Vol. 5 Num 331 Wed. May 04, 2005  

Liberaion of Bangladesh
Gen Aurora, the man who helped make it happen

The man who forced Pakistan to surrender in the 1971 Bangladesh War is no more. Lt Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Comma-nding (GOC), Eastern Command led the Indian forces and routed the Pakistani army in one of the swiftest operations ever and forced Lt Gen A A K Niazi, chief of Pakistan's Eastern Command, to surrender just within two weeks of the war starting.

Lt J S Aurora said later that the "turning point" came after Indian troops crossed the Meghna River even though the Pakistanis had blown up a strategic bridge.

"We knew the Pakistani forces would destroy bridges. They thought they had cut us off after they blew up a bridge over the Meghna River. But we took them by surprise and crossed it at night with the help of the local people. That was the turning point," Lt Gen Aurora would reminisce later on the war.

The war to liberate Bangladesh started after Indira Gandhi decided to help the Mukti Bahini , the Bangladesh freedom fighters, in their armed struggle against the excesses of the west Pakistan authorities.

Pakistan started attacking the Mukti Bahini camps inside Indian territory. It got bolder and on 3rd December 1971, around 5.40 pm, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) led coordinated air strikes against nine Indian airfields in the Western sector.

The air strikes were followed by a massive attack on the strategic Chhamb sector in the north while the Indian Army went on the offensive in the East. By late that night Pakistan and India were locked in a fierce combat.

Two weeks later on 16 December 1971, Dhaka fell to the Indian army and the war was over. India took 93,000 Prisoners of War and Bangladesh was born.

"We did not want to be the first to strike, so this suited us. When the Army Chief (Field Marshal Maneckshaw) called me up to break the news, I told him, 'Let us get going but keep a bottle of whiskey for me to drink to Yahya Khan when the war gets over'," said the General recollecting the first few moments after the war broke out.

Both armies were ready on the morning of 4th December 1971. Indian army outnumbered the Pakistani forces and the only plan General Niazi had was to delay the Indian advance.

And his proud claims that he would take the battle into India was shattered after the Indian army ran the Pakistani forces in just two weeks.

General Aurora said smart strategies were responsible for the Indian victory. "Pakistan did not have enough forces to defend its eastern wing. Secondly, most East Pakistanis opposed the west's rule. This helped us train the Mukti Bahini," said the General.

A resigned Niazi signed the instrument of surrender with General Aurora on December 16, 1971, at Dhaka.

"I was a happy man. I knew that I had him (Niazi) there. He asked for peace. West Pakistanis had also sent a message through the US that they want to surrender. I sent Niazi the surrender documents. The rest is history," said Lt J S Aurora.