Participating in the Vijay Dewas Celebrations of the Eastern Command, Indian Armed Forces, Fort William, Kolkata, India (14-17 December 2012)

The Indian government had invited 19  Muktijoddhas (1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation soldiers fighting for Bangladesh against Pakistan) and six serving officers of the Bangladesh Armed Forces including their spouses to participate in the Indian Army Eastern Command’s “Vijay Diwas” celebrations.  The “Vijay Dewas,” which means victory day in Hindi, is celebrated on 16 December every year to mark the unconditional surrender of the Pakistani Army in erstwhile East Pakistan (which is now Bangladesh) on 16 December 1971 to the joint forces of India and Bangladesh.

The Muktijoddha delegation was led by Maj. Gen. Subid Ali Bhuiyan (Retd.), MP, while the Bangladesh Armed Forces delegation was led by Maj. Gen. Salahuddin Miaji, a serving officer.

The chief hosts were Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, AVSM, VSM, GOC-IN-C Eastern Command of Indian Army and his wife Mrs. Namita Suhag. It is almost certain that Lt Gen Dalbir Singh is going to be the next Army Chief of India.

The three day event was packed full of events, as narrated below:

Day-1: 14 December 2012: We reached Kolkata in the afternoon and after checking in the hotel it was time for dinner. The venue was the Ordnance Club of the Eastern Command of Indian Army located at Hastings, Kolkata. The host of this event was Maj. Gen. RK Saiwal, Master General of Ordnance. This allowed us to get acquainted with our hosts. I found the General to be a true gentleman and he extended us all courtesies expected from a gracious host. After making lot of new friends and having savored the sumptuous dinner we headed back to our hotel—it was already 11 pm.

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With Mahj Gen Abu Kaiser Fazlul Kabir at the lobby of Grand Oberoi Hotel, Kolkata

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The Ordnance Club
The Ordnance Club
Host of the event Maj Gen RK Saiwal
Host of the event Maj Gen RK Saiwal, MGO
The host Maj Gen RK Saiwal and Maj Gen Salahuddin Miaji
The host Maj Gen RK Saiwal and Maj Gen Salahuddin Miaji

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Maj Gen (Retd) Abu Kaiser Fazlur Rahman and I
Maj Gen (Retd) Abu Kaiser Fazlur Rahman and I

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Waresat Hossain Belal, MP
Mr. Waresat Hossain Belal, MP

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Shimu with Mr. Subid Ali Bhuiyan

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Begum Mushtari Shafi and Brig. Khera. Brig. Khera was the Chief of Protocol for the Bangladesh delegation.

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Next morning after breakfast we headed for the Victoria Memorial. Victoria Memorial is located almost opposite our hotel and soon we reached there. I had never been to the Memorial and it was a pleasant trip—I particularly enjoyed the flintlocks, muskets, cannons, and other antique weapons being displayed there. One brass cannon was of particular interest as it was cast by a metal worker from Bengal.

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From left to right: Mahbub Elahi Ronju, BP; Shahzaman Mozumder, BP; Maj. Manzoor Ahmed, BP; and Maj Gen Abu Kaiser Fazlul Kabir.

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Our next program was interaction with war veterans at the Army Officers Institute located inside Fort William. We met a number of 1971 war veterans there including, to my utter surprise, Lt Gen JFR Jacob. Did you know that he was born in 1923? He is 91 years old and he was participating in all the events in full gusto?  Unfortunately, I did not find anybody I knew from 1971. Nevertheless, it was great fun to interact with the veterans and reminisce about the 1971 War of Liberation. I found some of the veterans who were operating near me, particularly around 1-16 December 1971.

With Lt Gen Dalbir Singh
With Lt Gen Dalbir Singh
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Gen Jacob on 1971 War
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With Lt Gen Jacob and Lt Gen Dalbir Singh

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With 1971 War veteran Col RB Bhatia

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Enjoying the Army band’s performance

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The performers of the cultural evening program

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Commanding Officer of 14 Guards Regiment, Col. Shehzada Kohli
Commanding Officer of 14 Guards Regiment, Col. Shehzada Kohli

According to the original program, we were expecting a shopping break after meeting the veterans; however, our interactions consumed more time than originally planned and therefore there was no time left for shopping. We rushed to our hotel to change for the following event, which was a cultural program at the Fort William Stadium.

