General M Harun-Ar-Rashid, BP
On the occasion of the Victory
day, I would like to narrate an operation
- "Capture of Kalachara Tea Garden"
which was carried out on 3rd August 1971
in which the Freedom Fighters displayed
extraordinary valor and courage.
At the time of revolt against
Pakistan, 4th Battalion of the East Bengal
Regiment popularly known as "Baby Tigers"
was located at Brahmanbaria on the morning
of 27th March 1971. The battalion was dispersed
over a large area, from Jangalia at Comilla
to Srimongal at Sylhet. The Pakistani authorities
dispersed the battalion in the early days
of March 1971 to prevent the battalion to
take a unified action so that it would be
easy for the Pakistani forces to deal with
After the revolt I was given
the command of Delta Company. Initially
we took up defense around Brahmanbaria.
By second week of April the Company moved
to Gangasagor - Ujanishar area (south of
Akhaura) to stop the advance of Pakistani
troops from Comilla to Brahmanbaria. Here
the Company fought the famous battle of
Gangasagor where Sainik Mostofa was awarded
the highest gallantry award "Bir Shrestho".
The Pakistan 53 Brigade
(responsible for the area) continued their
advance and by middle of May we were pushed
out of the border. By beginning of June
1971 we established our base camp at Narsingarh
just across Bangladesh border north of Agortala
Airport. By this time strength of the company
had risen to about six hundred. Our main
occupation during June - July was to train
the Freedom Fighters and send them to Bangladesh
for specific operation. However regular
forces also carried out limited operations
like raids and ambushes.
During this period our action
more or less remained limited to hit and
run operation against fixed defences and
other positions of the enemy. From the Narsingarh
camp it was easy to infiltrate to Bangladesh
and the great "Kalia Bill" east
of Akhaura - Brahmanbaria rail line on which
Pakistani forces had no control provided
great flexibility to the Freedom Fighters.
To prevent this the Pakistani decided to
close the gap. By mid July a Pakistani Battalion
(31 Panjab), located in the area, deployed
two company with Battalion Headquarters
at Akhaura, one company at Rajapur - Singerbil
- Merashani area and another company plus
at Kalachara Tea garden area. The whole
deployment was supported by an artillery
battery based at Akhaura which caused Mukti
Bahini infiltration virtually to come to
a stand still. On the other hand, the Indian
authorities also imposed strict restrictions
on any operations from Indian territory
for fear of retaliation against Agortala
airport as well as the town..
Due to series of setbacks
at Gangasagor, Akhaura, Rajapur and serious
shortage of logistic, . the morale of the
Mukti Bahini was sagging. Some people had
started deserting the camps. Only training
activity at camps could not keep the fighters
happy. As such I felt urgent need of undertaking
some operations to raise the morale of my
own troops as well as shatter the confidence
of the enemy located there. After initial
appreciation I decided to attack "Kalachara
Tea Garden" as it would reopen route
of infiltration for us. We concluded through
reconnaissance that a full company of Pakistan
Army with additional platoon of EPCAP was
located in the area supported by an artillery
battery at Akhaura.
As per normal military norms,
more than battalion strength was required
to attack the company position. Though I
had about six hundred personnel in my camp
I had only one company strength weapon and
another platoon strength was equipped with
assorted weapons from EPR, Mujahid and Ansars.
However considering the situation I had
no alternative but launch the attack. My
main strength was the urge of rank and file
to undertake some operation, which would
shatter the confidence of the occupation
forces in the area
To meet up deficiencies
in weapons I approached my neighboring camp
commander Captain (later Major General)
Golam Helal Morshed, BB for help who generously
loaned me 2 -LMGs, 2 - 2" Mortars and
a thousand rounds of LMG ammunition. He
also agreed to establish a blocking position
at Mukundupur area to block any enemy reinforcement
from the north.
