THE FIFTH ARMY – THE UNTOLD STORY FROM CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS


View of lush green Bandarban hills and valley

SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE – OPERATION EAGLE – LIBERATION WAR OF BANGLADESH 1971:

Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India had initiated Liberation of Bangladesh during 1971 with military action in Chittagong Hill Tracts. This battle plan is known as Operation Eagle.

A PHOTO ID PICTURE TAKEN IN 1972 AFTER THE LIBERATION WAR.
A PHOTO ID PICTURE TAKEN IN 1972 AFTER THE LIBERATION WAR.

In this picture, I have no medal ribbons to display. The medals for participation in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 had arrived later.

Major General Sujan Singh Uban, the Commander of Special Frontier Force.
Major General Sujan Singh Uban, the Commander of Special Frontier Force.The Commander of the ‘Fifth Army’ in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

General Sujan Singh Uban had narrated his story in his book titled ‘The Phantoms of Chittagong : The Fifth Army in Bangladesh.

Lieutenant Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands(December 1985 to December 1989) – Lieutenant General(Retd) TS Oberoi, PVSM, VrC., former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Headquarters Southern Command, Pune, former Inspector General, Special Frontier Force, former Commandant, Headquarters Establishment No. 22. He is the tall person in this photo wearing dark brown turban. I knew him since 1971. Under his able leadership, the Liberation of Bangladesh had commenced in the year 1971 during the Indo-Pak War.Apart from his military wisdom, he took a good care of all men under his Command. While I was proceeding to Chittagong Hill Tracts, he had individually greeted all the members of my team and had delayed the departure of aircraft to ensure that a hot breakfast was served to all the men boarding the aircraft. He paid personal attention to all the aspects of the military mission to ensure the wellbeing of men apart from achieving success in accomplishing the military task. The sense of warmth he radiated is easily felt when we meet him in person. His grandson provided me the link to this photo. Photo Credit – Trishna-Ajay-Picasa Web Album.
A VIEW OF INDIAN MIZO HILLS FROM CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS
A VIEW OF INDIAN MIZO HILLS FROM CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS
Rivers and streams flow throughout the region of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Rivers and streams flow throughout the region of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Early morning dense fog and mist in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Early morning dense fog and mist in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
I used a large waterproof poncho to get protection from early morning mist and dew.
I used a large waterproof poncho to get protection from early morning mist and dew.
The Fifth Army operated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The Fifth Army operated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Chittagong Hill Tracts is sparsely populated with isolated dwellings.
Chittagong Hill Tracts is sparsely populated with isolated dwellings.

The Simplicity of Chakma Existence.
The Simplicity of Chakma Existence.
The CHAKMA posed no threat but we had avoided direct contact.
The CHAKMA posed no threat but we had avoided direct contact.
I had camped at Kaptai Lake and it is memorable.
I had camped at Kaptai Lake and it is memorable.
I had regularly visited men deployed in Kaptai Lake Area.
I had regularly visited men deployed in Kaptai Lake Area.
We had never planned to blow up the dam over Karnaphuli River at KAPTAI.
We had never planned to blow up the dam over Karnaphuli River at KAPTAI.
For brief moments during 1971, messages in TELUGU language had appeared in the radio waves transmitted across Chittagong Hill Tracts.
For brief moments during 1971, messages in TELUGU language had appeared in the radio waves transmitted across Chittagong Hill Tracts.
We had operated in an area under the operational control of IV CORPS.
We had operated in an area under the operational control of IV CORPS.
Lieutenant General T S Oberoi, the Southern Army Commander during 1983, the former Inspector General of Special Frontier Force is seen in this photo wearing a helmet. The photo was taken during 1982 while he had visited A S C Centre, Bangalore. He would have executed Operation Blue Star with due care and concern to save the lives of his men and also the civilians.

General T S Oberoi had exuded a natural sense of affection and warmth for he had truly cared about the men under his Command and this is a quality that men would seek in the Chief of Army Staff and he was denied that opportunity. Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made a political choice and had appointed General K S Sundarji as the Chief of Army Staff. General T S Oberoi, the senior Army Commander, had to unfortunately retire from Service in 1985 and was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and served in that capacity until 1989.

In the history of Indian Army Medical Corps for the first time during 1971 I had provided the services of a Medical Officer, a Nursing Assistant, and an Ambulance Assistant.
In the history of Indian Army Medical Corps for the first time during 1971 I had provided the services of a Medical Officer, a Nursing Assistant, and an Ambulance Assistant.
I was trained in the use of a 9 mm SMG or Sten Gun. I had chosen to march into enemy territory without my personal weapon to defend myself. I did not throw away my weapon and I did not surrender my weapon to the enemy which are crimes under law. War is a team effort. My contribution to this team effort is not based upon firing bullets from my Sten Gun. I had totally discarded any concerns about my personal safety and worked for the success of the team. I have shown Courage by not carrying this Sten Gun and in following my team like a shadow and confronting the enemy as a TEAM.
I was trained in the use of a 9 mm SMG or Sten Gun. I had chosen to march into enemy territory without my personal weapon to defend myself. I did not throw away my weapon and I did not surrender my weapon to the enemy which are crimes under law. War is a team effort. My contribution to this team effort is not based upon firing bullets from my Sten Gun. I had totally discarded any concerns about my personal safety and worked for the success of the team. I have shown Courage by not carrying this Sten Gun and in following my team like a shadow and confronting the enemy as a TEAM.
The Indo-Pak War of 1971 and the Birth of Bangladesh are very significant achievements of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As I was then serving in an Establishment under the Cabinet Secretariat, I had direct and personal understanding of her Foreign Policy Initiatives. She had personally approved the ‘Fifth Army’s military Operation in Chittagong Hill Tracts. In the conduct of this War, we had faced a very critical moment and it needed her personal intervention and a decision that she alone could make. I rendered my services and had overcome the challenge posed by that critical situation. The importance of this situation could be understood as it needed an intervention from the Prime Minister. I am now asking the Government of India to recognize my GALLANT response in enemy’s territory without any concern for my personal safety.

