K. F. Rustamji, the first Director General and founding father of the Indian Border Security Force who helped Tajuddin Ahmad and Barrister Amirul Islam seek Indira Gandhi's help, was tasked with maintaining security on the Eastern Frontier. With this in mind, Rustamji lost no time in hand-picking officers like Brigadier B. C. Pande, Colonel Rampal Singh, Colonel Megh Singh and Brigadier M. S. Chatterjee with their special commando forces at the most strategic points of the Bangladesh border. On 29 March 1971 (i.e. three days after the Pakistani killing began in Bangladesh) Rustamji verbally directed Brigadier B. C. Pande to proceed to Tripura, east of Bangladesh, for aiding the Bangladesh liberation forces. Commanding the 104 Commando Batttalion and known fondly as 'Papa Pande', Brigadier Pande was then posted at Agartala.
BSF was directed to take such measures as would not endanger the security of the border on the Eastern Frontiers while helping the liberation forces of Bangladesh to achieve their aim.
K. F. Rustamji, Director-General of Indian BSF
In the afternoon of 1 April 1971 Brigadier Pande crossed over to Bangladesh and reached the dak bungalow of Teliapara Tea Garden in Madhabpur upazila, Habiganj district, Sylhet, a semi hilly area covered by tea gardens. Here he met with Bengali Lieutenant Colonel S. M. Reza and Major Shafaat Jamil and notified them that Colonel Muhammad Ataul Ghani (M. A. G.) Osmani was in Agartala while Major Ziaur Rahman was at Ramgarh (in Chittagong Division, on the Indo-Bangladesh border) after rebelling against the 8th East Pakistan Regiment.
During this meeting it was decided a second meeting would be held three days later, on 4 April 1971, to discuss how to coordinate the Bengali troops for revolts and how they could be successful in acquiring full Indian BSF assistance. Brigadier Pande left by assuring the others that he'll bring over all the other concerned officers stationed or hiding in India at the time. Immediately the next day he established contact with Bengali desert officers of EBR and EPR, as well as Colonel MAG Osmani, who arrived at Agartala from Dhaka on foot.
The Indians believed the impending Bangladesh-Pakistan war necessitated that they form a coalition of some sorts with senior Bengali officers and also form local commanders of the Indian Army to neutralise effect of attacks by the Pakistan Army. This involved protecting flanks of the Indian armed forces, guarding lines of communication, looking after potential arms dumps and prisoners of war. The war also provided the Indian government with the perfect excuse to split the old enemy into two forever.
I will never forget the discussions I had with our Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi in the Government House in Agartala at midnight about Bangladesh Operations. Having heard me patiently for about an hour , she asked me a number of questions to satisfy herself about the safety and security of our borders. In the end she asked if I need any help from Delhi. I told her that every thing we needed was being provided by Rustamji from Delhi.
By the first week of April communications amongst the revolting East Bengal battalions and the wings of EPR were being established. The first of these was the communication between 4th East Bengal Regiment (EBR) at Brahmanbaria under Major Khaled Mosharraf and 2nd EBR at Kishoreganj under Major Kazi Mohammad Shafiullah (more popularly known as K. M. Shafiullah). By 2 April 1971 both these batallions had regrouped at Teliapara Tea Garden where they received information about 8th EBR's revolt in Chittagong under Major Ziaur Rahman. The fate of 1 EBR at Jessore and 3 EBR at Saidpur were still unknown.
Soon, it became obvious a command structure was required to conduct and coordinate the operations. With this in mind and with the assistance of the Indian Army and the Border Security Force (BSF) a conference was arranged at the Teliapara Tea State.
On 4 April 1971, a meeting of 27 patriotic and defecting army officers took place at the tea state's manager's dak bungalow, which had served as a temporary headquarters for Sector 2 and 4 commanders from 1 April 1971. Amongst the attendees were senior officials and officers of the rank of majors and above such as Colonel Muhammad Ataul Ghani (M. A. G.) Osmani, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Abdur (M. A.) Rab, Lieutenant Colonel Salahuddin Mohammad Reja, Major Qazi Nuruzzaman, Major C. R. Dutta, Major Ziaur Rahman, Major Khaled Mosharraf, Captain Nasir, Major Nurul Islam, Major Shafat Jamil, Major Mainul Hossain Chowdhury, Major K. M. Shafiullah, Lt. Syed Ibrahim, Commandant Manik Chowdhury and others. Also present at the meeting were Abdul Matin, Indian Brigadier Shuvramaniam and MPA Maulana Asad Ali.
