By MAJOR R K SHARMA (RETD) :
FLASHBACK TO ‘DECADE OF WARS’ (1962-1971) is replete with three COMPREHENSIVE WARS namely (1) 1962, Chinese intrusion into Indian territory, (2) 1965, IndiaPakistan war (3) 1971, Bangladesh war. While the first two were out & out ‘Territory grabbing’ misdeeds of China and Pakistan respectively, the third one was quite distinct with different characteristics. It was indeed a people’s war with a mission and ambition for liberation of their homeland. Let us ponder over the anatomical details of the 1971 war that led to the formation of Bangladesh.
H atred is in the very DNA of Pakistan. While its hatred for India is very well known, its virus of hatred did not spare even their own brother citizens in East Pakistan. Although the population of West Pakistan and East Pakistan were close to equal, political power was concentrated in West Pakistan and it was widely perceived that East Pakistan was being exploited economically, leading to many grievances. The elite of West Pakistan always wanted to keep crown of power of Pakistan with them and citizens of East Pakistan were always frowned, suppressed and treated as second class citizens. Declaration of Urdu as official language of Pakistan further hurt and injured feelings of citizens of East Pakistan’s love for their mother tongue Bengali. A big upheaval took place on March 25, 1971, when East Pakistan’s Sheikh Mujibur Rahmans’s party (Awami League) won majority seats in elections of Pakistan. Thus they became eligible to form Government in Pakistan which reality was ignored by the Ruling establishment of West Pakistan.
This showdown did not go well down the throat of elite of West Pakistan who had been governing Pakistan for all those years and had started taking it as their Birth right. This partisan attitude resulted in arousing political discontent and cultural nationalism in East Pakistan. Everywhere there were people’s vociferous protests and agitation against ruling elite of West Pakistan. To suppress their upsurge, Pakistan’s President Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan ordered Pakistani military to be brutal, use oppressive methods to restore Pakistan Government’s authority. This violent crackdown by Pakistan Army led to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declaring East Pakistan’s independence as the state of Bangladesh on 26th March, 1971. This resulted in lawlessness and agitations & protests all over and took shape of civil war. Pakistan’s President Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan ordered the Pakistani military to go all out to contain and suppress this movement. Life of people of East Pakistan became very miserable and they could no more bear Army’s atrocities.
Survival of Bengali people of East Pakistan was under threat. They were no more prepared to tolerate any more suppression of their Liberty, Rights & Freedom. Severest of severest crackdown by Pakistan Army upon the masses put them under psycho fear of threat and risk to their lives and they started looking for alternative shelters. Resultantly, about ten millions of Bengalis fled into the eastern provinces of India by crossing the border. This unending flow of refugees posed colossal problems and challenges for India. Administrative, Law and order issues and Humanistic aspects were involved. After delving into the matter in a wholesome way, Indian Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi concluded that instead of taking millions of refugees India would be economically better off going to war against Pakistan. Hostile relations in the past between India and Pakistan added to India’s decision to intervene in Pakistan’s Civil war. India started actively aiding and organising the Bangladesh resistance Army known as the “Mukti Bahini.”
YOUTH TRAINING CAMPS To harness the potential of youth amongst refugees, it was planned to impart them Mukti Fauj training for which specific camps were designated. These were residential camps where they were imparted knowledge & training in Field Craft, Battle Techniques, Security, Vigilance, Updating about various Arms, Armaments, Artillery, Tanks used in wars. These trained individuals were utilised as Gureillas, Scouts to accompany the Army, Para Military Contingents advancing into Bangladesh territory during war operations. Being natives, they could be of immense assistance in sharing information about topography and specifics about local areas. The training staffs, instructors were picked up from amongst East Pakistan’s Police, and Para Forces personnel who had crossed over to India as refugees. Political leaders Viz. member of Parliament, MLAs who had crossed over to India, were also assigned to different youth camps to assist the Camp administrator for verification of cadet’s antecedents and keeping the whole flock united and disciplined. Most important aspect was to keep the youth focussed for their ultimate objective of attaining Liberation of Bangladesh. As Administrator of a Camp I was overall incharge responsible for execution of all aspects and prime objective of imparting training and sustaining their motivational levels. I was one of the Army background executive selected by Government of India for shouldering this critical and important assignment as Administrator of a camp. Camps were designed to capacity of 1000 inmates at a time. From my camp after training of these individuals, we were able to induct about 3000 Guerillas alongwith advancing Contingents. While all inmates of the Camp were from (now) Bangladesh, I was the only Indian amongst them. The ‘Mukti Bahini’ succeeded in harassing Pakistani Military in East Pakistan thus creating conditions conducive for a full scale Indian Military Intervention in early December, 1971. MARCH
TOWARDS VICTORY What happened during those historic thirteen days (night of December 2-3 to December 16, 1971) when Dhaka fell with biggest surrender of 93,000 Prisoners of War by East Pakistan’s Military Commander General AAK Niazi before Lt. General Jagjit Singh Arora, Commander in Chief of India’s Coordinated Campaign of our Defence Forces comprising Army, Air force and Navy with active participation of Mukti Bahini of Bangladesh Freedom Fighters, is now part of History written in golden words with every alphabet chanting songs of praise, Valour and Bravery of our Defence Forces, under the able dedicated Command, detailed planning and perfect execution of the Top Brass of our Three Services. Our magnificent credit is also due to the astute Political leadership of our Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandi deciding to take such a courageous and bold decision.
REPATRIATION OF REFUGEES After logging this great Victory, the mission of Liberation of Homeland had another equally important task at hand of repatriation of Bangladesh refugees who had crossed over to India, to their “Sonar Bangla” Homeland. This task indeed required Logistical planning, Resources, Administrative acumen and meticulous execution. Every care was taken to repatriate these refugees happily and smilingly to their Independent Bangladesh. This critical responsibility was executed under the aegis of Directorate General of Refugees, Govt of India, at Kolkata. I feel privileged for being given this opportunity to contribute my services as a Deputy Director in this Outfit for such a Noble cause.
50th ANNIVERSARY OF VICTORY CELEBRATIONS On December 16, 2020, India started 50th Anniversary Celebrations of this historic occasion to showcase this great victory of Indian Armed Forces. Now when we are in the midst of celebrating Swarnim Vijay Varsh, Golden Jubilee year to hale the decisive and historic victory of Indian Armed Forces over Pakistani Army in December 1971, definitely it has exhorted me to share my humble contributions in this Great War effort which led to creation of Bangladesh and also largest Military surrender by Pakistan Army after World War II. Victory Flame Swarnim Vijay Varsh Victory is being carried to various regions of our country to commemorate Indian Armed Forces’ triumph over Pakistani Military which is an unparalleled achievement in History and it had led to creation of Bangladesh.