New Delhi: Lt Gen Zorawar Chand Bakshi popularly known as Zoru Bakshi, India’s most decorated General passed away in New Delhi last night. He was 97. He is survived by two daughters and a son.
Bakshi was battling a lung infection over the last two days and breathed his last on Thursday.
The General is credited with playing a key role in the historic capture of the strategic Haji Pir pass in the 1965 Indo-Pak war for which he was awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC). It is important to note that back then, there was no direct route to Haji Pir which stands at an altitude of 9000 feet, except over difficult mountain terrain. General Bakshi, who was then a Brigadier was entrusted the challenging task of capturing Basali, Kahuta and Haji Pir Pass to create an arterial network on the Uri-Poonch route.
One of the highlights of General Bakshi’s career which made him stand out as a front ranking officer with an aggressive approach in terms of strategy is the battle of Chicken’s Neck in the 1971 war which he commanded. What is known as the Chicken’s Neck is a dagger-shaped islet between the Chenab and a minor tributary called Chander Bagha which General Bakshi captured from enemy control in a high-risk operation. Incidentally, the name Chicken’s Neck was given by General Bakshi to what was referred to as the dagger by the Pakistanis. He is reported to have taken one look at the map of the area and remarked: “It’s a chicken’s neck and I’m going to wring it.” It was of strategic significance because it provided Pakistan immediate access to Akhnoor over the Chenab for it to launch operations on troops flanking the sector.
General Bakshi also headed a special United Nations Operation during the ‘Congo Crisis’ in the early 60s.
Bakshi has been decorated with Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), Vir Chakra, Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM). As far back as 1949, he was awarded the MacGregor Medal given to Indian Armed Forces Personnel for exceptional reconnaissance. In General Bakshi’s case, his legendary secret mission to Lhasa in 1949 disguised as a Buddhist monk earned him the prestigious medal. He was the first Indian recipient of the medal in the post-Independent era.
He was not just a highly decorated officer, but was known to be a master strategist with phenomenal tactical skills. He is renowned for his ability to lead his troops from the front and was always known to be ‘one of the boys’ when he was with his men which endeared him to them.
General Bakshi was born in 1921 in Gulyana village near Rawalpindi in Pakistan and was a true soldier’s son in that his father Bahadur Bakshi Lal Chand had served in the British Indian Army of the time and was a highly decorated officer too. He was awarded the Order of British India.
General Zoru Bakshi went to Gordon College in Rawalpindi from where he graduated in 1942. He was commissioned into the Baloch regiment the next year and in his first major mission against the Japanese in Burma in World War II, he fought valiantly to overcome a well-defended Japanese position. After Burma was liberated, he took part in the operations to free Malaysia from Japanese control which fast-tracked him up the ranks to a Major. He was transferred to the 5th Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army after Partition and as it turned out was caught in thick of action during the Indo-Pak War of 1947-48. His gallantry earned him the Vir Chakra in July 1948.
General Bakshi served the Army for 36 years and retired in 1979. He also served at the Army Headquarters holding the key position of Military Secretary.