The evening’s cultural program contained dancing, singing, and gymnastics and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The host and hostess for this event were Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, AVSM, VSM, GOC-IN-C Eastern Command of Indian Army and his wife Mrs. Namita Suhag. Following the cultural program we headed for Senapati Bhawan for cocktail, dinner, and more interactions.

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The next day was 16 December and the main event of the program—laying of wreaths at the “Vijay Smarak,” meaning “Victory Column.”

On December 16, 1971 the combined might of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, the para-military forces, including the Bangladeshi Freedom Fighters known as Muktibahini achieved a historic victory over the Pakistani forces. The multi-pronged swift operation by the combined Indian Armed Forces and Muktibahini was executed with great valor which led to the formation of Bangladesh.

It was also on this day that the greatest military surrender since World War II took place, when the Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora GOC-in-C, Eastern Command accepted the Instrument of Surrender from Lt Gen AAK Niazi of the Pakistan Army at Dhaka. To commemorate this historical event, Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year by Indian Army. This momentous day is remembered as a mark of respect for the Armed Forces personnel, who laid down their lives in the war.

Two members of the Bangladeshi delegation laid wreaths at the Vijay Samark: Maj Gen(Retd)  Subid Ali Bhuiyan on behalf of the Muktijoddha (1971 Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh) and Maj Gen Md. Salahuddin Miaji on behalf of the six-member Bangladesh Armed Forces delegation.

It was marked by showing respect to the martyrs of the 1971 War. The widow and son of Lance Naik Albert Ekka, the only recipient of Param Vir Chakra in 1971 war in the Eastern Sector, the highest gallantry award of Indian Armed Forces conferred only posthumously, were also present in the ceremony. They were shown the highest of regards by all those present at the ceremony.

Lance Nail Albert Ekka was from the 14 Guards Regiment and he was martyred at the Battle of Ganga Sagar on 4 December 1971. Incidentally, I was only about a few kilometer from Albert Ekka on the fateful  day. My location was at the battlefield of Akahaura.

On Sunday, 16 December 2012, when Col. Shehzada Kohli, Commanding Officer of 14 Guards Battalion escorted Ekka’s widow Balamdina and son Vinsant to the gathering of Mukti Joddhas, veterans, Indian and Bangladeshi military officers, I had no idea that this Kohli is the son of Col. (Retd.) O.P. Kohli, who was a Captain in 1971 and Albert Ekka’s commanding officer at Ganga Sagar. The incumbent Commander of 14 Guards was born a year after the 1971 War and Vinsant was nine-months old when Ekka laid down his life for the country.

I am very happy to report that Lt. Gen. Jaclob was also present and placed a wreath at the memorial.

Among others, I met a colonel of the 5 Gurkha Rifles (unfortunately don’t remember his name). This regiment, 5th Gorkha Rifles, distinguished themselves in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. On 21 November 1971 in the Battle of Atgram Complex they captured a heavily fortified Pakistani complex defended by the regulars of Pakistan’s 31 Punjab Regiment. It was a classic silent attack where the Gorkha’s are rumored to have used only their Kukris.

It is very easy to identify a member of the Gurkha Rifles from the way they wear their hats at a sharp angle and by the short length of the strap which extends only just below the lower lip and held by the ridge formed there. When I asked the colonel why the Gurkhas wear their hats in that fashion, he replied, “this symbolizes the Gurkha motto of talking less and working more.”

The incumbent commander of the Eastern Command and our chief host Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh is also from the 5 Gurkha Rifles.

