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Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora - RIP

ramana
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Postby ramana » 06 May 2005 00:54

Another tribute in DeccanChronicle, 6 May 2005...

Lord Aurora of Bangladesh
By Dr Manohar Singh Gill

General Aurora has finally crossed the river, and walked on to the Valhalla of the marshals. As the days and the years roll by, he will fade into history, and begin to find his true place in it. Thirty years is not enough to consider dispassionately the events of 1970-1971 and the role of the chief protagonists. But for those of us who saw the events, and the aftermath, it is perhaps a moment to reflect and to put down some thoughts.

1970 was a difficult year, with internal difficulties and external tensions with Pakistan in the east and west. The inflow of a vast number of refugees from the east created immense economic and political tensions. Slowly, but surely, the situation came to a boil, and the preparations for war began. The Indian Army was a lumbering giant, an elephant, not a cheetah. Its organisation, structure, and mentality were of the Quetta Staff College and World War II. It had barely managed a slugging match in 1965 in the west, with no substantial losses or gains and both Armies fighting a war in the World War II Montgomery mode.

But this was going to be different. East Pakistan was a swampy riverine delta land. It is criss-crossed by a host of rivers, big and small, like the arteries and nerves in a human body. The logistics of a major operation were mind-boggling. The staff work began, and went on for months at the Eastern Command, Calcutta. GHQ Delhi gave the policy directives, but the job had to be planned in the east by those who were to execute it. This was the daunting task that faced General Aurora, his staff deputy Jacob, and others.

They were conscious that they were going to make history for India by victory or monumental failure. General Manekshaw, the Army chief, a brilliant soldier and charismatic leader of men, laid down the broad objectives and policy directives. But the actual plan, which would hopefully succeed, had to be conceived and worked out in meticulous details by Gen. Aurora. Above all, he had to execute it. President Kennedy said after the Bay of Pigs failure: “Victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan.” Every soldier knew as they planned that while success would be shared. any disaster would be Gen. Aurora’s, and his alone.

I remember how the Army went to war that winter, and how there was continuous external political pressure on the country and therefore anxiety for an immediate and successful conclusion. The paddy fields, rivers, and ditches posed immense problems. Armour and heavy vehicles could hardly move and that too along poor roads well covered defensively.

A moment came when it looked that we were bogged down and stalemated. Gen. Aurora did not lose his nerve, modified plans where necessary and swept towards Dhaka. In the short span of a couple of weeks, India achieved a historic victory with a hundred thousand prisoners and a new country on the world map. This success had come after a millennium of invasions and imported rulers. It is something which will live in India’s historical memory for long and cannot be easily repeated.

There were plenty of claimants to the halo of success. The political leadership of course had played their role, and the achievement was nationally applauded. But in the armed forces, I recall a strange subtle PR effort to enhance the role of the Army chief, and diminish the role of the field commander. A signal from Delhi to Calcutta emphasising the prominent planning and supervising role of GHQ, was widely exposed. It appeared that the war had been mainly won from Delhi.

Those who read military history know that while the German Armed Forces Headquarters in Berlin had played a great role, the battles were won or lost by Guderian, Manstein and Rommel. They were the heroes, and sometimes the fall guys. They paid for failure. They were entitled to the success, and history has given it to them.

Gen. Jacob was staff deputy to Gen. Aurora. He was not the commander. Many years back I read his memoirs. They seemed to emphasise that he had done most of the planning and execution! Sam got the Field Marshal’s baton. As he said somewhere, “Jaggi did the work, I got the baton.”

Gen. Aurora, unfortunately, was quickly allowed to fade out and away. He quietly went into civil life, and pottered around in minor activities. Once with great effort he became a Rajya Sabha MP. He was not used or recognised or given anything else. I have seen, and see today, plenty of generals and marshals who are governors, and in other high national positions. Sadly, Gen. Aurora, who deserved the most from his country, did not adorn any Raj Bhavan or other high position.

