Lt Gen JFR Jacob (retd), who negotiated the surrender of Pakistani troops in Dhaka following the 1971 war, passed away today. Jacob, who was 92, breathed his last this morning after prolonged illness, army sources said.
Jack Farj Rafael Jacob was from a family of Baghdadi Jews and was born in Kolkata in 1923. In an interview to the Times of Israel, he had said that he joined the army to fight Nazis and said that the only place he ever encountered anti-Semitism was in the British Army, never in the Indian Army.
Born in the Bengal Presidency under British India, Jacob joined the army at the age of 19 and also fought in World War II and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965.
However, Jacob is best known for his role in India's victory in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 and the liberation of Bangladesh. Jacob, then a Major General, served as the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command during the war.
While recounting to Rediff how the India-Pakistan surrender was arranged, Lt Gen Jacob had spoken of how he landed in Dhaka to negotiatate with his counterpart Lieutenant General Ameer Abdullah Khan Niazi for a surrender. He also spoke of how the Indian Army had proceeded directly towards Dhaka instead of taking the other cities.
He pointed out that when he initially sought a surrender, it was turned down by the other Pakistani officers there and he also realised there were way more enemy troops than he thought.
And I was thinking, suppose he doesn't surrender, what do I do? He has 30,000 troops, we have 3,000, he can fight for three weeks at least!
Despite his worry about what would happen if his counterpart didn't accept, Jacob went back to meet with the general and convinced him to surrender.
But once the surrender was accepted the Pakistan general and he had a discussion about how it would be done:
I will surrender in my office, Niazi said.
I said no, I have already given instructions that you will surrender at the racecourse, in front of the people of Dhaka.
"I won't," he said.
"You will," I said. "You will also provide a guard of honour."
He also ensured that the enemy general wasn't killed:
Near the airport, I saw a few of our troops trickling in. I saw two para boys in a jeep and I took them with me. When I got to the airport, Tiger Siddiqi turned up with a truckload of Mukti Bahini. I don't know why, but I felt he wanted to shoot Niazi.
If Niazi was killed at the airport, there would be no surrender.
I told the two para boys to shield Niazi, walked up to Siddiqi -- I told the two para boys to point their rifles at him -- and ordered him off the airfield.
Then Aurora and his entourage, including his wife, landed. I was supposed to travel with Niazi and Aurora, but I was told to make way for Mrs Aurora. She was more important. Since everyone else had gone, and this was the last car, I hitched a ride in a truck.
After the signing, the crowd was wanting to lynch Niazi. We had very few troops there. So we had put a cordon around Niazi, put him in an army jeep which whisked him away.
Post retirement, he also served as the Governor of Goa and Punjab.
In the interview with the Israeli paper, Jacob was asked whether he had ever considered immigrating to Israel given his Jewish descent. Here's what he said:
"I am very proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through. I was born in India and served here my whole life; this is where I want die.”
Here's what the PM and Defence Minister tweeted on his demise:
RIP Lt Gen JFR Jacob. India will always remain grateful to him for his impeccable service to the nation at the most crucial moments.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 13, 2016
I will always cherish the memories of working with Lt Gen JFR Jacob during his stint as Governor of Goa. May his soul rest in peace. 2/2— Manohar Parrikar (@manoharparrikar) January 13, 2016
And here's what the Army's official handle had to say: