LT GENERAL(Retd) JACK FREDERICK RALPH JACOB,PVSM, THE ARCHITECT OF SURRENDER AT DACCA
THE BIRTH OF BANGLADESH
Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistani rule on March 25, 1971 but the Liberation was accomplished on 16th December, 1971 at 4.30 p.m. when the Pakistani army commander Lt General. A. A. K. Niazi signed the surrender document before people of Dhaka (DACCA) at Dhaka’s ‘Racecourse Maidan’ which is now known as ‘Suhrawardy Udyan’. Major General J F R Jacob, Chief of Staff of Indian Eastern Army had drafted the “instrument of surrender”. Earlier on that day of surrender, General Jacob had arrived to meet General Niazi who had actually wanted to discuss “only a ceasefire under the U.N.”The credit of arranging this modern history’s only public surrender by a vanquished force goes to this Jewish General of Indian Army. General Jacob’s Hebrew name is YAACOV RAFAEL. He is a ‘BAGHDADI’ Jew and the family had arrived in Calcutta about 200 years ago. About 36 years after the surrender ceremony, a 11-member delegation of Indian war veterans led by General Jacob were invited to Bangladesh to witness the 37th Independence Day celebrations on March 26, 2008. Some of the historical events are described by General Jacob in his book titled ‘SURRENDER AT DACCA:BIRTH OF A NATION’ and the book was published by Manohar Publishers in the year 2001. It is very interesting to note that General Jacob in an interview at Dacca had given some appreciation to the military operation in Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Liberation of Chittagong by Forces which operated outside the jurisdiction of Indian Army’s Eastern Command.
The Spirit of a Jew
General Jacob joined the British Indian Army(ARTILLERY) in 1942 because of his concerns about the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. Very interestingly, his first assignment during the World War II was in Iraq from where his ancestors had migrated to India. He had also served in Africa, Burma, and Sumatra during World War II. He had retired in 1978 after serving as the Commander of India’s Eastern Army. He was instrumental in saving the lives of many Pakistani service personnel, civilian staff, paramilitary forces and their families by successfully negotiating the modalities of the surrender at Dacca. The surrender had ensured that the prisoners would be treated with Dignity and Respect that they are entitled to under the Geneva Conventions of 1948. It guaranteed the safety and wellbeing of all who surrender. Much attention was given to safely remove the non-combatants and the soldiers were particularly protected from reprisal attacks by the victorious Bangla freedom fighters (Mukti Bahini).
While General Jacob was the Chief of Staff at the Eastern Army Headquarters, the only other Jew in the Liberation War of Bangladesh was the Adjutant of my Unit.The Adjutant, Captain.Kottayam Chacko Kurien is a Kerala Jew. The Jews of Kerala were the first members of Jewish community to arrive in India and their migration dates back to the biblical times,starting with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and even the earlier period of their Babylonian Exile.There is evidence to prove that there was a Jewish community in India prior to the arrival of Saint Thomas in 52 A.D.Since I had participated in the 1971 War without my personal weapon, Captain Kurien was also assigned the responsibility of defending me. He took that task with a sense of cheer and true to his spirit of a Jew, he had solemnly announced that I would be the last person to get killed(by the enemy) in my Unit and had assured me that I should have no concerns for being unarmed. As we moved in, it did not take too long for an alert enemy patrol to spot our movement and they opened an intense barrage of gun fire. Captain. Kurien quickly dug up a trench and had asked me to take cover till things cool down. It was a very dark night, we responded with great restraint, and as we waited with our own attack plan, we allowed the enemy patrol to think that we were beaten back. As I was in good company, I could totally focus on my primary task of giving medical support to the men without any other concern about my personal safety. In the same operational zone, several miles away, a doctor had a very rough experience for lack of proper understanding of his role and for not trusting the men whom he was to support.
Having taken part in the military operation of 1971 to Liberate Bangladesh, I would give credit to the Indian Air Force who clinched the victory and the surrender by the Pakistani forces.Indian ground forces could rapidly advance towards Dacca and Chittagong as they never came under an air strike by Pakistan.General Jacob in his book had claimed that the Eastern Army had prepared a better operational plan but the facts are the ground assault can not proceed without air support and the coordinated support for the attack is planned at the Army Headquarters in New Delhi rather than at Kolkata where the Eastern Army Command is based. Indian Air Force dominated the air space and they were able to hit any enemy target with great precision and with the display of their air superiority and power, Pakistani General Niazi had no chance of protecting his ground forces and took the wise course of ending the battle and over 93,000 people eventually returned to Pakistan.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE – OPERATION EAGLE – LIBERATION WAR OF BANGLADESH 1971:
Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India during 1971, initiated Liberation of Bangladesh with military action in Chittagong Hill Tracts. The battle plan of this military action is known as Operation Eagle.
THE PHANTOMS OF CHITTAGONG : THE FIFTH ARMY IN BANGLADESH :
Major General ( Retd) Sujan Singh Uban, AVSM, the former Inspector General of Special Frontier Force had narrated the exploits of his Force in his book titled ‘The Phantoms of Chittagong : The Fifth Army in Bangladesh’. General Uban had missed an opportunity to narrate several interesting aspects of this military operation and I am pleased to share some of the stories in my Blog Posts.
Dr. R. R. Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Personal Number: MS-8466, Rank. CAPTAIN,
Army Medical Corps (AMC)/Short Service Regular Commission (SSRC)
Medical Officer, South Column, Operation Eagle 1971-72
Headquarters Establishment No. 22, C/O 56 APO,
Special Frontier Force.