The Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) included many other battles (Battle of Bogra, Battle of Basantar, Operation Trident and Python etc) in which hundreds of people lost their lives. Let us delve into these small battles that created a big impact on the Bangladeshi society.
Operation Trident and Python
Operation Trident and its follow-up Operation Python, were the Indian naval offensive operations launched on Pakistan’s port city of Karachi by the Indian Navy during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Wikipedia says, Operation Trident resulted in the first use of anti-ship missiles in combat in the region.
The operation was conducted on the night of 4/5 December inflicting heavy damages on the Pakistani side. While India suffered no losses, Pakistan lost one minesweeper, a destroyer, a cargo vessel carrying ammunition, and fuel storage tanks in Karachi. Another destroyer was also badly damaged and eventually scrapped. India celebrates its Navy Day annually on 4 December to mark this operation.
On December 4, 1971, Operation Trident and Operation Python by the Indian Navy were launched on Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. The first anti-ship missiles for combat were used in this region. The operation was conducted on the night of 4/5 December inflicting heavy damages on the Pakistani side.
Pakistan lost one minesweeper, one destroyer, cargo vessel carrying ammunition and fuel storage tanks in Karachi. Most of Pakistan’s oil reserves and ammunition was destroyed. Pakistani Navy decided to withdraw all naval surface ships to harbor.
After the first attack during Operation Trident on Karachi port, Pakistan stepped up aerial surveillance of its coast and the presence of large Indian Navy ships gave the impression that another attack was being planned. Pakistan warships attempted to outsmart the Indian Navy by mingling with merchant shipping. To counter these moves, Operation Python was launched on the night on 8/9 December 1971.
Battle of Bogra
Bogra is a district and city in Rajshahi division in northern Bangladesh. Bogra is now an industrial city and nerve centre of north Bangladesh, also referred to as the gateway to north Bengal. It is located at an important nodal point and forms a connection between the North and South of East Bengal (Now Bangladesh).
The battle of Bogra started on November 30, 1971 and lasted till December 18, 1971 though the Pakistan Army had surrendered two days earlier. It was also the site of one of the most pitched battles in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War for the liberation of Bangladesh. The Battle of Bogra is often considered an extension of the hard-fought and famous Battle of Hilli, which started with the attack on Hilli, a border village, 60 km as the crow flies northwest of Bogra, on November 23, 1971.
Pakistan had anticipated an Indian onslaught on Bogra and had thus fortified their defense positions.The Indian troops were commanded by Major General Lachhman Singh, who in all had nearly 20,000 troops as well as the Indian Air Force with complete air superiority.
As Ganapathy Vanchinathan wrote, “The battle of Bogra was a significant achievement of the Pakistan Army as unlike at other places in the East the Pakistan army where the Indian Army just over ran the Pakistan army. Here, they were with great determination. The causalities on the Indian side were heavy and at the end of the war the Indian Army sent a fact finding mission to study how Brig Malik could hold out against such a superior force equipped with Armor and artillery.”
Battle of Boyra
The Battle of Boyra, on November 22, 1971, was an aerial interception fought between the Indian Air Force and intruding Pak Air Force jets that had crossed into Indian Airspace. It was in this battle that Major Dalljit Singh Narang laid down his life in the highest tradition of the Indian Army.
Battle of Basantar
The Battle of Basantar or the Battle of Barapind was one of the vital battles fought as part of the Indo-Pak War of 1971 in the western sector of India. The Indian troops won a hard fought battle that secured this area in the Punjab or Jammu-Kashmir sector. The name Battle of Basantar actually encompasses the entire gamut of battles and skirmishes fought in the Shakargarh sector.
As wikipedia page of this page says, “Basantar river is a tributary of the Ravi River that flows in the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. This battle took place in the Shakargarh Sector or the Shakargarh Bulge that includes Jarpal and surrounding areas.”
