SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE-OPERATION EAGLE 1971-LIBERATION WAR OF BANGLADESH – GALLANTRY AWARD:
The Indo-Pak War of 1971 involved a War between India and Pakistan and the War was fought by the members of the armed forces on either side. In the Eastern Sector, the Indian Army military operation was planned and executed by Headquarters Eastern Command. I participated in Operation Eagle, a military operation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts which was, in reality, an Undeclared War of India on Pakistan. This military operation was planned by India’s Prime Minister, Srimati. Indira Gandhi. She approved the battle plan, the rules of engagement, and the issue of Marching Orders. She made all the critical decisions. The Prime Minister’s Office, the Cabinet Secretariat passed the executive orders and instructions for the conduct of this military operation. She never delegated her powers to other Staff members or assistants and exercised a tight control in the execution of all military acts as per the battle plan that was approved by her. In the history of the Republic of India, for the first time, the Prime Minister conducted a military operation of this magnitude using assistance from nontraditional fighting elements. This is of historical importance. I give her due credit for her bold initiative, qualities of leadership and her personal attention to all the critical aspects of our military mission. The records, the documents, the signal communications that directly pertain to Operation Eagle are not held at HQ Eastern Command and Army Headquarters in New Delhi. The Indian Army field commanders had no direct involvement in this Operation and they did not issue any orders for my participation or deployment for this military action.
The Battle Plan of Operation Eagle includes the rules and conditions that formulated the eligibility criteria of its participants to receive Military Honours and Awards with or without any affiliation to the Indian Army or the Ministry of Defence. Under these eligibility criteria, several Civilian Officers serving in the Directorate General of Security of the Cabinet Secretariat received Military Honours and Awards in recognition of the service they rendered during Operation Eagle. These include Shri. Sujan Singh Uban who received the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Dr. Ramesh Chandra who received the Vishisht Seva Medal, Shri. Tara Chand Pande who received the Vishisht Seva Medal, and Shri. G B Velankar who received the Gallantry Award of Vir Chakra.
I, MS-8466 Captain. R. Rudra Narasimham, AMC/SSC served as Medical Officer at Headquarters Establishment No. 22 C/O 56 APO from September 1971 to December 1974.
During the Indo-Pak War of 1971, I participated in a mission described as ‘difficult’ and ‘hazardous’. I provided medical support to the troops operating in the roadless, forest terrain of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. My Commander, Major General Sujan Singh Uban, AVSM, the Inspector General of Special Frontier Force published a book titled ‘The Phantoms of Chittagong: The Fifth Army in Bangladesh’. General Uban narrated the difficult nature of his military mission and the successful accomplishment of his task.
For the Courage, Determination, Resolve, and Confidence displayed while operating inside the enemy territory, I was recommended the award of ‘VIR CHAKRA’. The Citation recommending this Gallantry Award was initiated by Lieutenant Colonel B K Narayan of the Regiment of Artillery, the Commander of the South Column Unit of Operation Eagle. The military act that won recognition involved courage in the performance of military duties with minimal protection while facing the threat from two different sources; 1. the threat of enemy forces in the area, and 2. the threat of Mizo rebels who operated on both sides of the border between India, and Pakistan in that area.
The risks of conducting a medical evacuation of battlefield casualties (which is the responsibility of the Force headquarters and not of the South Column) were fully understood by the Unit Commander and the Force Commander Brigadier T S Oberoi and SFF Commander Major General Sujan Singh Uban. When the Force Headquarters failed to execute its Medical Evacuation Plan, the Unit was assigned this difficult task. The Unit Commander did not order me to personally direct this medical evacuation and escort the battle wounded to their destination. I, on my own initiative, responded to this challenge and went beyond the Call of his Duty to complete the task without exposing my medical staff (AMC-Nursing Assistants) to any additional risks imposed by the battlefield casualty evacuation.
Apart from my role as a doctor, I performed the duties of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Assistants who provide nursing care and comfort during the process of medical evacuation. In the Annual Confidential Report for 1971-72 initiated by Lieutenant Colonel. B K Narayan, my performance during the 1971 War was very warmly appreciated. The fact of a recommendation made to confer gallantry award was duly recorded.
Colonel Iqbal Singh of the Regiment of Artillery served as the Chief of Staff at the Force Headquarters of Op Eagle. During 1972, I was posted to a Unit Commanded by Colonel Iqbal Singh. I applied for the grant of Direct Permanent Commission(DPC) in the Army Medical Corps. In his remarks on that application, Colonel Iqbal Singh gave a very detailed account of my performance during the 1971 War. During the AMC Examination of September 1972, I was interviewed by the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services(DGAFMS) in the presence of a Selection Committee. When questioned by the DGAFMS, I narrated my role in providing medical support to troops involved in a difficult Operation. The DGAFMS openly praised my performance and concluded the interview with no further questions. I was granted Direct Permanent Commission in the AMC with effect from March 07, 1973 and allotted the Personal Number MR-03277 K.
I did not receive the Gallantry Award for which I am duly recommended. The reasons stated by the Ministry of Defence were flimsy and at the best ridiculous. The reason for not conferring the award was communicated to South Column of Operation Eagle; the reason stated was that of the delay in submitting the Citation. The Medical Directorate, the Office of The Director of Medical Services (Army) delayed forwarding the Award Citation to the Military Secretary’s Branch of Army Hqrs, Ministry of Defence.
Operation Eagle established specific criteria and eligibility requirements for recognition to receive Service Medals, Honours, and Awards. We followed those rules given by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretariat. The Award Citation was sent direct to Army Headquarters Medical Directorate and did not use the Staff channels that Units operating under the command of HQ Eastern Command would have used.
In my view, a Gallantry Award is not the equivalent of winning a Prize in a Lucky Draw. Further, it must be noted that the “History cannot be rewritten”.
The President’s Secretariat established a Helpline to receive requests and grievances from the public. I requested the President of India to review the decision made by the Ministry of Defence in 1971 and complained that the act of rejecting the Citation to award VIR CHAKRA in recognition of my courageous performance inside enemy territory, was ‘unfair’ and ‘unjust’. The President’s Secretariat registered my grievance and issued the following Grievance Registration Number: PRSEC/E/2009/05526.
I stated that I will not give up my claim for the Gallantry Award and this recognition would benefit other members of Indian Army Medical Corps and would inspire them to distinguish themselves in providing comfort and in boosting up the morale of our fighting men and women of our Armed Forces.
THE STATUS OF GRIEVANCE PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA: AUGUST 31, 2009
On August 31, 2009, The President’s Secretariat transferred my petition to the Ministry of Defence. For further information in this matter, I was asked to directly discuss with Shri. Anand Misra, Joint Secretary (Estt&PG), Room No. 97, South Block, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi. His telephone number is 237 92043. His e-mail address is: email@example.com
THE STATUS OF GRIEVANCE PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA: DECEMBER 03, 2009:
Indian Army HQ gave me a similar response 32 years ago. The Award ‘Citation’ never reached the MS Branch on the stipulated date. Two infantry Officers of my Unit were awarded ‘Vir Chakra’ for the same incident in which I participated. As a Medical Officer, I know the technique described as “EXHUMATION”. The word ‘exhume’ means to dig out of the earth or disinter and the process helps to bring something hidden to ‘light’. The ‘truth’ of this over 32 years old incident is buried in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. I know the exact place where the ‘truth’ is buried. I may have to dig out of the earth and show this truth and let the truth speak for itself.