Military Literature Festival: Veterans revisit tales of valour

From crossing the Meghna River to heli-borne operations, the war veterans who fought during the 1971 Indo-Pak war shared tales of valour and experiences on the second day of Military Literature Festival 2021 on Sunday
The Braveheart Motorcycle Ride organised to mark the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh on Sunday. (Keshav Singh/HT)
The Braveheart Motorcycle Ride organised to mark the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh on Sunday. (Keshav Singh/HT)
Published on Dec 13, 2021 01:17 AM IST
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By, Chandigarh

From crossing the Meghna River to heli-borne operations, the war veterans who fought during the 1971 Indo-Pak war shared tales of valour and experiences on the second day of Military Literature Festival 2021 on Sunday.

The 1971 war is a glorious chapter of independent India’s history and for soldiers who fought on the frontline, it is still fresh in their memory.

Speaking at the festival that is themed around the confrontation, Major Chanderkant Singh, VrC, said, “At some point during the day on November 20, we were told that we were to go across the border to capture Akhaura and not return thereafter, but instead turn south. So, I think the high command was well aware that a war will start in a few days’ time.”

“Akhaura had a formidable defence and I think they had around 800 to 1000 troops here. For some reasons the Pakistanis could not visualize that we would get behind them and also attack from the south,” he continued.

Shifting focus to the heli-borne operations, Squadron leader PK Vaid (VrC) said, “During the war, we were using the Mi4 which was a very basic helicopter and we could carry thirteen to fourteen passengers but we were going around 50% over capacity. On December 7, it was decided that we were to go to Sylhet, which was the first special heli-borne operation where we inducted troops behind the enemy lines,”

“I briefed all my pilots that as soon as the troops arrive, we load them onto the helicopter and go airborne. Each of us made three trips each. When I went the second time, the Pakistan army had started surrounding the field and they were firing at us from all directions but our army was keeping them at bay,” he further recalled, stressing on the extremity of the entire situation.

The troops underwent rigorous training to try and learn to execute elaborate operations on the battlefront. Speaking of the same, CS Sandhu, group captain commanding the 110 Helicopter Unit of the Indian Air Force, which was carrying out the heli-borne operations, said, “When I met General Sagat Singh, PVSM, for a briefing, he desired that we induct troops into the enemy territory during the night. I explained to him that this was the first time that the Air Force was to conduct such an operation during the night. After intense training, however, the troops were ready for the task by the end of October.”

The 110 Helicopter Unit was later bestowed with the President’s Standard, the highest honour awarded by the President to an Air Force unit or Squadron. Recalling the moment, Sandhu said, “Later, we had the honour of receiving the president’s standard, following which the ward air chief visited the unit, complimenting them for their outstanding effort,” he added.

Former governor of Jammu and Kashmir, NN Vohra, who was also in attendance at the event, joined the discussion, saying, “This war was not just a military event but this particular engagement had a very significant background. The authorities in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were indulging in ruthless hegemony, eliminating a population of one community. The military generals ruling from Islamabad had given strict orders not to spare anyone and enforce the law.”

“As a result of ruthless carnage in East Pakistan, millions of Bangladeshis started entering India from early winters in 1971, with the number going up. The Indian government at that time tried all means to persuade the leadership of Pakistan to take back these people but they did not do it,” he added

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Sunday, January 16, 2022