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War of 1971


Bangladesh is free at last! Dhaka is the free capital of free Bangladesh!

It is the 16th day of 1971 - an extraordinary day for the people of Bangladesh. The dawn of this great day marked the history of ultimate victory for the people of Bangladesh.

After a most tragic and traumatic experience of 9 months, people of Bangladesh found their most cherished dream - a free Bangladesh, to be a reality.

With the news of the surrender of brutal Pakistani's, spreading like wild fire, jubilant crowds poured into the streets. There were spontaneous eruptions of joy and celebration.

Freedom-fighters and freedom-loving
people advancing towards Dhaka.
The Bengalis danced on the streets, on the roots of trucks and buses, even on the tanks of allied force Indian Army. They shouted independence slogans - "Joy Bangla" (long live Bangladesh) in the streets. They emerged from their hornes waving the red-green and gold flags of Bangladesh they had concealed for so long, they embraced, they cheered, they rejoiced.

Bangladesh was born of a dream twice deferred. Twenty-four years ago, Bengalis voted to join the new nation of Pakistan, which had been carved out of British India... Before long, religious unity disintegrated into racial and regional bigotry as the autocratic Muslims of West Pakistan systematically exploited their Bengali brethren in the east. One year ago last week, the Bengalis thronged the polls in Pakistan's first free nationwide elections, only to see their overwhelming mandate to Mujib brutally reversed by West Pakistani soldiers.

The crackdown took a terrible toll: perhaps 1,000,000 dead; 10 million refugees, untold thousands homeless, hungry and sick. And so at weeks end, the streams of refugees who walked so long and so far to get to India began making the long journey back home to pick up the threads of their lives. For some, there were happy reunions with relatives and friends, for others tears and the bitter sense of loss for those who will never return.

But, there were new homes to be raised, new shrines to be built, and a new nation to be formed. The land was there too, lush and green.

(The TIME Magazine, USA, December 20, 1971)

Dacca, December 16 - Indian army troops entered Dacca today to the cheers of thousands of Bengalis shouting "Jai Bangla" (Victory for Bengal).

The composite force of Indian troops and East Pakistani guerrillas, commanded by Major General Gandharv Naagra, assaulted a bridge on Dacca's outskirts in the early morning and then received word that the Pakistani command here had accepted India's ultimatum to surrender.

Naagra said he sent a note across town to the Pakistani military headquarters at about 8:30 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Wednesday EST) and received an immediate reply that there would be no further Pakistani resistance. He then entered the city with his men.

He met with Pakistan's commander here, Lt. General A A K Niazi, about 10 a.m. "We are old friends", Naagra said, "from college days".

The Indian General then went to Dacca airport to await the arrival of the Chief of Staff of India's Eastern Command, Major General J F R Jacob, who came by helicopter from his Calcutta headquarters.

At the airport, the General, with only three Indian soldiers nearby, stood twirling his rough-wood walking stick, while the Pakistani airport defense units grouped at the far end of the runway to move to their surrender point.

Armed Pakistani soldiers far outnumbered Indians in the streets for several hours, and there was sporadic shooting. Several Indians and Pakistanis were killed, including an Indian officer shot outside the Intercontinental Hotel.

Mukti Bahini men - Members of East Pakistan's liberation army - mingled with civilians in the happy crowds and fired their rifles in the air.

Naagra sent Brigadier H S Kler, Commander of the 95th Mountain Brigade, to the Intercontinental Hotel, a neutral zone under Red Cross auspices, to attempt to protect foreigners and the former civilian government of East Pakistan, which has taken refuge there.

Kler's car was repeatedly mobbed by Bengalis as he moved through the streets. At one point, the crowd tried to yank his driver out of the car and Kler stepped out, only to have Bengalis throw themselves around his neck while one pressed a bunch of marigolds into his bands.

"Thank you, thank you", the Bengalis yelled at him.

Naagra and Kler fought their way into Dacca from the north after crossing the Pakistani border on the morning of December 4 with slightly more than two brigades.

They covered 160 - partly by bullock-drawn cart and foot - fighting at every town.

"We were relying on you to get us home for Christmas", a reporter told Naagra at the airport. "Well, we have done it", the General replied.

Naagra Said that the road into Dacca down which he came was littered with the bodies of Pakistani soldiers. "It was pathetic", he said, "we could not bury them. We did not have time."

"We were cheered all the way", Naagra continued, "At Mymensingh, all my patches and badges were snatched off by the crowds."