Three sides facing the Indian
border were extensively mined with anti
personal mines. and covered with low wire
entanglement and punjees. In view of these
obstacles it was extremely difficult proposition
to attack the position from south, east
or north. Moreover, the Indian authorities
also barred us from undertaking any operation
from the Indian territory. Considering all
these factors we had only one option i.e.
to launch the attack from the west, which
is rear of the defence.
Due to the thickly vegetated
tea garden area cross-country mobility was
extremely restricted. The only route available
was the supply route followed by the occupation
forces. Still we decided to launch the attack
from the west following the supply route.
As we did not have any artillery/mortar
support we decided to launch the attack
at night during the hours of darkness. Considering
the surprise factor, I decided to launch
the attack on the morning of Tuesday i.e.
3rd August 1971 when the moon came up around
3:30 AM and we fixed the attack time for
3 AM. Final plan was that, one company plus
platoon strength under me would launch the
main attack from the west. A section strength
under Havilder Halim would establish a blocking
position on the home bank of the canal facing
Merasani covering the railway bridge and
block any reinforcement from the south.
Captain Morshed was to establish another
blocking position at Mukundapur to stop
reinforcement from the north. We left a
section under command Naib Subedar Rezaul
at the base camp as reserve. This group
was tasked to help either Havilder Halim's
group or main attacking group in case of
emergency. The local guides proved to be
extremely valuable in reaching the objective
in time and without difficulty.
After briefing all the subordinate
commanders I felt that every one was exited
and enthusiastic about the attack and was
really overwhelmed and surprised to see
that no one of my men was concerned about
the shortage of weapons and ammunition.
Every one felt confident that the job could
be done. However I was very sure that I
was taking great risks but was determined
to launch the attack and succeed.
As per plan around 11 PM
on 2 Aug we left the base camp at Narsingarh
and infiltrated inside Bangladesh through
Qasimpur. Taking a long detour we reached
assembly area Shejamura at around 1:45 AM
which was half an hour earlier than the
schedule. Soon after moving out of assembly
area on way the objective we landed up in
problem as we could not see the objective
area through the tea plants and also we
failed to locate the designated forming
up place. Luckily we could hear the sound
of sentry changing and some people talking
on low voice. At that moment we were only
15 to 20 yards away from the objective.
We instantaneously shouted "Allahu
Akbar" and "Joy Bangla".
Soldiers formed up in assault line on the
run and in no time they were on the objective.
The defence was taken completely by surprise.
They even could not call for artillery fire
as the telephone line was cut off at the
first instance. Some time later artillery
fired few shots but on the eastern side
of the objective.
Soldiers overran the whole
objective area by 3:45 AM. It was quick
and like peace time attack exercise and
the enemy did not have time to react. However
the position towards the east (left forward
platoon) opened up but they failed to realise
the direction of attack. As such these fires
were also not very effective. However after
capturing the whole area, we realised that
the area needs mopping-up as most of the
bunkers were still intact. By around 4:30
AM it was clear light and we could see the
whole area. Lots of dead bodies and injured
were scattered around the area. Unfortunately
we had to suffer some casualty during the
mopping up process including my runner and
Never the less in spite
of the confusion by about 6 AM we were firmly
in control. Both the blocking position at
Merashani Railway Bridge and Mukundupur
had to face severe pressure but they remained
in their position till the last. Havilder
Halim displayed extraordinary courage in
holding the reinforcement group of about
two-platoon strength with only one section.
The attacking group suffered four injury
and two dead. Havilder Halim's group suffered
two serious injuries.
By all standards the attack
was a complete success. We not only captured
the area, we captured lot of weapons and
ammunition including 2 MG1A3, 4 X 7.62 mm
LMGs, 15 Rifles and approximately 20 thousands
ammunition including 2000 grenades. As per
normal military equation, attacking one
company strength position with only one
company plus troops is impossible, particularly
with such shortage of arms and ammunitions
and no indirect fire support.
so the defensive locations were located
on higher grounds then the attacking troops.
