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LIBERATION WAR OF BANGLADESH

BANGLADESH ARMED FORCES IN THE LIBERATION WAR OF 1971

Background
The India Pakistan war of 1971 was the outcome of the liberation war of East Pakistan. Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the relations between the East and West Wings of the country were not amicable. The state created on the ideology of a common religion was divided with inherent linguistic and cultural differences between the two wings, with the centre of power firmly rested in the West. A majority of population living in East Pakistan witnessed disparity in economy, education, employment, representation in politics, besides being viewed as culturally inferior.
The people of East Pakistan saw some hope in the National assembly elections of 1970 when the Awami league party led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman emerged victorious with 167 out of 313 seats. However, despite complete majority, Sheikh Mujib was denied the right to form the government. This led to widespread protests in East Pakistan against the regime. The Pakistani leadership in the West realizing that the situation was getting unmanageable launched a pre-planned genocide code named “Operation Searchlight” at 11:30 PM on 25 March 1971. Amongst the main targets were students of Dhaka University, Sheikh Mujib’s residential area, police personnel, newspaper offices and the civilian population of Dhaka, old Dhaka and neighbouring areas. The military resorted to the use of guns, tanks and artillery in the suppression and arrested Sheikh Mujib.

Declaration of Independence
In the early hours of 26 Mar 71, Sheikh Rahman declared the independence of Bangladesh shortly before offering himself up for arrest. The radio broadcast of his declaration was aired from Chattogram via the then East Pakistan Rifles centre in which he appealed to the people of Bangladesh to resist the occupation Army till it was expelled. Following this, on the same day the Awami League leader, MA Hannan also read the declaration of Independence. Another declaration of independence proclaiming Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the sovereign leader followed a day later on 27 Mar which was read out by Major Ziaur Rahman of the 8th East Bengal Regiment. The announcement called on Governments around the world to hold a referendum on the genocide in Bangladesh.

Sectors during the Liberation War

Crew of Otter Aircraft - 'K' Flight

Formation of the People’s Government of Bangladesh
On 10 Apr 1971, the elected MPs of Awami league who had assembled at Agartala announced the setting up of the “People’s Government of Bangladesh”. The formal swearing in of the Government took place on 17 Apr 71 at Vaidyanath tala of Meherpur sub-division (This was later was renamed as ‘Mujib Nagar’, inspired by Sheikh Mujib). The oath to the ministers was administered by Prof. Yusuf Ali, speaker of the National assembly. In the absence of Bangabandhu (under arrest at Pakistan), Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam assumed office as the acting president, with Col MAG Osmani appointed as the C-in-C of the Armed Forces .

Mukti Youdh and the Formation of Muktibahini
The Mukti Youdh was the “people’s war”, which saw participation from seven crore Bengalis. The elected government led the nine month war, assumed responsibility of approx one crore refugees along with Mukti Bahini’s basic training with arms and ammunition, essential supplies, food and medical care. During this period, more than one crore Bengalis fled Bangladesh for India, escaping torture and harassment by Pakistani forces. The Indian Government supported the Bangladeshi government, and came forward to help the refugees. The Government formed in April 71 was organised into four regions under military commanders for smooth administrative control:-
Chattogram Region- Maj Ziaur Rahman
Kumilla Region- Maj Khaled Mosharraf
Sylhet Region- Maj KM Saifullah
South West Region- Maj Abu Osman Choudhury

'K' Flight

Aloutte - 3 of 'K' - Flight

Brigade Organisation and Operations
From 10-17 Jul 71, in a cabinet meeting of the provisional Government, the liberation war was structured by dividing Bangladesh into 11 war zones/ sectors and organization of Bangladeshi regular forces to operate as compact Guerrilla groups. Later three regular Infantry Brigades, the ‘Z’, ‘K’ and ‘S’ force were raised to fight conventional battles.
The Z force commanded by Lt Col Ziaur Rahman comprised of 1, 3 & 8 East Bengal Regiments, 2 Field Battery artillery & 01 Signal Company. The Z force fought remarkable battles operating in Moimansingh, Jamalpur, Sherpur, Bowmari, Sylhet, Sunamganj & Moulvibazar areas.Some remarkable operation sof the Z force qare the Kamalpur battle, Bahadurabad Ghat operation, Deoewanganj Police station attack, Nakshi attack, Chillimari battle, Hazipara battle, Chotokhal, Goainghat, Tengratila, Gobindoganj, Lamakazi, Salutikar airport, Dholai Dhamai tea garden, Zakiganj, Ali maidan, Sylhet MC College, Bhanigacha, Kanaighat, Fultola tea ghat, Borolekha, Latu, Sagarnal tea garden, Chatk and Radhanagar.
The K force, formed in Sep 71 comprised of 4, 9 & 10 East Bengal regiments, 1 Field Battery and one Signal Company. Amongst the remarkable battles of this force are Kumilla city battle, Chailatha battle, Noakhali battle, Kasba battle, Barchargram battle, Miyabazar battle, Gazipur battle, Feni, Chattogram and Mainamati capture.
The S Force formed in Oct 71, comprised of 2 & 11 East Bengal Regiments. The force has to its credit, remarkable victories in the Bamutiya operation, ,ukundapur operation, Brahmanbariya battle, Bhairab and and Bilonia battles.