I am pleased to claim that I had established an entirely new record in providing medical support to the battle wounded in an operational area of Chittagong Hill Tracts during Operation Eagle 1971, Liberation War of Bangladesh. To provide medical support to the battle casualties, I had reached the casualties at the enemy post that we had just captured. I was the only Army Medical Corps person on the ground. We had no stretchers, blankets, and resuscitation fluids. The casualties could not be airlifted as per the prior Medical Evacuation Plan. The men felt outraged. I had comforted them with my assurance that I would accompany them to the nearest helipad that was located over forty miles away at the  Border Security Force outpost of Bonapansuria near the border in the Indian Mizo Hills. The men prepared improvised stretchers. We had no Infantry Officer to accompany us. A party of about 65 men, a Bangla Refugee as a guide, carried all the battle casualties in stretchers and had camped overnight in the forest and had reached the helipad at Bonapansuria the next day morning. I had acted as the Medical Officer, the Nursing Assistant, and an Ambulance Assistant for the battle wounded during this foot journey through the difficult hilly and forest terrain. They had reached the Field Hospital in Lungleh in very good spirits and in a stable condition in spite of being critically wounded.

Lungleh, or Lunglei, was the destination for my battle wounded patients.
Lungleh, or Lunglei, was the destination for my battle wounded patients.
THE FLAG OF INDIAN ARMY MEDICAL CORPS.
THE FLAG OF INDIAN ARMY MEDICAL CORPS.

The sense of resolve, determination, and confidence with which I had accompanied my patients and had performed a foot journey walking over forty miles through the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts during Operation Eagle 1971 had given the sense of comfort and reassurance the men needed to boost up their morale. In the medical evacuation of battle casualties from the battle field, Army Medical Corps typically uses several Nursing Assistants and Ambulance Assistants who perform a variety of tasks. I had the unique privilege to perform their duties for I have a true sense of appreciation for the valuable services they render in providing patient care and comfort. I had actually self-learned the tasks they perform and knew it would be of a great value and an asset for my success as a Medical officer of Indian Army.

Dr. R. R. Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,

Ex- Number. MS-8466 Rank. LIEUTENANT/CAPTAIN  AMC/SSC

Medical Officer South Column Operation Eagle 1971

Headquarters Establishment No. 22  C/O  56  APO

Related Blog Posts :

1. About Guns, Victory, and Gallantry Awards – Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 – October 23, 2007

2. Liberation War of Bangladesh – Fallen Heroes on Both Sides – October 28, 2007

3. Sangram Medal 1971 – A Story that I Shared with the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services. – November 22, 2007

4. India and Iran – What is the Connection ? –  January 28, 2008

5. The Spirit of a Jew – Revisiting the Birth of Bangladesh – February 10, 2009

6. The Victory over Death – The Psychology of Warfare – July 13, 2009

7. The Phantoms of Chittagong – A Story from Chittagong Hill Tracts – August 17, 2009

8. The Medical Plan for Fifth Army in Bangladesh – The Experience of Madhurya in Chittagong Hill Tracts – August 18, 2009

9. Award of Gallantry Awards – Indo-Pak War of 1971 – August 25, 2009

10. The Art of Battlefield Medicine – September 01, 2009

 

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10 thoughts on “THE FIFTH ARMY – THE UNTOLD STORY FROM CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS

  1. I am sorry that you didn’t receive the recognition that you deserved for your role in 1971 Bangladesh war. I salute you for your valour.
    However, you never mentioned about the important roles played by the Tibetan refugees of the Special Frontier Force (SFF) along Chittagong Hill Tracts during the war. SFF had lost 56 men and had 190 wounded (all were Tibetans). Don’t you think it’s unfair of you not giving recognition those brave Tibetans in you blog while you are complaining about not getting enough recognition for yourself.

    Thank you
    Tashi

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    1. Tashi, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You may be forgetting the fact that I was the Medical Officer who had counted the dead and had treated the wounded. Do not give me those numbers which you have picked up from some unknown and unreliable sources. Do not depend upon people who have not witnessed the battle. I want to again emphasize the fact that we all exist in this world because of a Fundamental Force of Mercy and Compassion which I have described as “KRUPA”. I am seeking a recognition for that FORCE/POWER/ENERGY which had uplifted me and had supported my mission.

      Like

  2. This war of bangla desh was fought and we at a remote place in Maharashtra got excited by hearing news of atrocities on hindus and bengalis during December 1971 war. what would have been the reaction of our armed forces who witnessed these events. My nearest relative who participated in actual war from AGARTALA in Tripura. Indira Gandhi was absolutely correct and justfied in her actions of sending Special Force to neutralise these atrocities which were totally neglected by US, Nixon and Kissinger at that critical time.

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  3. I respect Indian Army, my salute to them , but all Chittagong Hill Tracts JUMMA people has same question. Why they didn’t help us to be part of greater India? Still we love to be part of India.

    Like

    1. Dear Mr. Paran,

      Thanks for visiting this page. Kindly let me know the name of the people whose concerns are of interest to you. Man must always seek to find Peace, Harmony, and Tranquility in his own living experience and in his interactions with others in his social community.

      Like

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