In case of loosing surprise and the enemy
opening up before reaching the objective
could have catastrophic result on the attacking
troops. The determination of all ranks and
their courage played significant role in
achieving the success against all odds.
The courage and valour shown
by a few soldiers are unprecedented particularly
by Havildar Halim (Halim later became Shaheed
during Chandrapur attack), Naib Subedar
Gias, Naib Subedar Rezaul, Havildar Monir,
Civilian Mizan, Abul Khair and Jasim (Gorilla).
The Nation owes a lot to these valiant fighters
for their gallant contribution in achieving
freedom for the nation.
The success of the attack
gave tremendous boost to the morale of my
troops. Pakistani forces never tried to
reoccupy that area as such the area remain
liberated till the end of "Liberation
War". After capture of the area, route
for infiltration of Gono Bahini to Bangladesh
was reopened and remained so till the end.
. The captured Pakistani soldiers informed
that, they never knew that they were fighting
against Muslims. The soldiers expressed
their regret for fighting an unjust war.
Though I did not inform
any one in the hierarchy about the attack
earlier, yet the news of the success spread
to all concern within no time. The Indian
authority was very alarmed as the firefight
broke out dead at night. However as nothing
was happening from their territory they
felt assuaged. By receiving the news Number
2 Sector Commander Major (later Major General)
Khaled Mosharrof along with "D"
Sector Commander (Indian) Brigadier Pande
visited the base camp in the evening. Though
Brigadier Pande expressed dissatisfaction
for launching the attack without co-ordination
with the Indian authority, Major Khaled
praised the troops and congratulated every
one on the success. Later Number 2 Sector
Head-quarters issued following message to
Bangladesh Forces Headquarters at Calcutta
about the operation.
Qamrul Hassan Bhuiyan
the Pakistani military struck on 25/26 March
their strength was around 25,000 of which
about 3,000 were non-combatants or could
not be spared for battle due to their urgent
employment elsewhere. On the other hand
the Bengali force available were about 63,500.
was a force of considerable size on which
the Freedom Fighters could have very well
relied. If they were organised, equipped
and coordinated, this force could have faced
any army twice its size with the full-hearted
support of the people. But there was neither
any direction to the Bengali elements of
the army and the EPR nor any physical endeavor
to organise them into effective fighting
units. Officers of different garrisons made
several covert efforts, despite heavy risks
with the decision-makers in Dhaka, but all
in vein. They were asked to wait for the
orders but the orders never came and we
were caught unprepared. In the absence of
a "politico military" structure
the initial phase of the war proceeded on
its own dynamics in the form of isolated
resistance throughout the country.
the first week of April communications amongst
the revolting East Bengal battalions and
the wings of EPR were being established.
Soon, necessity was being felt to have a
command structure to conduct and co-ordinate
the operations. With this aim and with the
assistance of the Indian Army and the Border
Security Force (BSF) a conference was arranged
at the Teliapara Tea State at Hobiganj.
This was the first strategy conference of
the Bangladesh Defence Forces (BDF) where
senior Bangladesh Army officers, serving
and retired, attended. The second and the
last such conference was held in The Bangladesh
Defence Forces (BDF) Headq-uarters at Calcutta
in mid July. Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed
presided over the conference. These were
the two strategy conferences during the
war to formally provide higher directions.
In this article an effort has been made
to give a picture of these two assemblages
and the evolution of the Indian support
The First Conference
By 1 April communications were developing
between the revolting units the first between
4 EBR at Brahmanbaria under Maj Khaled Mosharraf
and 2 EBR under Maj Kazi Mohammad Shafiullah
at Kishoreganj. On 2 April information about
8 EBR at Sholashahar (Chittagong) also reached
Maj Shafiullah and Maj Khaled who with their
battalions were grouped at Teliapara Tea
Garden in Hobiganj. The fate of 1 and 3
EBR at Jessore and Saidpur respectively
were still unknown. On 4 April at Teliapara
Tea Garden Manager's bungalow a meeting
was arranged of the defecting officers of
the rank of majors and above. Those who
attended were, Col Mohammad Ataul Gani Osmany
(Retd), MNA, Lt Col Mohammad Abdur Rabb
(Retd), MNA, Lt Col Salauddin Mohammad Reza,
Maj Nuruzzaman (Retd), Maj Kazi Mohammad
Shafiullah, Maj Khaled Mosharraf, Maj Moinul
Hossain Chowdhury, Maj Shafat Jamil and
Maj Nurul Islam.