The next event was the Army Band Concert at the Fort William Auditorium. It was a one-hour event and live band is always enjoyable. I particularly liked the military band’s rendition of the Indian Army marching song Kadam kadam Badhaye Ja. Below is the English translation of the song:

Keep stepping forward
Singing songs of happiness as you go
This life belongs to our motherland
Lay it down for her a hundredfold

You are the Tiger of India
Do not fear death
Blow away the enemy’s head
Raise the spirits of your comrades

Take all your steps forward
Sing songs of happiness as you go
Your life belongs to the motherland
Lay it down for her a hundredfold

Your courage is your strength
The Lord listens to you
As for he who stands in your way
Turn him into dust and stamp him into the ground

Take all your steps forward
Sing songs of happiness as you go
This life belongs to motherland
Lay it down for her a hundredfold

“For Delhi” you scream
Hold your banner high
Plant it on the Red Fort
And let it fly eternally

Take all your steps forward
Sing songs of happiness as you go
This life belongs to motherland
Lay it down for her a hundredfold

What is interesting is that this song was the regimental quick march song of  Subhas Chandra Bose‘s Indian National Army and was composed by Ram Singh Thakur.

After the concert we went back to the hotel. The next event was a social evening followed by dinner and we had about three hours time at our disposal. I had a minor shopping list and as this was the only personal time we had, I rushed to the shopping center. Fortunately, I knew exactly where to go and what to ask for and it took me only 45 minutes to complete my shopping.

This was the last event of the program—the social event. It was a cocktail reception and the crowd composed on the Indian Army top brass, veterans, invited civilians, and the members of the visiting Muktijoddha delegation. It was a joyous and festive occasion and we all enjoyed it profusely. The event was followed by dinner in a restaurant.

As we had to catch an early morning flight the following day and the fact that packing of suitcases were still pending, we headed for our hotel around 11 pm.

We found a colonel from the Army Medical Core and his wife patiently waiting for us with a bouquet when we reached the Kolkata airport around 7 am. Our flight was delayed for an hour due to fog at Dhaka Airport. We reached Dhaka around 10:30 am on 17 December 2012. I forgot to mention that everybody did not return with us on the 17th. Some members of the delegation stayed back for a few days for shopping or visiting other places in India.

I am really grateful to India and particularly the Eastern Command of the Indian Army for inviting us to participate in the “Vijay Dewas” celebrations. I am really touched by the honor they have shown us, which I must confess, I never received in Bangladesh. It appeared that the few members of the Bangladesh delegation were the center of all attractions. A dedicated team of officers from the Eastern Command were assigned to look after our every needs and we are all indebted to them for the courtesy shown to us.

All officers of the Eastern Command, including the chief hosts of the event Lt Gen Dalbir Singh and his wife Mrs. Namita Suhag were extremely courteous and ensured that  we had a enjoyable and remember-able stay in Kolkata.

Following are the photographs of 16 December 2012.

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Mrs. and Maj Gen Miaji

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Lance Naik Albert Ekka, PVC

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The “Vijay Smarak” or Victory Monument marking the surrender of Pakistani Army on 16 December 1971 and all those who sacrificed their lives for the victory.

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Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, GOC-in-C Eastern Command. Notice how he wears his hat. Only members of the Gurkha Regiments wear their hats in this fashion.

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Lt (Retd) Shamshul Alam, BP and a colonel from the 5 Gurkha Rifles (unfortunately I forgot his name).

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Receiving gifts from Lt Gen Dalbir Singh at the “Barakhana” on 16 December 2012

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Maj Gen Miaji giving a speech as head of the Bangladesh Army delegation

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Wife of Albert Ekka, Mrs. Balamdine Ekka

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The historic surrender of Pakistani Army on 16 December 1971.

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With Lt Gen Jacob at the social gathering on 16 December 2012, Fort William, Kolkata

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With Lt Gen Jacob at the “Social Gathering” at Fort William, Kolkata on 16 December 2012

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With Sqn Ldr Badrul Alam, BU

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Maj Gen Salahuddin Miaji

Wreath laying by Gen Jacob Wreath laying by the Bangladesh delegation

2 thoughts on “Participating in the Vijay Dewas Celebrations of the Eastern Command, Indian Armed Forces, Fort William, Kolkata, India (14-17 December 2012)

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