Muktibahini headquarters
Around 131 officers had resigned from Pakistani Armed Forces and joined the Muktibahini. Col MAG Osmani was appointed the Chief of Muktibahini, Col Abdur Rab the Chief of the Army Staff, Gp Capt AN Khandekar the head of Air Staff and Maj Samsul Alam, the Director General Medical services.

Otter Aircraft of 'K' - Flight

'Mukti Bahini' in Bangladeshi News paper during the Liberation War

Air Force in Mukti War & The Kilo Flight
By Sep 1971, around 35 officers and cadets and 500 Airmen resigned from Pakistan Air Force to join the Mukti forces. It was largely possible due to their zeal and sincerity that the Air Wing of the Liberation war came into existence. The journey of Bangladesh Air Force started in Sep 1971, with the formation of The Kilo Flight with a DC-3, an Otter and an Alouette-3 helicopter given by the Indian Government to the Bangladesh Government. To maintain secrecy, the existence of the flight was known to only a few high ranking officials,. A World War II airfield in Dimapur, Nagaland, was also permitted for use by the Kilo flight. The flight had a total of 58 air warriors, with Sqn Ldr Sultan Mahmud appointed as the Flight Commander, and Gp Capt AK Khandekar in charge as the Chief of Air Staff. It was also during the liberation war, that another “son of the soil” Flt Lt Matiur Rahman sacrificed his life for his motherland. The officer was fleeing Pakistan in a T-33 aircraft to join the war, and crashed a few kilometers from the Indian border at Thatta. The officer was awarded the highest state title “Beershreshto”. BAF Base Jessore was subsequently named after him.
The ‘Kilo flight’ was trained rigorously and successfully undertook 50 operations in Dhaka, Chattogram and Lalmonirhat areas. On 15 & 16 Oct, the Kilo flight saw operations in Mogalhat and Lalmonirhat/Thakurgao areas. 21 Nov 71 saw ops in Chaugachha. From 03 to 11 Dec 71, the Kilo flight undertook aerial attacks at Godhnalai, Pategaon, Sylhet, Jamalpur, Meghna River and Narsinghadi.

Bangladesh Navy in Mukti War
The nucleus of Bangladesh Navy was formed in Jun-Jul 71 when officers and sailors defected from West Pakistan. This included those who defected to Bangladesh while undergoing submarine training at Toulon, France and formed the Naval Commando force. Two Gunboats, Padma and Palash, given by India and 49 sailors formed the nascent Bangladesh Navy. In Nov 1971, Padma and Palash carried out mining in Zulfiquar channel destroying four Pakistani merchant ships and one Patrol craft.
One of the first operations undertaken by the Naval Commando force was ‘Operation Jackpot’, on limpet mines in Chittagong and Mongla maritime ports, which destroyed 26 enemy ships and neutralized sea routes. Amongst the remarkable naval operations are the attacks on Mines at Hiran Port (10 Nov 71), destruction of US & UK ships (12 Nov 71), attack on Chalna Dock (22 Nov 71), Chattogram naval ops (05 Dec 71), Pakistan Naval Centre PNS Titumir Operation (10 Dec 71). For the sacrifice and valour of the sailors, Engine Room Artificer Ruhul Amin was honoured with the title “Beershreshto”. There were five Bir Uttam, eight Bir Bikram and seven Bir Pratik titles bestowed on the Bangladesh Navy.

A photograph featured in Bangaladeshi Newspaper showing the Mukti Bahini.

'BNS Padama' and 'BNS Palash' 

Victory Planning- The Final Combined Attack
By October 71, persistent Muktibahini attacks had forced the Pakistani Forces to shift to Military camps or large cities from border outposts. By this time the Muktibahini had freed almost 80 % of the area. In early Nov 71, Muktibahini and Indian Forces came together as a combined force.
India was attacked by Pakistan on 03 Dec 71 and this changed the whole war scenario. On 06 Dec 71, India acknowledged Bangladesh as a free and sovereign country, which boosted the morale of the Muktibahini. The final battle saw the combined ground forces headquartered at Fort William, Kolkata in Eastern Command, India. The war saw many Indian officers, soldiers, sailors and airmen make the supreme sacrifice.
On 16 Dec 71 at 1630hrs, 93,000 Pakistani forces surrendered without any conditions at Dhaka’s race course grounds (Now Suhrawardy Udyan). The instrument of surrender was signed by Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora, GOC-in-C Eastern Command and Lt Gen AK Niazi, C-in-C Eastern Pakistan. In the surrender ceremony, Vice Chief of Armed Forces and Air Force Gp Capt AK Khandekar represented the Bangladesh Government. Muktibahini leaders, S Force Commander Lt Col KM Safiullah, Additional Commander Major TM Haider, and Commander of Tangail Muktibahini Mr Kader Siddiqui were amongst those present at the ceremony. 16 Dec is commemorated as “Bijoy Dibos” in Bangladesh every year, to mark the liberation day of the country.

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