This conference was the first meeting of the senior army officers, serving and retired, and is considered as an important landmark in Bangladesh Liberation War.
Teliapara 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.
During the meeting the members took some very important and critical decisions. It was decided a political government would be formed by the elected representatives of the 1970 general election. This will help to legitimise the war and prevent it from being branded falsely by the Pakistani junta as a mutiny and thus giving them right to kill them. The political government could also mobilise international support and help shape world opinion in favour of the Bengalis. In addition, they could arrange material support and ammunition for war that was desperately required by the freedom fighters.
During the meeting an interim policy for the armed resistance was also formulated and Bangladesh was divided into 4 military zones or sectors to be commanded by a colonel. Major Ziaur Rahman was made operationally responsible for Chittagong-Chittagong Hill Tracts - designated as 'Sector 1' area - Major Khaled Mosharraf for Comilla-Noakhali (Sector 2), Major K. M. Shafiullah for Sylhet-Brahmanbaria (Sector 3), and Major Abu Osman Chowdhury for whole western sector (Panchagar in the north and Satkhira in the south) which was later designated as 'Sector 8'.
Later, the manager's bungalow of Teliapara tea garden was used as the office of Sector 3 (Sylhet-Brahmanbaria).
Following the formation of the Mujibnagar government on 10 April 1971, Tajuddin Ahmad announced the creation of 3 more new sectors the very next day. Rangpur (Sector 6) to be led by Wing Commander M. Khademul Bashar, Dinajpur-Rajshahi-Pabna (Sector 7) under Major Nazrul Huq, and Barisal-Patuakhali (Sector 9) under Major Mohammad Abdul (M. A.) Jalil.
On 11 April Tajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister of the Government 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.
Serious initiative for organising the rapidly growing Bangladesh liberation army was taken at the second and last senior officers' conference held in Mujibnagar headquarters at 8 Theatre Road, Kolkata, between 11-17 July 1971. It was during this meeting that the Bangladesh Sena Bahini (Bangladesh Defence Forces or Bangladesh Army) was officially created. Colonel MAG Osmani, a retired Pakistani Army officer from Bangladesh, was made its Commander-in-Chief, with the status of Cabinet Minister, and had his base in India. Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Abdur Rab was appointed as Chief of Staff (COS) with his base in Bangladesh, Group Captain A. K. Khandker as Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) with his office in Kolkata, and Major A. R. Chowdhury as Assistant Chief of Staff (ACOS).
In addition to the seven sectors, four more sectors were created to bring the final total to 11. Habiganj zilla in Sylhet (Sector 4) to be led by Major Chitta Rajan (C. R.) Dutta, Durgapur-Danki area in Sylhet (Sector 5) under Major Mir Shawkat Ali, Bay of Bengal (Sector 10) under naval commandos, and finally Mymensingh-Tangail (Sector 11) under Major Ziaur Rahman who had by then left Sector 1 (Chittagong-Chittagong Hill Tracts) under the responsibility of Major Rafiqul Islam.
Each of the eleven sectors were assigned a number starting from Chittagong and moving anti-clockwise (Sector 11 was created later). further divided into sub-sectors and commanded by other officers. During the nine months war it was common practise to replace one sector or sub-sector commander by another whenever the situation necessitated such action.
