LEE FALK’S PHANTOM:
Leon Harrison Gross, popularly known as Lee Falk had created the comic strip superhero ‘The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks’. The story of Phantom was initially set in the deep woods of Bengal of India. Later, the setting of the story moved to the jungles of the fictional African country of Bangalla. In that story, the true nature of Phantom is only known to the PYGMY tribe, the natives of the forest.
THE PHANTOMS OF CHITTAGONG: THE FIFTH ARMY IN BANGLADESH
Allied Publishers of India had published this book on April 1, 1985. The author of this Phantom fiction is Major General(Retd)Sujan Singh Uban. He had commanded the Special Frontier Force in the rank of Inspector General. In his story, General Uban narrated the military exploits of the Special Frontier Force during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. General Uban was deputed to carry out a hazardous operation in Chittagong Hill Tracts. His force was airlifted to the northeast corner of India and had reached the border of Mizoram State and had proceeded on foot to accomplish its mission. The force had operated independently in the most difficult terrain of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
For the success of this operation, General Uban was awarded the medal for distinguished service of exceptional order known as ‘Param Vishisht Seva Medal’ ( PVSM). Just like the ‘bush people’ of the forests of Bangalla know the true nature of PHANTOM, the native forest dwellers of the Chittagong Hill Tracts described as ‘CHAKMA’ know the true nature of the Phantoms, the ‘Fifth Army’ in Bangladesh. The Chakmas have eyes that can see. They had silently witnessed the movements of the Fifth Army. General Uban may not have contacted these denizens of the forests. He may have no clue as to what the Chakma might have seen. In the execution of General Urban’s military plan some of the Phantoms, gallant members of the Fifth Army sacrificed their lives. General Uban was not present when the real heroes were cremated or buried. Apart from myself, I presume that the Chakma might have seen where the ‘Phantoms of Chittagong’ were buried.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FIFTH ARMY:
General Uban in his book did not describe the full story about his military expedition to Bangladesh. He did not describe the Medical Evacuation Plan for his operation.
In the history of the Indian Army Medical Corps, a unique chapter was added in the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts. It would be my privilege to narrate that historical moment. General Uban may not be aware of the fact that I had actually marched into enemy territory without my personal weapon to defend myself.
General Uban was not aware of the ‘SERMON’ delivered by Lieutenant Colonel B K Narayan, my South Column Unit Commander in Kaptai. On Friday, December 17, 1971 morning, the religious worship service for Bangla Muslims of Kaptai was conducted by Colonel Narayan, a non-Muslim. I shared this story at my blog post titled ‘A Sermon in Kaptai, Bangladesh’.
General Uban was not aware of the use of Telugu language in military radio communications during a crucial phase of our Unit’s encounter with the enemy. Our enemy was not in a position to comprehend a South Indian language like Telugu. Myself and Colonel Narayan took advantage of the language barriers and had openly communicated in Telugu language. The enemy might have intercepted and listened to our radio conversations but did not decipher our messages. During 1971 War, for brief moments, the airwaves in Chittagong Hill tracts had carried words spoken in Telugu.
General Uban is entitled to take credit for his military plan. However, the real credit goes to the person who had executed the plan on the ground. Lieutenant General T S Oberoi, PVSM, VrC who was the General Officer Commanding – in – Chief at Headquarters Southern Command, Pune during 1982-85 should get the real credit. I knew General Oberoi. In 1971, he was a Brigadier. While I was heading to Kumbhigram airfield, he had personally seen me off in the early morning hours at Sarsawa airfield. He delayed the departure of the aircraft. He insisted that the men must be served a hot breakfast before boarding the plane. I remember him for his sense of devotion to the men he had commanded. He displayed this devotion in his actions and the manner in which the military plan was executed on the ground. Rajiv Gandhi. the Prime Minister of India had simply overlooked his merit and had denied him the opportunity to serve the nation as the Chief of Army Staff. I had also served under General K S Sundarji at the First Armoured Division. In my blog post titled ‘Living Under The Shadow – A Prescription For Death’ dated June 22, 2009, I wrote that I could not perform the simple task of medical evacuation when I was called to attend upon his ailing wife. Whereas while serving under the Command of Brigadier Oberoi, in the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts, I had written a new Chapter in the History Books of the Indian Army Medical Corps. Based upon that story, I ask the Government of India to award me the Gallantry Award Vir Chakra that was recommended but not presented. A gallantry award is not the equivalent of winning a lottery ticket. The award is only a recognition of a past event that had taken place. History cannot be rewritten. Apart from the Citation recommending me for this decoration, my Annual Confidential Report for the year 1971, Colonel Iqbal Singh’s Remarks on my application for Direct Permanent Commission – AMC Examination held in 1972 are part of the documents archived at Ministry of Defence, New Delhi. My actions in Chittagong Hill Tracts were witnessed by Bangla Muslim refugees who had accompanied us and more interestingly by a young Chakma man who had silently observed me while I cared and comforted the battle casualties. I am happy to narrate this Untold Story. Kindly view my Blog Post:
The Medical Plan for Fifth Army in Bangladesh – The Experience of Madhurya in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
I want to express my sense of appreciation and give my warmest regards to Mr. Siddique Ahmed who served at Karnaphuli Complex at Chandraghona near Kaptai and had joined our Unit during the execution of Operation Eagle. I thank him for sharing his comments on this post.
