New Delhi, Oct 19 (ANI): Mukti Bahini, the army of freedom fighters who fought against the Pakistan Army, must be given the due credit for liberating their country, according to Lt. General J.F.R. Jacob, the unsung hero of the 1971 India-Pakistan war over Bangladesh.
Mukti Bahini comprised of Bengali regulars and civilians, operated as an effective guerrilla force to keep the Pakistan Army on the run during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Lt. General Jacob was the Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, during the 1971 war and took many operational decisions at his own risk, despite differences with seniors. He was the mastermind of implementing the surrender programme by the Pakistan Army led by Lt. General Niazi, who headed the Eastern Command of the Pakistan Army.
Talking about the events leading to the war, Lt. General Jacob told ANI: "Mrs. Indira Gandhi (Indian PM) was pushing General Sam Manekshaw (Army Chief) to move the Army. Manekshaw was pushing me and I refused and gave him good reasons. I said look we have mountain divisions, we have to cross many rivers which don't have many bridges, monsoon is about to break and we are short of logistics."
"Mrs. Gandhi was appalled by the plight of refugees coming from East Pakistan and she ordered the Army to assist Bangladeshi freedom fighters. So we set up camps to train them in border areas. We started the Mukti forces."
Talking about the role of dreaded guerrilla force, Lt. General Jacob said: "The Mukti Bahini should be given due credit for the role they played in liberating Bangladesh. I must say the whole Bengali nation rose up, they fought against massacre. The Mukti forces played an important role in freeing their country.
"Mukti bahini created an environment of fear among the Pakistani Army, broke their morale and halted their movement. They harassed the Pakistani Army and this was the major contribution of Mukti forces."
Asked about his differences with the Army Chief, General (later Field Marshal) Manekshaw over capturing Dacca, Lt. General Jacob said: "He (Manekshaw) had asked for a brief and it was my brief that was read out to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. We had said Dhaka should be taken first, but he (Manekshaw) wanted to take the entry ports of Khulna and Chittagong.
"But I disagreed. Dacca was geo-political and geo-strategic heart of Bangladesh and should be taken first. With this we went to the war."
Describing the events leading to the surrender of the Pakistan Army, Lt. General Jacob said Manekshaw called me and said, "Jake, go and get a surrender." I said, "I sent you a surrender document, three days ago. Do I negotiate on that?" He just told me, "You know what to do."
"I was carrying my unconfirmed draft of the instrument of surrender to the meeting with Lieutenant General Niazi. At the meeting, Niazi said he had only come to discuss a ceasefire and not surrender...I took him to the side and told him that if they would surrender I could guarantee the safety of their families. I gave him 30 minutes and said if we didn't reach an agreement by then, there would be resumption of hostilities.
"Then I thought to myself, "What have I done?" Suppose he says no, what do I do? I had nothing in my hand. Niazi had 26,400 troops. We had about 3,000, that's all. Our victory was a miracle."
Niazi accepted the surrender with tears in his eyes. Niazi also later said, "I was compelled to surrender by Jacob, who blackmailed me."
Lt. General also piad rich tributes to Mrs. Gandhi and then Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram for their role in the Bangladesh Liberation War. (ANI)