These [i.e. Teliapara and Kolkata] were the two strategy conferences during the war to formally provide higher directions.
|Sector no.||Area (Headquarter)||No. of freedom fighters||Commanded by Major (duration of term)||Sub-sectors (commanded by)|
|1||Chittagong-Chittagong Hill Tracts
(includes 2,000 regular troops)
Contained 137 guerrilla groups
(10 Apr 1971 – 25 Jun 1971)
(28 Jun 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
(Melaghar, 20 miles south of Agartala, India)
(10 Apr 1971 – 22 Sept 1971)
A. T. M. Haider
(22 Sept 1971 – 18 Dec 1972)
Contained approx 19 guerrilla groups
|K. M. Shafiullah
(10 Apr 1971 – 21 Jul 1971)
A. N. M. Nuruzzaman
(23 Jul 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
|4||Sylhet: Habiganj areas
(initially Karimganj, later Masimpur)
|Chitta Rajan Datta
(10 Apr 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
|5||Sylhet: Durgapur-Danki areas
|Mir Shawkat Ali
(10 Apr 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
(Burimari near Patgram)
Guerrillas established 35 bases all over Rangpur and Dinajpur
|M. Khademul Bashar
(Apr 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
(Tarangapur near Balurghat)
(10 Apr 1971 – 27 Sept 1971)
(28 Sept 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
|Abu Osman Chowdhury
(10 Apr 1971 – 17 Jul 1971)
M. A. Manzoor
(14 Aug 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
(Taki near Bashirhat)
|20,000||M. A. Jalil
(17 Jul 17 – 24 Dec 1971)
M. A. Manzoor
|10||Bay of Bengal||-||Bangladesh Navy under Colonel Osmani & Indian commander MN Sumanta (3-16 Dec 1971)||-|
Kader Bahini contained 16,000 guerrilla fighters
(27 Jun 1971 – 10 Oct 1971)
(10 Oct 1971 – 2 Nov 1971)
M. Hamidullah Khan
(2 Nov 1971 – 14 Feb 1972)
Note: sector numbers were assigned in July 1971 when Bangladesh was divided into 11 sectors.
During the Kolkata meeting four important resolutions were taken in consideration of strategic aspects of the war, existing problems and future course of resistance:
I found the [Bengali] formation commanders had a good knowledge of the local topography and a fair idea of the deployment of Pakistani forces and their fighting potential. They had a reasonable measure of the tasks in hand and were confident of success, provided some latitude was allowed to them in planning and the conduct of battle. In one voice, they disdained "spoonfeeding" from the top.
During 1971 Bangladesh Sena Bahini (Bangladesh Defence Forces or Bangladesh Army) were divided into three forces (made up of 11 battalions):
They were named after initial letter of the name of its commander (e.g. 'Z' after Ziaur) and collectively referred to as 'Niomita Bahini' (Regular Force) or 'Mukti Fauj' (Freedom Army). Most of the soldiers came from East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) and East Bengal Regiment (EBR). Those members of the EPR, Police and Army who could not be accommodated in these battalions were divided into units and sub-units to fight in different sectors.
The task for the Niomita Bahini was to eliminate Pakistani base of preference (BOP), i.e. military base.
|1. Chittagong-Chittagong Hill Tracts||
Mirersarai (28 August)
A Freedom Fighter group lead by Mizan mined a railway track around Mirersarai. At 8:45am, a train carrying Pakistani troops were derailed. 35 enemy soldiers were reportedly killed
Nazirhat (9 December)
The guerrilla company operating in Nazirhat, lead by Lt. Shawkat, attacked Pakistanis. The freedom fighters killed 20 and inflicted heavy casualties. 5 of our soldiers were martyred and 3 were wounded.
Feni (7 June)
While the Pakistan army was advancing towards Belunia, they confronted the K-Force, led by Brigadier Khaled Musharraf – after a day of fierce battle; the Mukti Bahini killed almost 60% people of an entire battalion. 300 bodies were found, many others washed off by the Chilonia river
Siege of Mynamoti cantonment (15 December)
9th Bengal regiment. 150 Pak soldiers surrendered and many fled.