Heroes are created and honoured to offer role models to the young. In England I see statues all over London of their warriors. Gen. Slim who fought reasonably well in Burma was created Lord Slim of Burma; Montgomery became Lord Montgomery of El-Alamein. The Punjab governor at the time of the war was Dr D.C. Pavate, a Cambridge mathematician and a senior wrangler. I was his secretary. I remember what he said to me over coffee one day. The Israeli war hero General Moshe Dayan had come to see him.

The governor praised his achievements, but Dayan said, “Excellency, my achievements are nothing compared to those of your Gen. Aurora. I am amazed at his success against such overwhelming odds.” Dr Pavate said to me that it was a pity that he had not been fully recognised and honoured. He said, in England, he would have been made Lord Aurora of Bangladesh.

These titles and awards are ultimately little gongs, as the British are fond of saying. At the end of the day, what matters is the cold judgment of history given long after the protagonists have faded away into the mysteries of time. History certainly will place Aurora on the pedestal that he truly deserves. General, rest in peace.


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Postby surinder » 06 May 2005 09:12

One of the things that must have struck Gen. Arora deeply must have been the spectacle of the 1984 riots. It must have been surreal for him to become a quarry in his own country, the country he defended with his life in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Must have been sad.

IIRC he was maltreated by the Haryana police during the 1982 (?) Asian Games when Haryana was asked to keep out Sikhs from the Asian games.

On the good side, there were many many scores of non-Sikhs who stood up to the mobs and spoke/acted against the thuggery. There is always a silver lining.

-s

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Postby ramana » 06 May 2005 09:32

Can some one like aman or mandeep explore raising his statue in New Delhi? We should be able to raise funds to support the endavour. On an aside are there any statues in Delhi after the Teen Murti statues to honor WWI soldiers?

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Postby Mandeep » 06 May 2005 16:13

Everyone including the media keeps saying that the Genral was commissioned in 1/2 Punjab.Wrong, he was commisioned in 5/2 Punjab an Indianised battalion. This was lost during the Malayan Campaign and was not re-raised after WW 2 probably because most of its personnel joined the INA.

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Postby Mandeep » 06 May 2005 16:24

Thats an excellent idea Ramanna. Not just the General's statue but that of all Indian commanders and highest gallantry award winners.

We can form a Bharat Rakshak or Indian Defence Society for the purpose.

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Postby ramana » 06 May 2005 18:27

Mandeep lets first start with Arora saab. How does one go about this? Maybe discuss offline and post on BR progress report?

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Postby Jaspreet » 06 May 2005 20:22

One of the things that must have struck Gen. Arora deeply must have been the spectacle of the 1984 riots.


Recalling from memory:
He said that 1984 riots were a "contingency plan." At this the people laughed at him and mockingly asked him if he knew of other contingency plans.

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Postby Vasu » 06 May 2005 20:33

Rediff.com Slideshow

Saluting a War Hero

Image

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Postby Mandeep » 06 May 2005 23:17

Good thinking, Ramanna. Do email me at bajwa at sify dot com. Anyone else like to join in the discussion/effort ? Most welcome.

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Postby Arun_S » 07 May 2005 00:36

Mandeep: I am in with Ramana in this effort.

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Postby Mandeep » 07 May 2005 00:38

Excellent ! So we're 3 now.

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Postby Amber G. » 07 May 2005 01:09

Salute to a
Hero

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Postby Subra » 07 May 2005 01:47

I disagree with the idea of busts of individuals - A common memorial is a more laudable aim.
We do not want to reduce our Generals to the level of politicians

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Postby kgoan » 07 May 2005 02:27

Vale, a great warrior and a superb soldier.

:(

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Postby Vanahan » 07 May 2005 02:44

The picture of his uniform against the pyre is poignant. He will be remembered for as long as the Indian flag flies high. Great countries are built on the shoulders of such men.

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Postby Prem » 07 May 2005 03:11

HI Ramana/ Mandeep/ Arun

Please keep me in the loop.I will be honored to contribute any which way i can.




Prem

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Postby Mandeep » 07 May 2005 10:28

Thanks Prem and all the others who've contacted me off-BR. I'm sure we're gonna go places with our plans.

