1971: Amid celebrations, some painful memories
by Jaibans Singh on 22 Dec 2020 3 Comments

“On Vijay Diwas we recall the unwavering courage of our armed forces that resulted in a decisive victory for our nation in the 1971 war. On this special Vijay Diwas, had the honour of lighting the ‘Swarnim Vijay Mashaal’ at the National War Memorial,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi after paying tribute at the National War Memorial, New Delhi on the 50th anniversary of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, also called the ‘War for Liberation of Bangladesh.’


Bangladesh celebrates the day as ‘Bijoy Dibosh’ (victory day) to mark its independence and declaration as a new country under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This freedom was won with great sacrifice of the people of Bangladesh and the people of India. The role of the Indian Army in providing the people of Bangladesh the fruits of democracy and freedom is remarkable.


The Eastern Command of the Indian Army that was responsible for operations in the Eastern sector this year hosted 30 Mukti Jodhas and seven serving members of the Bangladesh Army. Mukti Jodhas are war veterans of the irregular revolutionary force of Bangladesh (Mukti Bahni) that fought alongside the Indian Army for the liberation of their country. Paying rich tributes to the Indian Army soldiers and Mukti Jodhas who laid down their lives during the war of liberation, Lt. General Anil Chouhan of the Eastern Command, said, “Their martyrdom will continue to inspire generations of soldiers and citizens in this country as well as across the border." He said cooperation between the armies of the two nations has been growing steadily over the years.


The Northern Command of the Indian Army, that remains “forever in operations” to challenge the evil machinations of a neighbouring country, took time off from its onerous duties to celebrate Vijay Diwas with traditional aplomb. A large number of ex-servicemen and service personnel led by Lt. General YK Joshi of the Northern Command, paid homage to fallen heroes of the war and recollected the glorious victory.


A year-long celebration beginning on December 16, 2020, is planned to commemorate the Golden Jubilee year of the great victory. Called ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh,’ four ‘Swarnim Vijay Mashaals’ lit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be carried to various parts of the country. They will touch villages and residences of Param Vir Chakra and Maha Vir Chakra awardees of the 1971 war. All war veterans and Veer Naris (widows of the brave Indian soldiers who fought the war) will also be honoured. The ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’ is a welcome initiative by the Government of India to commemorate the greatest Indian victory in the annals of military history. It has been defined as the shortest war to give such a decisive victory, to the extent of carving out a new Nation.


Sadly, some are unable to rise above their petty issues even at times when national pride is being celebrated. While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has showered wholesome praise and honour upon the soldiers, the people and the political leadership of that time, the Congress Party has chosen to play politics. In a highly avoidable tweet in Hindi, Congress ex-president Rahul Gandhi spoke of times “when the neighbouring countries of India believed in the might of the Prime Minister of India and were afraid of violating the border of our country!”

Instead of celebrating the historical event, Gandhi made a crude, unsophisticated comparison between late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, forgetting that even then India’s borders were violated by the neighbouring country. War was declared by the Indian Prime Minister in response to a coordinated, pre-emptive air strike on Indian Air Force bases by Pakistani fighter aircraft on the evening of December 3, 1971. India responded to enemy aggression as she continues to do today, whenever and wherever challenged. Politicians who lack strategic vision should remain silent and not make obnoxious, ill-informed statements that embarrass the nation.


Previously, while in power, the Congress petulantly avoided celebration of the Kargil victory, simply because the war was fought and won under the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The excuse given for this lapse by Congress MP Rashid Alvi was that “Kargil was not a thing to be celebrated as the war was fought on Indian territory.” An ignorant and shameful statement to say the least! Celebration of Kargil Diwas began only in 2009 when Rajeev Chandrashekhar demanded the same in the Rajya Sabha.


After the resounding success in Kargil, the Congress-led government, instead of honouring the soldiers with gifts and bonanzas as is the norm everywhere in the world, listened to some frustrated bureaucrats heading the Third Pay Commission and abolished the separate Pay Commission of the Armed forces. It drastically reduced the percentage of pension for armed forces and set aside the concept of One Rank One Pension (OROP) that was in place till that time. The government also restricted the right of serving soldiers to vote at their place of posting.


As the nation gears up to celebrate the golden jubilee of the great victory, the wounds afflicted by the Congress regime are fresh in the minds of its soldiering community. Lack of strategic foresight in the political leadership impels some to take the soldier for granted. Nations have paid a terrible price for such mistakes; it is hoped that our great nation will remain safe from such a fate.


(Jaibans Singh is an army veteran, geo-strategic analyst and columnist)

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top