An exceptional and sensitive officer (1923-2016)
PGeneral Krishna Rao was born on 16 July 1923, and was educated in Maharaja’s College, Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. He completed his military training at Officers Training School, Bangalore, and was commissioned into 2 Mahar on 9 August 1942. For a short while, the unit was employed on internal security duties at Nagpur during the Quit India Movement. During the Second World War, he served in the North West Frontier, Baluchistan, and Burma.
After the war, he was selected for a permanent commission as well as for the civil service. He opted for the Army. He took part in the 1947-48 War in Jammu & Kashmir (J & K). He attended Defence Services Staff College, commanded 3 Mahar, and was posted as instructor at the Staff College in March 1963. In 1967, he was selected for studies at the Imperial Defence College in UK. He took over command of 26 Infantry Division in 1969.
He had just completed about a year in this job when he was shifted to 8 Mountain Division in Nagaland in September 1970. The situation in Nagaland and Manipur had deteriorated, and the Army Chief had specially selected him for this task. The rebel Naga groups fighting for independence were getting arms aid from Pakistan and China. The security forces were compelled to act against the underground movement. Gen Krishna Rao improved the intelligence system and ensured that the local population was not alienated. Any allegations of excess by troops was investigated and action taken when necessary. This ensured good relations with the locals and the state government.
In the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the Division secured Sylhet. The Pakistani troops fought hard, but were pushed back. They offered to surrender on 16 December and were assured treatment as per Geneva Convention. They were apprehensive of revenge attacks by Mukti Bahini soldiers and were allowed to keep their arms till the Indian troops were available in strength to ensure their safety. The Division received orders to move back to Nagaland in January, General Krishna Rao was awarded PVSM for outstanding leadership, courage, determination and drive. On his return to Nagaland, General Krishna Rao took the initiative to reach out to the hostile force and a meeting was held with the underground “Home Minister Subeto.” The meeting scheduled for thirty minutes went on for four hours. He left on posting to Shimla in end May 1972, and subsequently an agreement did materialise with the hostile party.
He was appointed as Chief of Army Staff on 1 June 1981, and met Prime Minister (PM) Indira Gandhi regularly, and put across his views frankly. She consulted him on various issues concerning internal security. He found that the threat had been underestimated in some sectors and updated the operational plans. He retired on 31 July 1983. His services were warmly recognised by the PM who wanted him to stay on in Delhi as advisor. But he retired to his home in Hyderabad and declined job offers from the CM of Andhra Pradesh and a few companies. He accepted the offer of an assignment as Governor of Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura in June 1984.
The area was beset with secessionist movements, insurgency, political instability and ineffective administration. At one stage President’s Rule had to be imposed in Nagaland. He took steps to tone up the administration, visited all the districts and reached out to the political leaders.
The PM then invited him to take over governorship of J & K. Insurgency had broken out there. He was sworn in as Governor of J & K on 11 July 1989. Vested interests made false allegations against him in that he favoured the Congress. V.P. Singh had taken over as PM and he offered his resignation which was accepted on 18 January 1990. When a proxy war developed in J & K and reached its peak, he was reappointed as Governor and served there from 12 March 1993 to 1 May 1998. In this capacity, he was instrumental in restoring peace and democracy in the insurgency-driven state after a long gap of seven years. Krishna Rao passed away on 30 January 2016 in New Delhi.