India will celebrate the fifth Armed Forces Veterans Day on January 14. Celebrated since 2017, Armed Forces Veteran Day is observed in the memory of Field Marshal KM Cariappa, who was the first Commander-in-chief of the Indian Armed Forces. According to the Ministry of Defence, “Since 2017, Armed Forces Veterans Day is observed each year on 14th January as a mark of respect and recognition of the services rendered by Field Marshal KM Cariappa OBE – the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces who retired on 14 Jan 53. “
Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa was independent India’s first Commander-in-Chief who took over from British General Roy Butcher on 15th January 1949. In his time, Cariappa was one of only two five-star Generals. Cariappa is also known for leading the Indian forces during the India-Pakistan War of 1947. He played a crucial role in the recapture of Drass, Kargil and Zojila.
His legacy goes far beyond these feats though. Cariappa is also recognized for never taking interest in politics and making efforts to enhance inclusivity. He ensured inclusivity by not indulging in caste, creed and other social barriers when it came to recruitment.
Cariappa is also known for considering each and every individual of the Indian Army as his own son. In 1965, Pakistan captured his son, who was an air officer and offered to release him. But Cariappa showing grit refused Pakistan’s offer saying all soldiers were his son.
Field Marshal KM Cariappa passed away in 1993 at the age of 94. Past his passing, there have been several demands from army leaders to centre to award Cariappa the Bharat Ratna. According to historian and national security analyst Mandeep Singh Bajwa, “He (Cariappa) accepted pay and ration cuts for the forces because he felt that it would help the cause of nation-building.”
Every year, Armed Forces Veterans Day is celebrated on January 14, marking the date on which KM Cariappa took retirement. It is also a day that gives every Indian citizen an opportunity to pay respect and recognize the sacrifice of Indian army veterans.