The atrocities at the hands of Pakistan inflicted on the Bangla sect of Eastern province to neutralise the freedom movement turned out to be a success. The brutal and ruthless nature of the Operation Searchlight that drove the Bengali resistance across the Indian Border, achieved tremendous triumph. However, Pakistan’s victory over the East Bengal sect was totally ultra-vires to the Indian interests. The army of Mukti Bahini and its leaders were also vulnerable and their accession to ultra-leftists, in that circumstance, would have been dangerous for India. Therefore, the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi in discussion with Sam Manekshaw (Army Chief) ordered the arming, training and tasking of the Mukti Bahini by the Army.
The Rebel Army
As many influential leaders of the resistance groups sought refuge in the Indian soil along with many seasoned as well as new-age fighters. The fighters, resistance groups and common refugees went ahead and set up a government-in-exile under the Indian Government aegis. Filled with vengeance and revenge, the correct and learned guidance offered by the Indian Military forces to the organised but unskilled Mukti Bahini forces, came as a priceless boon. While the agenda of both the countries may have been common which is to resist Pakistani forces from bulldozing civil and human rights, the call for an altogether different nation for the Bangla sect in the form of Bangladesh superseded India’s quest for territorial security.
Therefore, Indian Military’s active participation in strengthening up the Mukti Bahini force began immediately post the orders by the Prime Minister. Major General Onkar Singh Kalka, a fighting commander, was appointed as the director or Operations for the Operation Jackpot. A nominal manpower of five defecting infantry units of the Pakistan Battalion of East Bengal Regiment was utilised to constitute a Niyomit Bahini. Three more battalions were raised after a short interlude. Artillery batteries were also raised for fire support using defecting Pakistani Artillery personnel and new recruits. The entire force was organised into three efficient brigades. Bengali defectors and volunteers amounting to almost 550 personnel were organised and structured into a naval special force, to be used for underwater sabotage using limpet mines and demolition charges.
Indian Navy coalize with the Migrant Sailors
Following the arrest of former prime minister Sheikh Mujib Rahman, Bangladesh was declared an independent state on March 26, 1971 by Major Ziaur Rahman. Meanwhile, Pakistani Navy police were on their way to France to retrieve the country’s latest submarine (PNS Mangro). The sailing voyage also comprised 13 sailors belonging to the Bangla sect. Following the news of Bangladesh’s declaration of independence, the non-Bangla sailors escaped from the cruise as they felt insecure and anticipated a mutiny by the Bangla sailors, as the atmosphere around the summit was tense and Bengali sailors were severely disturbed. As a result, sailors sailing after the escape of eight comrades were inclined to the Bengali struggle and to seek revenge. So, after a harrowing journey of subservience and abuse, the sailors arrived in India and joined the Mukti Bahini. By the time the new navy was getting used to and getting acquainted with the Mukti Bahini paradigm, the Indian Navy and Mukti Bahini had already decided to launch a naval operation and target Pakistani assets.
The Attack – Operation Jackpot
Thanks to RAW’s intel, India has blocked a flight route from West Pakistan to Bangladesh. As a result, the only route that was open for Pakistan’s exploitation was the sea route. Pakistan needed to tighten the sea route as it was supposed to ride thousands of troops and soldiers across Bangladesh. In pursuit of transportation, Pakistan once again sent its own special forces to block the commandos of Mukti Bharti who returned to Bangladesh but achieved very little success as opposed to previous triumphs. While Pakistani troops were busy transporting and deploying their troops, the Indian Navy on the morning of August 15, executed “Operation Jackpot”. Nine ships in Chittagong were reduced to ashes by clusters of mines. The operation crippled Pakistan Army’s entire transport system and conveyed a strong message that Bangladesh has not been “pacified” and the storm of resistance, opposition and revenge is overdue.
The underground war lasted for more than 3 months. At the end of November, the Navy and Mukti Bahini sank more than 100,000 tonnes of shipments and goods, grieving minor injuries. The Indian Navy also provided commandos with assault rifles and other armouries to advance their weapons. Gradually, as the war intensified, the Pakistani forces in Bangladesh erupted in panic. Pakistani control declined in urban areas and consequently surrendered on December 16 following the last major blow of the opposition on December 3.
Written by Hamza Jamal is presently reading law and writes for The Wonk on polity and world affairs.