{:en}SikhHistory.in{:}{:pa}ਸਿੱਖ ਇਤਿਹਾਸ{:}

Jagjit Singh Arora (Lieutenant-General-Indian Army)

Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Arora was born on Feb. 13, 1917 in Distt. Jhelum now in Pakistan, in a Sikh Family. His father, Dewan Singh, was an engineer. His wife, Bhagwant Kaur Aurora, died in 1997.  He had one daughter named  Anita Kalra and one son, Kiranjit Singh Rana who  is a US-based publisher. He resided at 529(A), Hargobindpura Basti, Sangrur, Punjab, India.

British Indian Army

Jagjit Singh Aurora’s career as a Second Lieutenant in the British Indian Army began on 1 January 1939 after he was commissioned into the 1st battalion of the 2nd Punjab Regiment after which he served with his regiment in Burma (now Myanmar) and fought alongside the British Commonwealth Forces against the Imperial Japanese forces during the Second World War.

After Independence and the ensuing Partition of India, he opted to join the Indian Army and was a commissioned officer in the Punjab Regiment during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. In 1947 at the time of partition he was assigned the job of rescuing the refugees from Pakistan, which he accomplished with great tenacity. He took part in action against Kabaili intruders and Pakistani forces in May 1948 in Kashmir, as a Lt. Col. of Para Regiment-I (Punjab). After achieving Independence, India and Pakistan fought their first war over the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir after Pakistan sent its forces to invade it. During the war, Aurora, who was commanding his unit, saw action against the invading tribal Lashkars and the Pakistani forces in Kashmir.

On 26 February 1950, Jagjit Singh Aurora became a Major (temporary), and on 30 January 1951, he became a substantive Major. On 13 January 1952, he was promoted and made Lieutenant Colonel. On 1 August 1958, he became a Colonel in the Indian Army.  On 28 November 1959, he became a Brigadier (acting), and he commanded an infantry brigade. In May 1961, as BGS XXXIII Corps, Brigadier Aurora led a team of military officers and men sent by the Government of India on a reconnaissance mission to Bhutan. This later led to the establishment of the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan. During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, Jagjit Singh Aurora was posted in the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), where he commanded an infantry brigade. The war began on 20 October 1962 and ended on 21 November 1962.

Career after the 1962 War

Jagjit Singh Aurora was promoted and made a Major General (acting) in the Indian Army and was posted as a Division Commander of an infantry division on 21 February 1963. On 20 June 1964, he became a substantive Major General and was appointed as Director General of Military Training (DMT) on 23 November 1964. As a Major General, Jagjit Singh Aurora took part in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. After the end of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, Jagjit Singh Aurora received a promotion, and he became a Lieutenant General (acting) on 6 June 1966 following which he was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the Army Staff (DCOAS). He became a substantive Lieutenant General on 4 August 1966.

Nathu La incident

n 1961 he was sent to Bhutan on special mission and he proved the main architect in shaping the military ties between India and Bhutan. Under his leadership, a unit of Indian army gave a befitting reply to Chinese forces when, in 1967 they attacked Nathu La. It was a glorious moment for the Indian Army which was badly frustrated by Chinese Army in 1962. Jagjit Singh Aurora was once again posted to North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1967. There, he commanded a Corps of the Indian Army during the 1967 clashes with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Nathu La and Cho La, where the Indian Army forced the Chinese troops to retreat from their positions.

Serving as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) during the 1971 war

On 8 June 1969, Jagjit Singh Aurora was appointed as the GOC-in-C of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. As GOC, he oversaw the training and arming of the Mukti Bahinis, a Bangladeshi guerilla force fighting against the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).  Soon after his appointment, he was asked to begin preparations for the war that began on 3 December 1971. As the Corps Commander, Aurora made sure that 30,000 tons of supplies reached the eastern front without any obstructions. In an article written by Lt Gen Aurora for Rediff, he said
As far as I remember, we started deploying our forces in large numbers from June 1971. We started moving our military administrative staff too because our depots were not well equipped to fight Pakistani troops on the eastern border. Whatever depots we had were set up during World War II. We also deployed more troops on the Assam and Tripura borders. Because we did not want to be caught with our trousers down if we were attacked on that front by Pakistani forces.”