During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the 47 Infantry Brigade, with the 17 Poona Horse under command, was ordered to establish a bridge-head across the Basantar river in Shakargarh sector. The 47 Inf. Bde. completed the task by 2100 hours on December 15 It was now for the engineers to breach the Pakistani mine-fields and make a safe lane for the induction of the 17 Poona Horse in support of the bridge-head.
A veteran Indian Army officer wrote in his blog: as the war began on the eastern front, Pakistan decided to open up the western sector to divert Indian troops from the Eastern front in Bangladesh and prolong the war. Shakargarh bulge was a key strategic area for India as it comprised road links between Jammu and Indian Punjab. Therefore, securing the region was crucial for India as Pakistan had a military base nearby in Sialkot and therefore could have easily launched a massive invasion of the Shakargarh region, cutting Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India. The Indian Army maintained a base at Pathankot, couple of hundred miles away from Shakargarh and quickly mobilized forces to defend the region.
Battle of Poonch
Poonch and its surroundings were formerly a part of a Hindu principality in a state of Jammu and Kashmir under Dogra rule. Its political importance to Pakistan lies in its large Muslim population with ethnic affinities with dwellers across the line of control and its economic importance in its large tracts of fertile agricultural land.
It was once a profitable recruiting ground for the British Indian Army. After experiencing failure in the 1947 and 1965 war, Pakistan made its third attempt in 1971. Its capture would give access to the gullies over the PIR Panjal range for infiltration into Kashmir Valley. The area is generally hilly and forested as it ascends the Pir Panjal range.
From 1947, the defence of the Poonch area had been the responsibility of Headquarters 93 Infantry Brigade, commonly known as the Poonch Brigade. In the peculiar no peace no war situation prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops faced each other in close confrontation, manning picquets all along the line in the form of a hard crust, with some positions in depth in the rear.
During the battle, the Pakistanis had gone without food for some 30 hours, their ammunition was running short, and their morale was low. A more enterprising commander could have rounded up the whole lot without much difficulty.The Pakistanis marched the whole night along the Nangli and Chandak spurs and reached Thanpir by 1000 hours on 5 December. The successive attacks on Danna feature from two directions—a battalion each from the west and the east—had failed because of our very effective artillery fire.
Battle of Longewala
In India’s scuffle against Pakistan in (4-7 December) 1971, the Battle of Longewala was that turning point. The battle, fought between the Pakistani offensive forces and the Indian defenders at the Indian border post of Longewala in Thar Desert of Rajasthan, was the first major engagement in the Western Sector during the war of 1971.
In the battle, not only were the assaulting Pakistani attack foiled and dented, the Pak forces were forced to withdraw when India launched an offensive attack against them thereby winning the decisive battle that changed the face of the Indo-Pak war forever.
Battle of Sylhet
Sylhet Division also known as Greater Sylhet or Sylhet region, is the northeastern division of Bangladesh named after its main city, Sylhet. It is bordered by the Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura states of India to the north, east and south, respectively; and by the Bangladesh divisions of Chittagoan to the southwest and Dhaka to the west.
Wikipedia page if this division says, “Sylhet is considered one of the most picturesque and archaeologically rich regions in South Asia, and has major Islamic Sufi Shrines and Hindu holy sites. Its burgeoning economy has contributed to the regional attractions of landscapes filled with fragrant orange and pineapple gardens and tea plantations. In 1971, Sylhet became part of the newly formed independent country of Bangladesh.”
Gazipur Tea Estate near Kalaura of Sylhet District of then East Pakistan, defended by a company plus of 22 Baluch, had been annihilated on the night of December 4, 1971. A tough nut to crack, the resistance was fierce, for the Pakistanis knew that after the failure of attack by 6 Rajput a day earlier, they were in for another one very soon with more vigour and force.
After the assault, 15 dead bodies of the enemy had been counted and at least 40 of their wounded soldiers, including their company commander, were reported to have been carried away. We too suffered heavily; Major Shyam Kelkar, our Second-in-Command and 10 other ranks had made the supreme sacrifice.