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Postby svinayak » 07 May 2005 23:41

In the short span of a couple of weeks, India achieved a historic victory with a hundred thousand prisoners and a new country on the world map.


The 1971 win was India's first geopolitical war



A SHort Link as recommended
Last edited by svinayak on 12 May 2005 03:48, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby rajkumar » 09 May 2005 15:40

Mandeep wrote:Thanks Prem and all the others who've contacted me off-BR. I'm sure we're gonna go places with our plans.


Mandeep, please e-mail me on raj.kumarATpobox.com. I know some one who was involved in putting up the Kargil memorial park in Noida & also served in 1971 under Lt Gen Aurora. he may be able to help us in finding a good spot for the meorial.

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Postby surinder » 10 May 2005 20:18

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050510/edit.htm#6


When war hero felt unsafe in own house
by Shiela Gujral

LT. Gen J.S. Aurora, the great hero who transformed the map of the subcontinent on December 16, 1971, is no more.

When I reflect on the life-long achievements of our dear friends -General Aurora and his charming wife, Bhagwant Kaur — they seem countless. But some of the most striking memories are of October 31, 1984.

Prior to that day of terror in 1984, the Punjab Group had been making persistent efforts to resolve the Punjab crisis. On that fatal day when all havoc took place, General Aurora, Kuldip Nayar, Patwant Singh, Amb. Gurbachan Singh and a few other members of the group were running from pillar to post to wake up government machinery.

They contacted President Giani Zail Singh for his support. When General Aurora, Patwant Singh and my husband, I.K. Gujral, were at last able to contact Home Minister Narasimha Rao, he took time to tell them that the situation was out of control and they had then decided to call in the Army that would take charge by the afternoon.

While they were still sitting at Patwant Singh’s residence, the goons were on the rampage. Every Sikh from a passing vehicle was pulled out. The burning process of Sikh homes had already started. My husband, who was himself driving his car, advised General Aurora to wait at Patwant’s house till he could send an Army escort to pick him up.

As soon as my husband came home, we went to enquire about his wife’s fate. She had shifted to a friend’s house. When we reached New Friends Colony, the Hindu friend’s home, we discovered another Sikh family taking shelter there. It was in a pathetic condition. Their 40 trucks had been set on fire, leaving them pauperised.

Listening to their tale, my husband explained the circumstances under which he had left the General at Patwant’s house and entreated Mrs. Aurora to spend the night with us at our residence. Soon as the General arrived, he would come back and pick her up too.

Until then atrocities and arson were taking place in the congested area of our neighbourhood. By now the hurricane had spread to Maharani Bagh too. After visiting a few houses, my husband decided that I should stay at home, make arrangements for the General’s stay and we returned home. My husband left again to help the needy people and I stayed on to get food prepared and attend to telephone calls.

As soon as the General arrived, my husband and our elder son, Naresh, went to fetch Bhagwant Kaur. The General commented with deep emotion, “The nation treats me as a war hero, but I face the day when I am not safe in my own house.”

Day-time high-handedness stopped with Army control, but the tortured Sikh community needed help and support for years to follow. Procuring justice for them was not a quick job. General Aurora initiated the Sikh Forum and persuaded the influential leaders from all walks of life, especially from the Sikh community, to join him. Many of the journalists and earlier friends of the Punjab Group lent him the required support unhesitatingly. Thanks to his tireless efforts, many ruined families were rehabilitated again.

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Postby ramana » 11 May 2005 18:37

Op-Ed in deccan chronicle, 11 May 2005
J S Aurora, an officer and a gentleman
By Anil Bhat

The clouds of World War II began forming soon after Second Lieutenant Jagjit Singh Aurora was commissioned from the Indian Military Academy into the Punjab Regiment on February 1, 1939. Opportunity for action came a little later when his battalion found itself in Burma. Two years after his return from that war, when the British finally, and hurriedly, left, he commanded the same battalion, converted to 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, and inducted into the Pir Kalewa area of Rajouri district, Jammu and Kashmir, for the first India-Pakistan two months after Independence.