The war began on the evening of 3 December 1971 at around 5.40 PM when the Pakistani Air Force bombed Indian airfields. During the war, he devised strategies following which the Indian Army launched an attack on the Pakistani troops from four different fronts in East Pakistan. His plans were aimed at quickly defeating the Pakistani forces by attacking them at some locations while bypassing them at others, which resulted in the unconditional surrender of the Pakistani Armed Forces in East Pakistan in 13 days. On 16 December 1971, Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, the Unified Commander of Pakistan Armed Forces’ Eastern Military High Command, signed an instrument of surrender at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka at 16.31 IST in  1966.

East Pakistan

In March 1971, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in East Pakistan. The operation resulted in commencement of the Bangladesh Liberation War which resulted in the Bangladesh genocide, including the systematic murder of Bengali intellectuals by the Pakistan Army. The ensuing violence led to almost 10 million Bengali refugees fleeing from East Pakistan into India. A spontaneous Bengali guerrilla force, the Mukti Bahini, was formed in response. This force along with the newly formed Bangladesh Forces, consisting of Bengali defectors from the Pakistan Army under the command of General Bangabir MAG Osmani, were engaged in escalating hostilities with the Pakistani Army.

For the next nine months, with tensions escalating between India and Pakistan and anticipating possible hostilities, Aurora oversaw the logistical preparations of the Indian Army on the Eastern front, including the improvement of roads, communications and bridges, as well as the movement of 30,000 tons of supplies close to the border with East Pakistan.

At the outbreak of the war on 3 December 1971, as Eastern Army Commander, Gen. Aurora oversaw the Indian ground forces into battle in East Pakistan. In a meticulously planned operation, forces under Aurora’s command formed numerous small combat teams and launched a four-front attack with the strategy of confronting and defeating the Pakistani forces on selected fronts, while bypassing Pakistani forces on others. In under two weeks, his forces advanced from the Indian border to capture Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan.

The finest hour of the millennium for India descended on Dec. 16, 1971 at 4.51 p.m. when Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, GOC – in-C, East Pakistan, and his 93,000 strong army surrendered to Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Arora, GOC-in-C, India’s eastern command, hero of this war, that gave birth to a new independent nation on the globe, only in 13 days,  what remains to date the largest surrender of soldiers since the Second World War. Pakistan lost almost 57,000 square miles (150,000 km2) of its territory and 70 million of its people to the newly formed nation of Bangladesh.

This is the only example of its own kind in World History. None other than the Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw himself, the then Chief of Indian Army, in the words, “WE ARE PROUD OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS”. “WHILE JAGGI( Jagjit SinghArora) DID ALL THE WORK, I GOT THE BATON (of field marshal)”. Once in an interview to Delhi Television’s perspective, Gen. S.H.F.J. Manekshaw said, “I CANNOT DO BETTER THAN READ THE MESSAGE TO LT. GEN. ARORA.” Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee described Gen. Arora as the “PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT” of 1971 victory and A GREAT WAR STRATEGIST.

He was promoted to the post of Lt. General and Dy. Chief of Army Staff. Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora continued to serve as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command till his retirement from the Indian Army in 1973.After retirement from the Indian Army, he joined Akali Dal and served as a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha.

Retired  life

After retiring from the Indian Army, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora joined the Akali Dal and was a Member of the Parliament from Rajya Sabha from 1986 to 1992.

He retired from the Indian Army in 1973. Lt Gen JFR Jacob has written in his book An Odyssey in War And Peace that Gen. Aurora approached then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for governorship of a state but she declined. Jacob also writes that Gen. and Mrs. Aurora were a regular part of the social life of Calcutta.

In 1984, Aurora fiercely criticised the Indian National Congress leadership following Operation Blue Star, which was an operation by the then government of flushing out armed Sikh militants who had taken up positions inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar but also caused extensive damage to the holiest shrine of Sikhism. Subsequently, he spent several years as a member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha, the upper House of the Indian Parliament, for the Akali Dal, a political party. Aurora was also an active member of the Citizen’s Justice Committee which provided pro bono assistance to Sikh victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.