IV Corp Operations
The IV Corps is a military field formation of the Indian Army, created in 1961. Under the command of Lieutenant General Sagat Singh the IV Corps, with all eight East Bengal Regiment battalions, had already made some gains before the war.
General Singh wrote, “however, I saw Dhaka as “the final answer” and decided “to go beyond my assigned task.” In an impressive display of improvisation, IV Corps began crossing the broad Meghna on December 9, 1971 in a hastily assembled helicopter lift operation supplemented by every variety of local water craft. Pakistan’s 14 Division was no longer a hindrance as its 27 Brigade had retired to Bhairab Bazar and its other two brigades (202 and 313) were isolated at Sylhet.
India’s 57 Division was also advancing that time. 311 Brigade and “Sierra Force” were threatening Demra and 73 Brigade had reached the Balu east of Tungi. General Sagat Singh’s decision to “go beyond his assigned task” had paid off.
The Indians were also approaching Dhaka from the northwest, hindered more by severe logistics constraints than by the near-nonexistent Pakistani opposition. The Indian airborne drop of 2 Para military at Tangail on December 11 accentuated the menace to Dhaka. Although 2 Para’s appearance made only a marginal contribution to the tactical battle, it helped to unnerve Niazi and others in Eastern Command headquarters, already anxious because of the lack of regular combat troops in the capital. The Indian paratroopers joined hands with 95 Brigade on 12 December and, with 167 Brigade hastening up from Jamalpur, soon reached and crossed the Turag.”
Operations in Hill Sector of J&K
The war in Western Theatre started after air attacks by Pakistan on Indian airfields on December 3, 1971. The same night, Pakistani troops shelled and attacked Indian positions in Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab. The attack on Poonch, held by 93 Infantry Brigade of 25 Infantry Division, was beaten back.
Actions took place in adjoining areas during which Indian troops captured some enemy posts. Another major attack took place in Chhamb, held by 10 Infantry Division. The attack was supported by armour and some Indian positions were overrun. The battle lasted for several days and some localities changed hands many times. The offensive ended on December 12, 1971 with minor gains for the enemy.
In the Jammu sector, India launched its offensive on December 5. After crossing the minefields they beat back repeated attacks by enemy armour on the bridgehead.
In addition to Poonch and Chhamb, smaller operations took place in other areas such as Partapur, Kargil, Tangdhar, Uri and Chicken’s Neck, which were part of 3, 19 and 26 Infantry Division sectors. Pt. 13620 in Kargil sector was captured by 121 Infantry Brigade Group of 3 Infantry Division.
During the Battle of Basantar on December 16 almost two tanks regiments of the enemy were decimated. At the same time, 36 Infantry Division advanced towards Shakargarh but came up against heavy opposition. The attack on Shakargarh was launched by 87 and 115 Infantry Brigades on night of 14/15 December but got disorganised.
Battle of Chhamb
The Battle of Chhamb of 1971 stands out as the finest display of an offensive battle in the Indo-Pak operational scenario. It was sustained the morale of the army in West Pakistan and provided much needed credibility to sustain and preserve the army image in the wake of the traumatic events of December 1971.
The Indian Army described it as the most serious reverse suffered in the 1971 war. The Battle of Chamb of 1971 was an epic feat of arms. Even today it stands out as one of the most instructive battles of all three Indo-Pak wars in terms of operational strategy, small unit actions, handling of armour and above all as a supreme example of the power of personality and leadership in war.
Before the capture of Chhamb by Pakistan forces, this western sector was under India’s control. As per our Indian Army documents, “similar to 1965, plans were made to capture this strategic town. The reason behind this plan was to deter Indians from attacking the crucial north-south line of communications passing via Gujarat.”
The 23 Division of Pakistan was given the task of protecting the sector and later attacking the Chhamb-Dewa sectors. On the Indian side, 10 Division was given the task of defence of Chhamb; the Indian army believed that by attacking Gujarat and Tanda, they could guarantee the defence of Chhamb. In comparison to 1965, the Indians were better prepared in terms of defences and now realized the importance of the town and sector.