He served in various staff appointments before being promoted to colonel and was posted as the deputy commandant of the Infantry School, Mhow. After attending a course at the National Defence College in 1960, he was appointed brigadier-general staff of a corps headquarters in the Eastern Sector.

On promotion to major-general in February 1963, he was given command of an infantry division. In 1964, he was posted as director of military training at Army Headquarters, from where, in June 1966, he was promoted in situ to lieutenant-general and appointed deputy chief of Army Staff till April 1967, after which he took over 33 Corps, headquartered at Siliguri. In 1969, he became GOC-in-C, Eastern Command.

The late Major K. C. Praval, author of the highly researched book Indian Army After Independence (Lancer), had this to say of Gen. Aurora: “The task of detailed planning and preparation for operations in East Pakistan, as also the Mukti Bahini commitment, fell to him.

A quiet but confident commander, Aurora had taken over Eastern Command in June 1969 from Manekshaw. He belonged to the 2nd Punjab Group and had commanded the 1st Parachute Battalion with distinction in the Jammu and Kashmir operations of 1948, where he also commanded the 19 Infantry Brigade during the Punch link-up. A cautious and careful man, he believed in facing a given situation after due thought and preparation. Once the ball was set rolling, he led the team with vigour.”

But Eastern Command formations were geared for counter-insurgency operations and there was a long list of additional men and material, including tanks and bridging equipment, required for operations in the riverine terrain of erstwhile East Pakistan. This is how Manekshaw, in his own words in Praval’s book, obtained the needful: “I got everything I wanted. I got the money. I went to the Soviet Union and got Soviet tanks; went elsewhere, got the equipment I wanted much against the wishes of the bureaucracy. It was done against their opposition but I had the Prime Minister’s support.”

The brief given by the Indian Army Chief, General Maneckshaw, to Eastern Command was very limited. The aim was to occupy only two areas of East Pakistan — Chittagong and Khulna — so that an interim Bangladeshi government could be established. The capture of the whole of East Pakistan was not even conceived. A major problem was the geography and terrain of East Pakistan. Each sub-region was further divided into several pockets cut by smaller rivers and their tributaries. The idea that an attacking Army could bridge these, fight the enemy and then take territory, all within a couple of weeks, was ludicrous.

“My battle-cry for the Bangladesh operation was ‘Leave the highways and follow the by-ways.’ This enabled us to get round and near the enemies’ established defences and reach Dhaka in a short time, winning the war within 13 days.”

So, it is all the more to the credit of Aurora, his staff and all ranks involved, that they were able to create a new record in military history by winding up this war in just two weeks, bagging 93,000 prisoners of war.

At least a million Bangladeshis had gathered to witness the surrender ceremony in Dhaka. Gen. Aurora came for the ceremony with his wife, Mrs Bhagwant Kaur. The late Granville G. Watts, better known as Bob who covered this war for Reuters often remarked about Aurora: “He conducted the surrender ceremony in a most gentlemanly manner, without in any way humiliating his vanquished counterpart.” The first official recognition of India’s contribution came when Bangladesh was completing 25 years of independence. Lt. Gen. J. S. Aurora was invited to Dhaka and honoured for having led the Bahini and Indian troops to victory and accepting the surrender of Lt. Gen. A. A. K. Niazi, chief of Pakistan’s Eastern Command. It was Sheikh Hasina who, as Prime Minister, took the initiative.

Some statements made to mediapersons provide an idea of his political career in later years: “My six years in the Rajya Sabha were interesting though not as satisfying as Army service. The main reason being we did a lot of talking on some vital, and, quite often, on points which did not merit much importance. These days the politicians in the country are going through a bad period. But, I assure you, they are not quite so bad and unprincipled as the politicians in Pakistan. You may not know that General Ayub was invited by the President to take over and once he took over he decided why have the President sitting in the chair, he might as well take that over too. So Army rule in Pakistan, once invited, has now become a habit.”

However, the most painful stage of Gen. Aurora’s post-retirement years came when the Sikh killings began just after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. While it was a rude shock all around, it was particularly more for Sikhs serving in, or retired from the Armed Forces. Some serving personnel resigned and some serving and retired ones even migrated. Gen. Aurora was part of a group who deposed before the Nanavati Commission to emphasise the planned nature of the riots.

