Eulogy: Farewell to the General who had a special Aura Around him

Sub Title : Lt Gen Ajai Singh, a distinguished General officer and former Governor of Assam

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 3 Jul – Aug 2023

Author : Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh, Vsm (Retd)

Page No. : 64

Category : Regular Features

: August 2, 2023

The esteemed Lieutenant General Ajai Singh, PVSM, AVSM, took his last breath at the RR Hospital, Delhi Cantt on 17 April. This veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars was an exceptionally brilliant officer, rewarded with the Sword of Honour at the Indian Military Academy in June 1956. Commissioned into the Poona Horse, he held an illustrious and distinguished career in the Army, in addition to serving as the Governor of Assam from 2003 to 2008.

Born on 20 November 1934, he was a proud member of the Kunadi family of the erstwhile Kotah State in Rajasthan. Having received his education at Mayo College, he leaves behind his wife Mrs Krishna Singh, son Sajai and daughter Shambhavi.

He exhibited commendable service with the Poona Horse in the Shakargarh Sector during the ‘Battle of Phillora’ in 1965, and the 1971 Operations. Here he led his Centurion’s with exemplary valor, breaching Pakistani defences for which he was ‘Mentioned-in-Despatches’. In the ‘Battle of Basantar’, he was the Second in Command to Lieutenant Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Hanut Singh. When Charlie Squadron Commander Major (later Lieutenant General) Moti Dar was wounded, he spearheaded the troops across an uncleared minefield, a daring move now etched in military history. Known as the ‘Hand of Allah’, this operation saw all tanks navigate the un-breached minefield without a single mishap. The subsequent day witnessed a strong counterattack by 31 Cavalry, which was successfully thwarted, destroying eighteen enemy tanks.

Post the 1965 War, he, along with Brigadier (later Lieutenant General) KK Singh, proceeded to Czechoslovakia to examine the capabilities of the T-54.

An officer, commissioned under his command, fondly remembers his confidence in delegating responsibility, trusting implicitly in his subordinates’ ability to deliver results. He encapsulated the enduring tradition of Regimental Spirit during the Bicentenary Celebrations in 2017, stating, “We pledge to uphold the Poona Horse spirit, an intangible compilation of numerous qualities that defy description but resonate within every Poona Horseman, guiding and sustaining him in times of peace and war.”

He headed the famed ‘Black Charger’ Armoured Brigade at Ambala from 1980 to ’82, post which he attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. Upon return, he served as the Brigadier General Staff of 1 Corps during a significant exercise to validate the operational concepts of the Armoured Division newly equipped with T-72 tanks. In addition, he was the Additional Director General, Weapons and Equipment, at Army Headquarters during the induction of Bofors. He then took command of the 31 Armoured Division at Jhansi from 1987 to 1989. He presided as the Director General, Mechanised Forces, before commanding 4 Corps, at Tezpur, Assam from 1990 to ’92, playing a key role in Operation Rhino. Post this, he served as Director General, Combat Vehicles (DGCV), and on retirement, was appointed as CCR&D in DRDO from 1993 to ’95, overseeing the ‘Arjun’ Project.

Lieutenant General Dilip N Desai quoted, “one encounters a person such as General Ajai Singh only rarely. I was fortunate to have served as a CO under his command of the 31 Armoured Division. A magnanimous individual, he was always ready to experiment with new procedures, and was fun-loving, generous, and helpful.”

In November 2022, while launching the book ‘Armour 71’, he highlighted the necessity of precise military strategy, captivating the audience with his enlightening remarks.

Such individuals as him are indeed a rarity, and he leaves behind an enriching legacy. His contributions to the Army and the nation have been substantial. Anyone who interacted with him undoubtedly has a story to share. He possessed a unique ability to connect with people, and his professional and personal qualities are challenging to match. A towering figure, he emanated an aura and charisma that left a profound and indelible impression. He was undeniably larger than life.