Katiadi ambush (7-16 August)
After an unsuccessful battle in Belabo, the Pak army was high in confidence. On Aug 16, Pakistani army was advancing towards Katiadi on a few steamers. The waiting S-force soldiers opened fire and destroyed many of these steamers. 143 Pak soldiers were reported dead, many fled. This ambush was lead by Habildar Akmal Ali
Dhaka victory march (13-16 December)
K. M. Shafiullah’s S force were the first to take Dhaka. On Dec 16, at Demra, 0431 hrs, the Pak forces surrendered. The commander of the opposition was Colonel Khiljee
|4. Habiganj zilla (Sylhet)||
Latitila Operation (19 June)
Rob’s company prepared for a dawn attack and was in position since 2pm. At 5:45 in the morning, the forces totally surrounded the Pakistani camp and the combat started. The soldiers of 22 Baloch fled to the woods indiscriminately. Most of them were killed
Khademnagar (15 December)
Joint troops sieged the Pakistani HQ at Khadimnagar. Fighting continued all day. Finally, on Dec 16, the enemy surrendered
|5. Durgapur-Danki (Sylhet)||
Gourinagar (30 October)
Major Taheruddin Akhanzee led the attack on the Pakistani camp at Gourinagar. 175 soldiers were at the front of the attack. The Sector commander himself covered the troops with 120mm mortar fire
Lamakazi (9-16 December)
Mir Showkat Ali attacked Govindaganj and drove the Pak army as far as Lamakazi. On Dec 12, 4 Indian Army jets bombarded lamakazi and within days, the pak army surrendered
Pachagarh (26-30 November)
1 Battalion Mukti Bahini and 2 Batallion of the Indian army attacked the strong Pakistani post at Pachagarh at night, November 26. One of the Major battles of the war, this siege lasted 4 days
Syedpur (13 December)
The joint forces advanced to take Syedpur. At about 5 miles from Syedpur, tanks engaged the opposition. 3 Pakistani tanks were destroyed while 1 Indian tank was also lost. Around evening, 107 Pakistani soldiers including the commander of the 48 Punjab regiment and another officer, surrendered
Train blast in Shihipur (13 November)
Led by Dulu, from Mahimaganj, locals Bably, Khaleque, Hamid and other charged a Pakistan army train in Shihipur. More that 150 enemies were killed
Nawabganj (16 December)
Brigadier Ghiasuddin Chowdhury attacked Nawabganj with his troops at 6am and emerged victorious
Gharibpur (24 November)
Major Alik Kumar Gupta led Joint forces engaged 14 Pakistani tanks. All Pakistani tanks were destroyed. The Joint forces lost 5 tanks
Jessore and Narail liberated (7 December)
Jessore and Narail were liberated on Dec 7
Skirmish at Panpatti (August)
Freedom Fighter Nurul Huda said that in a two day fierce battle, the Muktis came face to face with the Patuakhali region Pakistani army commander, Major Yamin.
Blockade of the Khulna Newsprint Mill (13-17 December)
The joint command met stern resistance from Brigadier Hyatt Khan. No notable progress was being made. There was heavy firing and air strikes even. Hyatt refused to surrender even after Dec 16. In the end, the Pak troops dropped their arms on 17 December 1971
Kamalpur base, Mahendraganj (10-11 September)
The ambush was long, hard and ultimately futile. Taher’s troops systematically drew the enemy to a swamp and the siege turned into an ambush, according to the man himself, the LMG fire "killed" them like sitting ducks
Jamalpur to Dhaka, with love (10-16 December)
Freedom fighter Johurul Haque Munshee was sent to the commander of the 31st Baluch regiment, asking the enemy to surrender. The commander sent a bullet wrapped in paper as an answer. By the time the surrender happened at 5am next morning, 212 Pak soldiers had died and 200 further were injured
One who excels at employing the army, leads them by the hand as if they were only one man.
Sun Tzu, author of "The Art of War"
Having realised that the Pakistan army could not be defeated by conventional warfare method, it was decided to create large guerilla forces all over the country. All Sector commanders were accordingly ordered to recruit, train and induct guerillas inside the country. In the meeting the organisational concept of the freedom fighter forces and the command structure were chalked out.
With the spirit and determination to liberate Bangladesh high nationwide, the Mujibnagar Shorkar had no manpower problem as Bengalis volunteered by the thousands. Many daring students, peasants, workers and political activists joined an irregular force ('Gono Bahini', People's Force) trained for guerrilla warfare - the Mukhti Bahini (Freedom Fighters).
It's a victory, but a victory not only of arms but of ideals. The Mukti Bahini could not have fought so daringly but for its passionate urge for freedom and the establishment of a special identity of Bangladesh. Our own forces could not have been so fearless and relentless had they not been convinced of their cause.
© Londoni Worldwide Limited