Surrender at Dacca by Lt Gen J Fr Jacob: a book review

On Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 from India's point of view


2021 marks the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan. It seems like the perfect occasion to commemorate the struggles of Bangladesh’s freedom for Independence.


The rising tension between East and West Pakistan stemmed from the mentality of subjugating or colonizing the self-conscious Bengali population by the East, by imposing Urdu as the only language, draining wealth, and lack of development. It seems like the perfect occasion to commemorate the struggles of Bangladesh’s freedom for Independence.


On Pakistan day, 23rd march 1971, the tension was at its peak when the eastern region proclaimed its independence by hoisting flags all over. What followed after that was pure, ruthless violence by Tikka Khan on 26th March bathing the country with blood. the frustrated, angered, desperate Bengalis took up weapons. From mallets to shovel to sickle anything and everything. With their nails, claws, and vengeance in their blood against the men who burned their houses down raped their women, and destroy them to nothingness. These revolutionaries formed the Mukti Bahini.


The obvious question is if India’s intervention (interference, depending on one’s position) was right, if it was involving itself in the “internal matters” of Pakistan or if it was to extend its own powers?


Whatever be the outcome of the debate one cannot dodge the question that there was a serious humanitarian crisis across the border. On one side the country had to deal with the Naxalite movement, Naga insurgency, post-Indo-China war economic crisis, food shortages, and on the other hand the rising influx of refugees from East Pakistan due to fear of the ongoing persecution. Also, the behavior of powerful nations like the USA, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey among others towards Pakistan removed the rose-tinted glass, establishing the fact that bilateral relations were dependent mostly on arms business and coaxing of egos. To choose between seeking the help of India and imminent death, the Bengalis chose the former.


The remoteness of Bangladesh as a region didn't let all the horrific news travel very far from its boundaries. As the glossed-up pictures produced by the Pakistani government didn’t satisfy Nicolas Tomalin (Sunday Times), who showed the world, specifically the western world, the terrible atrocities perpetrated by the army.


The logistics and movement of troops were difficult, particularly in the northeast region. Modern equipment was present in the western part due to the presence of open borders with Pakistan and previous war history. We are talking about the era of the 70s when heavy aircraft and cargo ships, both military and merchant were not available like now. Also, the other reason was the severed connectivity due to independence and subsequent partition. Pre-independent Northeast specifically Assam and Tripura were connected through present Bangladesh following the straight course of Jamuna (the Brahmaputra in India). The remoteness and dense tropical forest along with mountainous slopes made it a hostile region and so, guerrilla warfare was required. Such was the training of the Mukti Bahini, keeping in mind the terrain and efficacy.

“There were chronic shortages of weapons and equipment, particularly medium machine guns and recoilless anti-tank guns. Persistent efforts were made to order the equipment from the depot to make up these deficiencies. The spare position for small arms was equally disturbing.”

The crisis was observed in other sectors too, like inadequately updated maps of neighboring nations, unavailability of radio sets, procurement of cars and trucks for troop mobilization. The reason, you may ask, the lack of funds in the defense sector and the lack of indigenous supplies. Another reason can be attributed to India’s position regarding war. It's more for defending and territory protection rather than advancement, forget aggressive expansionist policy like China.


The achievement of the 1971 war was not just establishing Bangladesh as an independent country or winning the war in a very short period of time but it was also a lesson for the armed forces. The need for updated and uniform maps, not just of our own nations but also of others, understanding that diplomacy and military prowess go hand in hand, developing war games, improving logistics and thereby developing civilian infrastructures like railways, metalled roads, bridges, developing and learning strategies in the academy itself.



Pakistani forces focused on protecting the major port of Chittagong and Dacca, keeping open borders so that the Indian Navy can make it their own! The Indian army along with BSF troops used pincer movements, bypassing the cities but surrounding them from all sides, choking the supply chain and destroying the minor yet crucial port of Khulna. Surrounding entire Pak battalions from all sides was almost like a slowly recoiling fishing net. The role of successful troop movement was a decision-maker of the outcome of the war just like operation Uranus was for soviet Russia and Axis forces.


The role of the Indian Navy in training and participation in the war controlled the movement of waves and winds. From training the Mukti Bahini forces and launching them back into East Pakistan, and bombing up ports, and destroying the war submarine of PNS Ghazi, destroying the Karachi port by launching an attack on Pakistan from both frontiers. Training volunteers in a short period of time of 6-7 months was possible due to the zeal of Mukti Bahini and the trainers under Operation Jackpot. Even then lack of leadership was felt during multiple Bahini operations.


This book isn’t just about the war but about the person who faced difficulties, both personal and professional in executing his job. It’s also about the countless lives that were lost in protecting the motherland, restore humanity in another country, and fight for freedom.


Generals don’t fight, but they are equally present on the battlefield along with their juniors, mentally and emotionally. The author doesn’t present himself as someone spotless- neither his colleagues are and nor the leaders. He shared openly how the system works, how personal relationships work, be it good or bad, affect the consequent movement of the war. He shared how some days he was frustrated, angered, and again excited and motivated. Military leaders teach us important lessons through their book- it's not about guns blazing it's all about the presence of mind and owning every single decision they make.


ABOUT THE BOOK-

The campaign for the liberation of Bangladesh was short and swift, spread over some thirteen campaign days, conducted in riverine terrain highly suitable for defense. the author describes events leading to the creation of Bangladesh, beginning with the Pakistan Army's crackdown in East Pakistan on 26th March 1971 to the outbreak of full-scale war following the Pakistani bombing of Indian Airfields in the west on the evening of 3rd December 1971 and the subsequent military operations leading to the surrender of Pakistan Eastern Command.

Outlining the evolution of the strategy for the campaign, he details the selection of thrust lines using subsidiary dirt tracks that bypassed centers of resistance and opened up axes of maintenance later. the objectives selected were communication centers in relation to the geopolitical heart- Dacca. a concise amount of the execution of the campaign is given. he highlights the role of the Mukti bahini and the great contribution they made towards the liberation of their country.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR-

Lieutenant General Jack Farj Rafael Jacob, PVSM (2 May 1921 – 13 January 2016), was a General officer in the Indian Army. He was best known for the role he played in the creation of Bangladesh in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Jacob, then a major general, served as the chief of staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command. During his 36-year long career in the army, Jacob fought in World War II and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. He later served as the governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab.










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