The statements contradicted the conclusion of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission that the rioting was spontaneous. Aurora appealed to Narasimha Rao to deploy the Army immediately, but without success. Aurora himself had to seek refuge during the violence. He then formed the Sikh Forum to get justice for survivors.

It is said that a person’s worth often becomes known by the number of people who turn up to pay condolences, or attend his last rites. In Aurora’s case there was no doubt about the high esteem in which he was held. Starting with the Prime Minister and many politicians, friends and relations, and, of course, the Army, there was an unending line of visitors till his final farewell with full military honours at the Army Crematorium in Brar Square. His daughter Aneeta, her husband Surjeet Kalra, their two daughters and Naik (equivalent of corporal) Raj Kumar of the 20th Battalion, Punjab Regiment, who looked after him with utmost dedication, had interesting incidents to convey.

Paying tribute on behalf of the Indian Army, the Chief, General J. J. Singh, referred to him as an example of excellence worth emulating. Tribute came not only from Bangladesh and its high commission in the capital, but also from two veterans of the Mukti Bahini, Air Vice-Marshal A. K. M. Khondakar and Colonel Shaukat Ali, both members of the Bangladeshi Parliament who travelled from Dhaka to New Delhi to convey heartfelt condolences on behalf of their old colleagues. They recalled that they had Gen. Aurora to thank for certain thoughtful measures taken during the tense days of December 1971.

Naik Raj Kumar will never forget the soldier-turned-sage who, on the night of May 2, 2005, said, “Thanks for the soup son, but for dinner I have a date with my dear departed,” and shortly afterwards peacefully faded away.

The author, a defence and security analyst, is editor, WordSword Features & Media


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Postby A Sharma » 15 May 2005 18:11

Act of valour

Tribute
The hero of the biggest surrender in India since the days of Chandragupta Maurya
By R. Prasannan

At about 6 p.m. on December 3, 1971, the phone in Jaggie’s office in Fort William, Kolkata, rang. Sam was at the other end from Delhi. Sam told him that Pakistani jets had bombed airfields in the western sector. Jaggie could unleash his fury on the east. The war had begun. Jaggie, Lt.-Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, general officer commanding India’s eastern army, drove down to meet Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was in Kolkata. She took his hand and said with a smile, "Good luck to you, general."

Lt.-Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora (1917-2005)

That night, it is said, Jaggie drank a toast to Gen. Yahya Khan, president of Pakistan, for choosing the time Jaggie had wanted for starting the war. He had wanted it in the first week of December, when East Bengal’s marshlands would be dry. The snow on the Himalayas would prevent any Chinese move to cut down from the north through the Siliguri corridor.

It was this assessment that army chief Gen. Sam Manekshaw had presented in April 1971 to the cabinet, which wanted immediate war. Aurora knew that Pakistan’s army in the east would be defending all the highways, and would have blasted the bridges across the numerous rivers to stop an Indian blitzkrieg. Aurora wanted to surround the Pakistani main body around Dhaka and block their exit towards Chittagong where the US Seventh Fleet would bail them out.

Everyone knew that in the eastern theatre Jaggie was racing against the Americans. The fleet had moved from the Gulf of Tomkin and made an exhibitionist pass through the Malacca Strait. Indira Gandhi called Moscow, which sent Soviet warships to tail the Americans. Admiral S.M. Nanda had joked that his naval captains had been told to invite the Americans for a drink on board. But behind the bravado, everyone was worried. They knew Jaggie’s eastern army could smash the Pakistani defences. But could he make it to Dhaka before the fleet arrived in Chittagong?

Aurora knew everything depended on the speed with which he reached Dhaka. He told his formation commanders: Avoid the highways, take the byways. The Pakistanis were surprised by Aurora’s tactics. The decisive moment came when the formations had to cross the Meghna. Aurora ordered helicopters to lift troops across. He had inserted enough engineering units to build pontoon bridges with lightning speed.