R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Service Number: MS-8466, Rank: CAPTAIN, Branch: Army Medical Corps/Short Service Regular Commission,
Designation: Medical Officer, South Column Operation Eagle, 1971-72,
Organization: Headquarters Establishment No. 22 C/O 56 APO.
I come from Chittagong. I have seen and participated in my humble way in our War of Liberation in 1971. I have also read the the book by General Uban and had the privilege of listening to him when he was accorded a reception in front of the Chittagong Circuit House in December 1971. I cannot remember the exact date. I write for some national dailies and am very interested in collecting materials related to our Liberation War. Shall be grateful if you could enlighten me more on the battles that were fought in 1971 in and around Chittagong.
Warm Victory Day wishes.
The Unit with which I had served as the Medical Officer was the first to arrive at Rangmati. We had arrived there in one of the large steam boats that regularly ferry hundreds of passengers over the Karnaphuli River. A huge crowd of very excited Bangla Muslims received us at the dock. The people of Rangamati were very jubilant gave a very warm welcome to all of us. By my physical appearance, many of them thought that I am a native of Bangla and had started conversing with me. We had searched Rangamati and there were no Pakistani troops in the entire area. Then we had moved to Kaptai and for the first time during the course of this War I could get some rest in the Kaptai Dam Guest House. Fortunately, we found several cars and trucks left behind in Kaptai. It gave us the mobility that we had badly needed. We had gone to CHANDRAGHONA. Mr. Siddique Ahmed, of Bangladesh Liberation Force, an engineer who works in the Karnaphuli Complex at Chandraghona was with my Unit during the Operation. There were no troops to oppose us.He had further witnessed action at Chittagong undertaken by a Unit commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Asser. We had gone to Chittagong City using the cars and trucks that we had found in Kaptai. We were the first to physically arrive in Chittagong City. The City was peaceful. The traffic police were on duty. The Bangla Police were maintaining Law and order. There was no pandemonium or chaos. The City had power and water supply as usual. As we had arrived in cars, people had barely noticed us. There was no war related damage in the City that I could personally witness. The Pakistani Forces had decided to surrender collectively at Dhaka. Indian Navy did see some action in this area but Indian Navy did not arrive in the City. We met with no armed opposition in and around Chittagong City. Towards evening, myself and some of my Company Commanders of my Unit got invited for Tea and Biscuits at the residence of an Anglo-Indian family living in Chittagong. The young Anglo-Indian man was very persistent, he was very happy, and he wanted to express his joy by taking us to his very modest home and served us refreshments. My Unit did not have enough troops to occupy Chittagong. We were already deployed in Kaptai and other key locations around the Kaptai Lake. We left Chittagong during January 1972 in a ship that we had hired. We had sailed from Chittagong to Calcutta and the return trip to India was wonderful. The Bay of Bengal Sea was peaceful and had a dazzling navy blue luster. I want to emphatically confirm that there were no battles fought in or around Chittagong City and Pakistan withdrew its forces from this City just prior to our arrival. We did not capture or take any prisoners from the military garrison. We had arrived with weapons and ammunition but there was no armed confrontation. Please read the rest of my posts on this subject and the tribute I had paid to Lieutenant Colonel B K Narayan who had Commanded my Unit and had delivered a Sermon in Kaptai and led the Friday Worship Service at the Kaptai Dam Guest House and a large number of Kaptai residents had attended that Friday Afternoon Prayer.
I was in South Column during Operation Eagle with a BLF group engaged in support of the operation. I entererd with Col. Narayan, Major Negi, Captain Gurung, Capt. Kurian (Adjutant). I have a publication on my experience in the expedition which won first battle in Jalienpara under Colonel Narayan. I want the address of Col Narayan and Coln Asser and also share experience with you. I am a retired professional Engineer and was head of Planning Department in Karnaphuli Complex at Chandraghona before start of Liberation war.
Dear Siddique Ahmed,
I am indeed happy to hear from you.Thanks for visiting my blog post. Kindly read my tribute to Lieutenant Colonel B K Narayan. I would like to hear about your experience if you wish to share what you have seen. Please let me know if you were at Kaptai while Col Narayan conducted the Friday Worship Service?
What is the title of your publication?
Is it available in the market?
Thanks for your inquiry. I did not publish any books. An engineer who worked in Chandraghona Paper Mills worked with us as a guide and he published a book sharing his story.
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