Jagjit Singh Aurora died on 3 May 2005 in New Delhi at the age of 89.He was cremated at Brar Square in New Delhi with full military honours. He was survived by a son and a daughter. After his death, the gratitude of Bangladesh to General Aurora was emphasized in a message to India, from Morshed Khan, the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister, stating: “Aurora will be remembered in the history of Bangladesh for his contribution during our war of liberation in 1971”. when he led the allied forces.”

The site of the Pakistani surrender, where Lt. Gen. Niazi signed the Instrument of Surrender with Lt. Gen. Aurora on 16 December 1971 has been converted into a national monument Swadhinata Stambha. The main attraction is the glass Stambha which is built on the precise location where the instrument of surrender was signed. The monument also includes an eternal flame, terracotta murals of martyrs and a body of water.

Opinion About

  • In his book, Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation, Lt Gen JFR Jacob wrote that,”During the 1971 operations, Aurora undertook frequent visits to the forward areas but failed to win the confidence of most of the field commanders there. His relations with most of them were like oil and water and he did not build up his subordinate commanders in spite of their successes in battle.”
  • After the Indian Army attacked the Golden Temple at Amritsar, in 1984, Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora raised his voice against Indira Gandhi’s decision and criticized her. Talking about it, he said,”I don’t see a very comfortable period in the coming months in the Punjab. She is a very capable person, and she has great staying power. But she has no warmth. She can be a vicious, cold, calculating person.”After the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Lt General Jagjit Singh joined the Citizen’s Justice Committee and founded the Sikh Forum, aimed at providing justice to the victims of the riots.
  • Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora often voiced his opinion in favour of a better relationship between India and Pakistan.
  • In 1984, Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora published a book titled The Punjab Story, which was based on Operation Bluestar undertaken by the Indian Army.
  • Jagjit Singh Aurora was passionate about golf.
  • After Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora died, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw paid homage to him and gave him the credit for the victory of the Indian forces over Pakistan in the 1971 war. Talking about it, Sam Manekshaw said,

    Jaggi did the work while I got the baton of the Field Marshal.”

  • Following his death in 2005, Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora’s uniform and medals were handed over to the Indian Army.

Awards, Honours, Achievements

  • After the end of the 1971 war, Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora was awarded Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) by the President of India.
  • In 1972, the Indian government awarded Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora with India’s third-highest civilian award the Padma Bhushan.
  • Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora was awarded Bir Protik, Bangladesh’s fourth-highest gallantry award.
  • The Government of Punjab conferred Punjab Rattan Award on Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora after his death.

Dates of rank

Insignia Rank Component Date of rank
British Army OF-1a.svg Second Lieutenant British Indian Army 1 February 1939
British Army OF-1b.svg Lieutenant British Indian Army 30 January 1940
British Army OF-2.svg Captain British Indian Army 22 February 1940 (acting)
5 February 1941 (temporary)
1 May 1942 (war-substantive)
30 January 1946 (substantive)
British Army (1920-1953) OF-3.svg Major British Indian Army 1 February 1942 (acting)
1 May 1942 (temporary)
British Army OF-2.svg Captain Indian Army 15 August 1947
Captain of the Indian Army.svg Captain Indian Army 26 January 1950 (recommissioning and change in insignia)
Major of the Indian Army.svg Major Indian Army 26 February 1950 (temporary)
30 January 1951 (substantive)
Lieutenant Colonel of the Indian Army.svg Lieutenant-Colonel Indian Army 30 January 1952
Colonel of the Indian Army.svg Colonel Indian Army 1 August 1958
Brigadier of the Indian Army.svg Brigadier Indian Army 3 February 1957 (acting)
1962 (substantive)
Major General of the Indian Army.svg Major General Indian Army 21 February 1963 (acting)
20 June 1964 (substantive)
Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.svg Lieutenant-General Indian Army 6 June 1966 (acting)
4 August 1966 (substantive)

Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Fteh

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Nirmal Anand

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