conference was the first meeting of the
senior army officers. It is considered as
an important landmark in our Liberation
War. The conference took some very important
and critical decisions.
To have a political government formed by
the elected representatives of the 1970
general election. It was deliberated that
a political government shall help legitimise
the War of Liberation or else the Pakistanis
branding the revolting Bengali forces as
mutineers shall have right to kill them.
Political government can mobilise international
support and form world opinion in favour
of the Liberation War. They can arrange
for material support and munitions of war.
War of Liberation would be conducted under
a central command. Col Ataul Gani Osmani
(Retd), MNA was nominated as the Commander-in-Chief.
region commanders were appointed, Maj Ziaur
Rahman was operationally responsible for
Chittagong Chittagong Hill Tracts, Maj Kazi
Mohammad Shafiullah for Brahmanbaria Sylhet,
Maj Khaled Mosharraf for Comilla Noakhali
and Maj Abu Osman Chowdhury for whole western
sector (Panchagar in the north and Satkhira
in the south).
interim policy for the armed resistance
conference formed the nucleus of the higher
organisation in our War of Liberation. Higher
direction of whatever level, was provided
in this conference. It gave the liberation
forces an organisational concept, which
was soon implemented in the form of Mukti
Bahini. Formation of the government of Bangladesh
in exile was to materialise hardly six days
after, on 10 April at Agartala.
11 April Tajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister
of the Gover-nment of Bangladesh in a radio
address from All India Radio, Gauhati called
upon the people of Bangladesh to mobilise
their energy for the liberation struggle.
In his spirited and patriotic speech, he
eulogised the Liberation Army, which was
being formed around the nucleus of the professional
soldiers from the EBR, the EPR and the police.
While surveying the activities of the Liberation
Army with additional information he further
expanded the command structure, dividing
the country into seven major regions and
appointed the region commanders: Chittagong-
Chittagong Hill Tracts : Maj Ziaur Rahman,
Comilla-Noakhali : Maj Khaled Mosharraf,
Sylhet-Brahmanbaria-Mymensingh : Maj Kazi
Mohammad Shafiullah, Rangpur : Capt Nawazish
Uddin Ahmed, Dinajpur-Rajshahi-Pabna: Maj
Nazrul Huque, Jessore-Kushtia: Maj Abu Osman
Chowdhury and Barisal-Patuakhali: Maj Mohammad
Theatre Road The Second Conference
A conference was called at the BDF headquarters
at 8 Theatre Road, Calcutta from 12-15 July.
The building was later known to be a BSF
safehouse. Officers of the rank of Maj (and
equivalent in the airforce) and above attended.
. Those that attended the conference were:
Col Mohammad Ataul Gani Osmany, Lt Col Mohammad
Abdur Rabb, Gp Capt Abdul Karim Khondoker,
Wing Comd Mohammad Khademul Bashar, Lt Col
Qazi Nuruzzaman, Maj Chitto Ranjan Dutta,
Maj Ziaur Rahman, Maj Kazi Mohmmad Shafiullah,
Maj Khaled Mosharraf, Maj Mir Shawkat Ali,
Maj Abu Osman Chowdhury, Maj Azizur Reza
Chowdhury, Maj Nazmul Haq, Maj Mohammad
Abdul Jalil and Maj Rafiqul Islam. The conference
was later extended upto 17 July.
aspects of the war, the problems confronting
the leadership in different areas and the
future course of actions were discussed
in detail in those seven days of conference.