"I hope everything is peaceful and quiet", Jacob said, "We have given our guarantee that the soldiers and West Pakistanis will be protected, and we mean to keep it."

About eight Bengalis rushed through the airport gate onto the runway to greet Jacob. "May I shake your hand" they asked one after another. "They have killed us like rats for nine months', one told Jacob, referring to the Pakistani army.

Turning to a reporter, the Bengali asked: "What country are you from?" "America", the reporter replied.

December 16,1971 : A pre-surrender sceneof the defeated Pak Army at the historic Race Course Maidan (Suhrawardy Uddyan). In the picture along with others are Lt. General Jaggit Singh Aurora, Commander of the Allied Force, Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, Commander of Pakistan Army and Major Haider of the Bangladesh Liberation Force.

Dacca, Pakistan, December 16, Shouting "Joi Bangla!" and waving the Bangladesh flag, Indian troops in trucks and buses poured into the Pakistani military camp north of town today just after the Pakistanis had accepted an ultimatum to surrender.

Indian soldiers with marigolds in their gun barrels passed armed Pakistani soldiers in great traffic jams within the camp. Pakistani officers saluted Indian officers. Officers of both armies, many of whom attended the same schools under the British, shook hands and asked about mutual friends.

In Dacca itself, there were spontaneous eruptions of joy and celebration in the streets. Bengalis kissed Indian Pubjabai soldiers, tossing flowers at them and at the rebels who accompanied them. Most of the soldiers looked exhausted and bleak-eyed.

Pictures of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was the Awami League leader until he was imprisoned in West Pakistan in March, were hoisted above cars. Bengalis surrounded them, shouting "Joi Bangla" (Victory of Bangla) and "Sheikh Mujib".

One rebel leader, trying to stop Bengali mobs from seeking revenge on West Pakistanis and Bihari Moslems who co-operated with the Pakistani Army, reportedly said: ......"Now they are our prisoners, but unlike them, we must be civilized".

Ten minutes before the time limit given by the Indian Commander to the Pakistani army here to surrender to prevent the destruction of the city, word was flashed through United Nations radio channels that the Pakistani second in command, Major General Rao Farman Ali, had accepted the ultimatum.

United Nations officials, who feared that the city would be destroyed, drove to the military cantonment just north of town and found commanders there unable to get word to the Indians of their decision. Word was immediately relayed through walkie-talkie to United Nations headquarters here for urgent transmission. Minutes later, the first Indian Army officers arrived to announce the surrender decision through their channels.

The surrender arrangement were first discussed at talks held in the cantonment in the afternoon. But two Indian Generals had arrived there earlier, Major General Gandharv Naagra and Brigadier General Hardev S. Kler, who led the assault from the north on the city.

At 3 p.m., the Indian officers said the cease-fire would become permanent, but there was sporadic shooting in the city. Some artillery shells fell on the Pakistan fortifications in the early morning after their commander had accepted the surrender ultimatum. Major General J F R Jacob, Chief of Staff of India's Eastern Command, sent a message expressing regret that some of his units had not received the cease-fire orders, according to Brigadier General Baquir Siddiqui, Chief of Staff for the Pakistani Eastern Command.

General Kler praised the Pakistani army, saying, "They fought well, but they didn't hold out to the last man - that's good".

(James P. Sterra in THE NEW YORK TIMES - December 17, 1971)

Even if they manage to reach the sea, the fleeing Pakistanis and their wives and children will have swim, if they go any farther. For the Indian Navy is waiting for them there and the Indian Air Force, which has undisputed control of the air, is having a field day shooting up Pakistani shipping.

Isolated by land, sea and air, under attack from all directions, and harassed by vengeful East Bengalis, the 60,000 West Pakistani troops in the East face the choice of surrender or death.

With the fall of Jessore in the West and Comilla in the East, two of their principal strong-points, it was doubtful if the Pakistanis will even make a fight for Dacca, the capital and apex of their triangular defense line.

Indian army officers, who seemed almost embarrassed by the ease with which they vanquished the supposedly fierce Pakistani fighters, said they were pursuing the enemy with deliberate slowness.

"We keep urging them to surrender", said Major Sabhu Singh, an artillery officer. "They haven't a chance anyway: And we are refraining from using our air because of the women and children.

The dark-skinned Bengalis lined the roadside to welcome the advancing Indian troops and shouted "Hail Bangladesh", their self-proclaimed new nation which has been recognized by New Delhi.

At one point along the road between Jessore and Khulna, the Bengalis danced around the bodies of a dozen slain Pakistani soldiers and shouted "Hail ...
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