17 Gun Salute Bid Adieu To Air Force Legend

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New Delhi: Five canons bellowed out 17 shots in cyclical fashion with a 2.5 second gap between each round, three Sukhoi fighter aircraft flew in a ‘missing man’ formation and three Mi 17 helicopters flew overhead trooping IAF colours as the nation honoured the Marshal of the Indian Air Force (MIAF), Arjan Singh, who breathed his last on Saturday evening at a ripe 98.

Laid to rest with full state honours, the mortal remains of the air warrior was consigned to flames amid chanting of sacred hymns at the Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment in the presence of several senior political leaders and top brass of the Indian military, including defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, BJP veteran L.K. Advani and the three service chiefs.

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President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Singh’s residence on Sunday. The tricolour flew at half-mast at all government buildings in honour of the iconic hero of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, who was the only IAF officer to be promoted to five-star rank. Only two warriors — Field Marshals Sam Manekshaw and K.M. Cariappa — have held the five-star ranks.

Earlier, Singh’s body, wrapped in the national flag, was taken in a gun carriage from his house at Kautilya Marg to the Brar Square crematorium. With demonstrated valour in battlefield, MIAF Singh, in a way, signified the transformation from the Royal Air Force to the IAF when he led a flypast of over a hundred IAF aircraft over the Red Fort in Delhi on the first Independence Day celebrations in 1947.

Appointed IAF chief at the young age of 44, Singh’s role was instrumental in ensuring dominance over Pakistani skies during the 1965 Indo-Pak war even though Pakistan was better equipped with American support.

The nation will remember MIAF Arjan Singh as a military legend but in the eyes of his children, Arvind and Asha Singh, he was an extremely humble man. Arvind Singh, who flew in from the US for his father’s last rites, said he learnt humility by observing him.

“One thing that struck me (about my father) was that he was always very humble. He always treated people well. If he saw a sweeper he would treat him equally,” he said.

Daughter Asha Singh described the passing away of her father as her “biggest loss”. “For me it is the biggest loss. He was a great human being and an inspiration for me. I am glad that he will live on in the annals of history”.

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