In this conference significant decisions
were taken. This was the last conference
until the liberation on 16 December. The
existing regions were abolished and ten
sectors were created. While 1-9 sectors
were defined by geographical boundaries
and number 10 sector was left blank. This
was deliberately done to accommodate future
situations, which may necessitate creation
of a new sector. The sectors (1-9) were
named from Chittagong and Chittagong Hill
Tracts anti-clockwise. Number 11 sector
was created later in mid-August in the area
between number 5 and 11 sectors. The conference
nominated Lt Col M A Rabb as the Chief of
Staff and Gp Capt AK Khondoker as the Deputy
Chief of Staff. Sector commanders were nominated
and policy for operations both for Regular
Forces (Niyomito Bahini) and Citizen Soldiers
(Gono Bahini) were made. Decisions were
taken to fill in the numbers of the existing
five East Bengal Battalions and raise four
more. Ultimately only three East Bengal
battalions, 9, 10 and 11 could be raised.
Raising of conventional army formations
were also taken.
was no radio communication between the C-in-C
and his Sector Commanders and the Indians
on different pleas would not provide High
Frequency (HF) radio sets to Mukti Bahini.
The Indians instead advised to use their
HF sets held in the respective Jackpot sectors.
The underlying aim of this system was to
keep a control on the Mukti Bahini activities.
In this conference it was decided to establish
an Echelon Headquarters under the Chief
of Staff Lt Col M A Rabb at Agartala from
where he could exercised control on 1, 2,
3, 4 and number 5 sectors.
Indian Support Structure
After 26 March the responsibility of handling
the affairs of Mukti Bahini was given to
the BSF. Director General, BSF Khasru F.
Rustamji succeeded in convincing the PM
that BSF was good enough to handle the affairs
of Mukti Bahini and liberate Bangladesh.
Subsequently, the BSF incursions ended with
six BSF soldiers taken prisoners by the
Pakistanis in Bangladesh territory in Jessore
area who were later paraded in the streets
29 April Indian Army Eastern Command was
officially given the responsibility of assisting
Bangladesh Forces. EASTCOM, co-located with
its headquarters raised a separate establishment
for the purpose. Maj Gen Onkar Singh Kalkat
was deputed by Gen Sam Manekshaw to work
directly with Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora,
the Eastern Army Commander, who was given
the overall responsibility to assist the
Mukti Bahini. He was replaced by Maj Gen
BN Sarcar barely two months later in August.
Indian sectors commonly known as Jackpot
Sectors, with the primary responsibility
of providing assistance to Mukti Bahini
sectors in the form of logistics were set-up.
Subsequently the support did not confine
only to providing logistics. This assistance
included almost everything; supply of arms,
ammunition, ration, clothing, wireless sets,
transports, tentage etc. except fighting
Indian sector commanders in many cases also
involved themselves in planning and supporting
Mukti Bahini operations. This was more so
in areas where there were shortage of Bangladeshi
officers to organise, command and conduct
operations and in places where there were
no officers of the rank of majors or equivalent
(areas as Mymensingh, Rangpur, Dinajpur
and Sylhet). An Indian Jackpot sector supervised
one or more Bangladeshi sectors.
serving Bengali officer of the Indian army,
Brig Gupta was posted as Liaison Officer
to Col MAG Osmani, C-in-C, Bangladesh Forces.
Routine matters and decisions on comparatively
smaller matters were dealt through Brig
Gupta verbally. Subjects of operational
importance and policy matters in writing
were addressed to EASTCOM were also channeled
through the Liaison Officer.
In devising the strategy of War, India played
a dominant role. In fact the exile Bangladesh
government, Bangladesh Forces and 10 million
refugees took sanctuary in
India and it provided them with moral and
material support. Under such circumstances
there were hardly any scope and liberty
for Bangladeshis to plan and act independently.
In most cases we had to succumb to their
dictations. Yet the Bangladesh government
and Bangladesh Forces played prudently and
avoided taking the Indian yoke on their