Instead, he advised Sinha that he should stay away from politics, for his own good. Sinha's last call was on the President, Gyani Zail Singh, who was also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. He was extremely affable, and related to Sinha the background for his supersession, which had been done at the instance of the Prime Minister.
Though the Air Force offered a service aircraft to take him to Patna, Sinha declined, and decided to go by a scheduled Indian Airlines flight. He had planned to depart quietly, but when he reached the airport, he was surprised to find a large crowd of officers and men, including some from his own battalion, who had come from Meerut. There was a large number of Press correspondents also, who were surprised that several of his senior colleagues had come, in uniform, to see him off. When his plane landed in Patna, the crowd that had come to receive him was even larger. It included several prominent politicians, which included Karpoori Thakur, and Raj Narain. The Sub Area Commander was also there, and he escorted Sinha to his house in a manner befitting a Vice Chief, with outriders and a pilot jeep. Sinha's retirement was to come into effect the next day, and he was entitled to these courtesies, though he had not expected them.
Unlike most other retired Generals, Sinha did not fade away. He was invited by a large number of Universities, to deliver lectures on a variety of subjects. He also continued to write, for almost all major newspapers and journals. Leaders of the major Opposition parties, such as Charan Singh of the DMKP, Chandra Shekhar of the Janata Party, and Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP invited him to join their parties, but he declined. He decided to take a holiday, and accompanied by his wife, went to Spain, where one of his daughters was staying, with her husband. His two other daughters, who were in USA, joined them, and they had a family reunion. Sinha and his wife spent a pleasant month with their children, and grand children, in Spain.
In the 1984 General Elections, Sinha stood as an independent canditate from Patna. He was supported by three Opposition parties, and it was expected that he would win. After the polling was over, the ballot boxes were kept in a strong room. Next morning, it was found that the room had been opened during the night by the District Magistrate, and a number of ballot papers with Sinha's name were found strewn about. At the same time, ballot papers with the name of the Congress (I) candidate were found stacked in the box. When the votes were counted, Sinha was found to have polled about 117,000 votes, while the ruling party candidate had 200,000. Sinha complained to the Election Commission, about the rigging of the poll, and later filed a writ petition in the High Court, but the exercise proved futile. This was the end of his foray into politics, though he campaigned for V.P. Singh in 1988, when the latter contested the bye election from Allahabad, and won by a handsome majority. During the 1989 General Elections, Sinha actively campaigned for the Janata Dal, led by V.P. Singh, which won, and came to power, defeating the Congress (I).
Soon after becoming Prime Minister, V.P. Singh offered Sinha the appointment of India's Ambassador to Nepal, with whom relations had deteriorated during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure. The treaty on trade and transit had lapsed in March 1989, and Nepal's economy had been badly affected. Most people blamed India for trying to stifle the growth of her smaller neighbour. Land locked and lacking resources, Nepal was economically dependant on her for almost everything. There was considerable resentment in Nepal against India, and the political parties in that country found India a convenient whipping boy.
Sinha arrived in Kathmandu on 20 February. At that time the King was in Pokhra, and was not due to return for a month. However, Sinha was surprised when he was invited to present his credentials to the King within two days of his arrival, at Pokhra. Sinha had served for over thirty years with Gorkhas, who were citizens of Nepal, and could speak Gurkhali fluently. He soon developed an excellent rapport with the King, as well as with the people in Kathmandu. As result, Indo Nepal relations soon started improving, and after a few months, an agreement was signed in Delhi between the Prime Ministers of the two countries. The twenty trade and transit points on the border, which had been closed, were re-opened, with much fanfare, and India gave a number of concessions to Nepal.
In November 1989, V.P. Singh's Government fell, and Chandra Shekhar became Prime Minister. Since Sinha was a political appointee, and not a career diplomat, he resigned. The Prime Minister of Nepal requested him to continue for some more time, and even spoke to the Indian Prime Minister about it. However, the new Government did not accede to this request, and Sinha returned to India, after having done just eleven months as Ambassador. However, his short tenure in Nepal was momentous. When he left, Indo Nepal relations had improved to a new level of cordiality, and democracy had been established in the Himalayan kingdom. The Prime Minister of Nepal wrote, "General Sinha was a true friend of Nepal. He was as much India's ambassador to Nepal as Nepal's ambassador to India." Sinha returned to Patna, where he remained active, and his name regularly appeared in the columns of major newspapers. He was also invited to deliver lectures, at various universities and institutions, including the United Services Institution and the National Defence College.
In July 1997, Sinha was appointed the Governor of Assam. The situation in Assam had deteriorated, and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) was almost running a parallel government. There were frequent kidnappings, of senior officials of the Oil India Corporation, and the tea gardens, which resulted in large sums of money being paid as ransom. The political leadership of the State was not able to control the situation, and the Central Government had to deploy a large force of para military as well as regular Army troops, to control the situation. Sinha was a respected figure, whose impartiality was beyond reproach. He had done a commendable job as India's High Commissioner in Nepal, and was well known. His appointment was widely welcomed, by all sections of society, as well as most political parties. A measure of his popularity is the fact that when the BJP government came to power in Delhi in March 1998, one of the few Governors about whom there was no talk of a change was Sinha.
S.K. Sinha did not rise to the top in the military profession, but is perhaps better known than most of those who did. He was a military leader with a difference - he was a thinking General. What he lacked in charisma and flamboyance, he made up in erudition and integrity. His military career was eventful, though he missed the opportunity to play an active part in the three major wars that the country fought, in 1962, 1965 and 1971, and this was given out as the reason for the post of Army Chief being denied to him. However, his contribution to the Indian Army, in terms of improving the service conditions of troops, was immense. No less was his accomplishment in the only diplomatic assignment that he did, as India's ambassador to Nepal. In the final analysis, he emerges as a military leader who lived by the highest traditions of the Indian Army, and an approbation few men can claim - a man of character.