Sat, Dec 10, 2016 | updated 10:30 AM IST

Lt. Gen. Srinivas Kumar Sinha, a distinguished soldier-diplomat

Updated: Nov 18, 2016 17:35 IST
By I. Ramamohan Rao

New Delhi [India], Nov.18 (ANI): I had had the opportunity of personally knowing Lt. Gen Srinivas Kumar Sinha for over three decades before his passing on Thursday after a brief illness. He was General Officer Commanding of the Indian Army's Western Command, a prestigious appointment in the early eighties, and was transferred to Delhi as the Vice Chief of Army Staff, with the expectation that he would succeed General K. V. Krishna Rao as army chief. I was then serving as Director of Public Relations in the Ministry of Defence.

As Vice Chief of Army Staff, he was supposed to familiarise himself with the functions of the office of the army chief. It was a surprise when he was superceded and Lt. Gen. A. S. Vaidya, the GOC-in-C Eastern Command was appointed as Chief of Army Staff. Lt. Gen. Sinha submitted his resignation and elected to lead a retired life.

As spokesman for the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces I had called on him when the announcement was made. He asked me that there were requests from the media for meeting him. I sought an approval from the Defence Minister R. Venkataraman, who in fact had visited all the army commands, and sent his recommendations to the Prime Minister. I went along with a few media persons to Lt. Gen. Sinha, who displayed no bitterness and gave dignified answers to the questions raised by the media.

He must have felt then, where did I go wrong?

I did have the chance to meet him when he was appointed India's Ambassador to Nepal in 1990 by Prime Minister Chandrashekar. During his tenure in Nepal, democracy was restored in Nepal and India-Nepal relations steadily improved. It was said in Nepal: "General Sinha was as much India's Ambassador to Nepal as Nepal's Ambassador to India".

Later, he was appointed as the Governor of Assam in 1997. He was able to establish a smooth understanding between the state government and the security forces which had helped in containing the activities of militant organizations like the United Liberation Front of Assam. He ended the psychological alienation that had crept in between Assam and the rest of the country, and when he departed in 2003, insurgency was virtually over in the state. According to senior editor D. N. Bezbaruah, he was referred to as a true son of the soil of Assam."

When the post of Governor of Jammu and Kashmir fell vacant following the retirement of G. C. Saxena in 2003, he was seen as the natural choice. He made efforts to promote Kashmiriyat as an antidote to religious fundamentalism which was the root cause for militancy in the state. Among his other responsibilities, he was to oversee the activities of the Vaishno Devi Trust and the Amarnath Trust.

When Lt. Gen. Sinha assumed the govenorship of the state and the head of the Board of Trustees of the Amarnath Trust, he tried to ensure that the security forces were able to monitor the route and ensure the safety of the pilgrims. Next, he sought the assistance of the government in establishing prefabricated structures at camping grounds along the mountainous routes, which would provide shelter to the pilgrims.

The prefabricated structures were useful. Some of them were sent to shelter the victims of the October 2005 earthquake.

As the head of the Amarnath Trust, he wanted some permanent arrangements to be made and made a request for the transfer of 800 kanals of land to enable pilgrims to have restrooms, and have facilities of proper latrines instead of deep trench toilets, which had to be covered by mud after use by people, which emitted foul smell. He wanted to introduce a modern scientific system that would leave zero scope for pollution.

The transfer of 800 kanals was made just a few days before Lt.Gen. Sinha was to hand over office to his successor.

Lt. Gen. Sinha was all prepared to leave Jammu and Kashmir feeling that the hard work put in by him will be remembered by pilgrims to the Holy Amarnath Cave.

But the controversy over the transfer of ownership of 800 kanals of land continued and his last wish remained incomplete.

He was settled in New Delhi after his term as Governor and has been a prolific writer sharing his views about 1947-48 Kashmir operations, the Hyderabad operations and the efforts made by him to have a better salary structure for the defence forces with the people of the country . I have had the good fortune of interacting with him all these years.

Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer, Government of India. He can be reached on his e-mail:raoramamohan@hotmail.com. (ANI)