Aurora won the race by 36 hours. The US fleet steamed into the Bay of Bengal, far short of Chittagong, when Aurora’s forces were leaning on Dhaka. The final cut was delivered by the Air Force. With a degree of precision, seen only in the age of laser-guided weapons, they dropped free-fall bombs on the governor’s house. Lt.-Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, commander of Pakistan’s eastern army, asked the US consulate in Dhaka to sue for ceasefire. For some reason, Washington delayed conveying the plea to Delhi till December 15 evening.

Manekshaw said yes to ceasefire with surrender. Jaggi agreed. His reasoning: surrender was safer for the 93,000 Pakistani soldiers. Bangla mobs would lynch them otherwise. On the afternoon of December 16, Aurora landed in Dhaka where Niazi welcomed him with a handshake and signed the surrender document. With tears welling up in his eyes, he took out his pistol, stripped the epaulette of rank from his right shoulder and surrendered them to his old school friend. Then he moved forward, held Aurora by his shoulder and rubbed his forehead against Aurora’s.

Historians say that this was the biggest surrender in Indian history since the days of Chandragupta Maurya. The crowds took their hero on their shoulders; his troops called him Banglajit Singh. But Aurora’s greatness was that he knew when the military had to back off. Till India appointed a high commissioner, he visited Dhaka often, drove directly to Prime Minister Mujibur Rehman, flying his flag on the car and accompanied by military outriders. But after a high commissioner took charge, he withdrew the flag and outriders, and called on Rehman only in the company of high commission officials.

A Bangladeshi officer, Major Akhtar Ahmed, has commented in another context on this remarkable character of the Indian Army: "The civilian-Army relationship in India never failed to surprise me. In India, civilians respected the Army but they were not afraid of them. The Army also did not have the arrogant, overbearing attitude that we were used to in Pakistan." The hero of the 1971 war, who passed away on May 3, epitomised this spirit of the Indian Army.

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Postby shiv » 21 May 2005 19:05

Full page ad in India Abroad brought out by BRF member Dr.Subhash Thareja - 1240 kb

http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/Temp/thankyousir.pdf

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Postby Ed_Haynes » 21 May 2005 19:21

Very classy ad - shabash, Subash!

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Postby Arun_S » 25 May 2005 00:07

Dr Subhash Thareja's advertisement has served as a soothing ointment to the hurt to Sikh's caused by unfortunate events of last 22 years.

Here is an email transcript:
*******************************************

From: Subhash Thareja [mailto:******.com]
Sent: Saturday, May 21, 2005 2:06 PM

Folk,

I got a few responses (all positive) from the ad. One such response I would like to share with you all is from Dr ***** because it seems like
this

Ad has hit the nail. My whole idea behind this tribute was not just the tribute to Lt. Gen. Aurora but also help soothe the pain and suffering of 84 riots and in my own little way I believe I have started the ball rolling in that direction. Hope we can put this issue to rest some day and make up!!!!! as the wounds are quite deep and are not healing otherwise.!!!!!

Subhash

>From: "Baljit ******" <baljit@******.com>
>To: <editorial@indiaabroad.com>
>CC: <Thareja@****.com>
>Date: Fri, 20 May 2005 10:02:04 -0400
>
>The Editor
>
>India Abroad
>
>E Mail editorial@indiaabroad.com
>
>Dear Editor,
>
>I write this in response to the full page tribute to Lt. Gen. Jagjit
Singh Aurora by Mr. Subhash Thareja in your May 20th edition.
>
>Mr. Thareja has expressed a sincere apology for the 1984 riots and has prayed for justice to prevail. What Mr. Thareja has expressed is straight from his heart and his few words have gone a long way to soothe the hurt feelings of this Indian American. This has done much more than the numerous statements given by our elected officials in India. How can one believe them when those individuals who were convicted by the National and International Human Rights Commissions, for inciting the very riots, are now part of the Indian Government?
>
>What is needed is many more Tharejas who can express their feelings
without fear and raise their voices whenever and wherever they see injustice.
>
>I salute Mr. Thareja and thank him for his remarks.
>
>Baljit , MD. FACS


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