December 16 is observed as Vijay Diwas/Bijoy Diwas (both meaning Victory Day) in India and Bangladesh, by Anil Bhat
By Anil Bhat
December 16 is observed as Vijay Diwas/Bijoy Diwas (both meaning Victory Day) in India and Bangladesh to mark the end of the third India-Pakistan war and the "liberation" of Bangladesh.
The December 1971 war is historically significant as it liberated erstwhile Bengali-speaking East Pakistan from decades of oppression by the ruling military government of West Pakistan culminating in the horrific genocide by Pakistan army and created the new nation, Bangladesh. Pakistani soldiers aided by local collaborators, had reportedly killed an estimated 3 million people, raped over 200,000 women and forced millions of people to flee to India.
Under the aegis of late Sheikh Mujibur Rehman heading the Awami League, a force of armed youth named Mukti Bahini was formed and on March 25, 1971, the liberation war was launched.
Interacting with this writer, Col Sajjad Ali Zahir, Bir Protik, who accompanied Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her April 2017 visit to India, recalled, “I was posted in Pakistan Army’s 14th Parachute Brigade in Sialkot, when news came of unspeakable atrocities by Pakistan Army back home. After trying hard, I finally managed to escape into India and was brought by the Indian military to a secret camp in Sylhet district, where I became the trainer for the Mukti Bahini.” Meanwhile Pakistan Army passed a death sentence against Col. Zahir for ‘deserting his post’. He added, “We began our guerrilla operation from September 1971 and quickly raised an artillery battery to cause maximum damage to the Pakistani forces as they had to be stopped from committing human rights violations…..At one point, we found a government office which had been turned into a sex-labour camp with kidnapped women locked up on the first floor. I am still haunted by the memory of a girl who wrote her name, Ratna, in blood on the wall of a labour camp before dying”.
When Pakistan sparked off the war on December 3, 1971 in both the Western and Eastern sectors, it took only 13 days for Indian Army to encircle East Pakistan. On December 16, 1971, Pakistan’s eastern army commander signed the instrument of surrender at Dhaka, as well over 93,000 Pakistan armed forces personnel surrendered to Indian Army all over what got declared as the liberated nation of Bangladesh.
As in previous years since Awami League resuming power in 2007, 27 Indian War Veterans of 1971 Indo-Pak war are visiting Bangladesh from 14 to 19 December 2017 and 30 Mukti Jodhas from Bangladesh are at Kolkata from 14-18 Dec 2017 to attend various functions.
(The author is a retired Indian Army officer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)