hi INDiA Copyright 2022
New Delhi, June 25
As personal staff to Presidents, Aides-de-Camp (ADCs), the regally dressed military officers at the forefront of Rashtrapati Bhavan events, have witnessed history being made but never talked about it.
On Saturday, however, 60 ADCs and their families, representing all past presidents, poured their hearts out at the third reunion the President House hosted for them after late Pranab Mukherjee started the tradition in 2014.
My husband taught me and my three daughters to be fiercely independent.
Among attendees was Atasi Roy, 86, the wife of Cdr Hari Mohan Roy, ADC to both C Rajagopalachari, India’s last Governor General and Rajendra Prasad, the first President; Brig Bikram Chand Rana (retd) of Dogra Regiment, the only ADC from the medical category to serve a President (Neelam Sanjiva Reddy); Wg Cdr B Ramesh, ADC on duty with President R Venkataraman the day Rajiv Gandhi, then PM, was assassinated, and Lt Col Sanjiv Bhatty, Shaurya Chakra and Sena Medal awardee, and aide to R Venkataraman and Shankar Dayal Sharma.
In exclusive conversations with The Tribune, former ADCs shared slices of history. Brig Rana, war-wounded and decorated for 1971, recalled how his file, a medical category case, never reached the President at first, and came back.
“The legendary Gen Inder Gill, then commander of Western Command, Shimla, was livid and told officers to send the file up and let the President decide. Gen Gill said it would be the President’s honour if a decorated soldier served him. I was selected,” Brig Rana said.
He narrated a remarkable event from his time. “Mrs Indira Gandhi had returned to power in 1980. All seating arrangements for swearing-in were in place at the Darbar Hall. A night before the event, PM’s son Rajiv Gandhi and personal secretary RK Dhawan came to the Rashtrapati Bhavan requesting President Sanjiva Reddy’s permission to change the arrangements as these were not in accordance with astrology and Vaastu,” Brig Rana reminisced.
The task of convincing the President for overnight alterations fell on Brigadier Rana who succeeded. “Rajiv Gandhi was profusely thankful and shook my hand at least ten times,” Brig Rana, who also commanded the Brigade at Kasauli, said. He recalled with pride the confidence with which then PM Morarji Desai engaged the visiting US President Jimmy Carter whose “blunt message on nuclear ambitions” failed to get India to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“I remember PM Desai putting his hand over Jimmy Carter’s shoulder ahead of a civic reception at the Red Fort and telling him ndash; dear President, you are not even as old as my son,” Brig Rana recalled smilingly.
B Ramesh spoke of how a mob prevented President R Venkataraman’s convoy from entering the PM’s residence the night Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur. “The President had gone to pay condolences. The protesters blocked the convoy saying the President was a Tamilian and they wouldn’t let him enter. We had to return,” Ramesh said while Lt Col Bhatty, among five ADCs at the time, broke the news of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination to R Venkataraman.
B Ramesh and Brig Rana fondly mentioned how they were both permitted by the Presidents to get married. “ADCs can’t marry except with the President’s permission. President Shankar Dayal Sharma graced my wedding,” said Wg Cdr Ramesh as ADCs were struck by nostalgia.
Atasi Roy, for her part, said she was a proud naval wife. “My husband was a Bengali domiciled in UP. He taught me and my three daughters to be fiercely independent. I am on my own, even at 86,” she smiled.
The British time tradition of ADCs with the Viceroys continued in independent India. Young officers from all the three Services are selected for the coveted ADC appointment after a stringent selection procedure. At any given point the President has five ADCs (three from the Army and one each from the Navy and the IAF). As of today 148 ADCs, including five with incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind, have been appointed.
Some ADCs have risen to high ranks such as Chief of Naval staff Admiral OS Dawson and the Chief Of Air staffAir Chief Marshal L M Katre.