New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) Hundreds of mourners bid a tearful adieu to Marshal of the Indian Air Force (IAF) Arjan Singh whose last rites were performed amid a 17-gun salute and a flypast at Delhis Cantonment area on Monday.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the three service chiefs, and several former chiefs and senior officers were among those who paid tribute to the soldier, mostly remembered for his military leadership during the 1965 war with Pakistan.
A flypast by India’s most potent fighter jet Su-30 and Mi-17 V5 helicopters was carried out and a 17-gun salute by the ceremonial battery honoured the Marshal who died on Saturday after a massive cardiac arrest. He was 98.
The mortal remains — kept at his Kautilya Marg residence on Sunday for visitors to pay their tributes — were brought to Brar Square in a decorated gun carriage.
The tricolour-wrapped coffin was then placed atop a pedestal where top political leadership and serving and retired military officers paid tribute to the first and the only five-star officer of the IAF.
Sitharaman, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, Army chief General Bipin Rawat, Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, besides several former service chiefs, relatives and friends, were among those present.
After wreaths were laid and tributes paid, a prayer was said by a Sikh priest, following which the tricolour was removed from the coffin and handed over to his family.
The body was then placed on the funeral pyre.
Last honours were accorded to the hero, who inspired generations of Indians in his years of service to the nation, with the ceremonial battery of Indian Army giving a 17-gun salute with their 25-pounder guns.
Soon after, three Mi-17 V5 helicopters flew over with the IAF insignia in a ‘vic’ formation, followed by three Su-30 fighter jets in a “missing man” formation.
The formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a flypast of aircraft at a funeral or memorial event, typically in memory of a fallen pilot, a well-known military service member or veteran, or a well-known political figure.
A military band played farewell tunes, as Arjan Singh’s son Arvind, who had flown in from the US, lit the funeral pyre after religious rituals.
A tri-services guard lowered arms as a mark of respect.
Born in Lyallpur (now Pakistan’s Faislabad) on April 15, 1919, Arjan Singh was a fourth-generation soldier.
Taking over as the chief of IAF in 1964 when he was hardly 44, Arjan Singh led the force in the 1965 war, and has been lauded for his vision for modernisation of the Indian Air Force.
A fighter pilot, Arjan Singh had flown over 60 types of aircraft during his career, led the formation at the flypast over Red Fort on the first independence day in 1947, and was still flying as the chief of the IAF in the 1960s.
He served in different capacities after retiring and in 2002, he became the first and only officer of the IAF to be promoted to five-star rank as Marshal of the Indian Air Force.