BSF helped form the first Mukti Bahini group 51 years ago along Tripura border

Agartala, May 8: One of the lesser known facts of the Bangladesh liberation war is that India’s Border Security Force (BSF) help form the first group of Mukti Bahini or the Bangladesh Liberation Force a day after the Pakistani army unleashed a reign of terror in that country some 51 years ago along the Tripura border.

Major P K Ghosh, who was then commanding four border outposts (BOP) of BSF at Sreenagar, Amlighat, Samarendraganj and Nalua in the southern part of Tripura bordering Chittagong division, in the then east Pakistan was instrumental in this.

Major Ghosh, an octogenarian war hero, now settled in Delhi, when contacted, told PTI in detail about first crossing over the Indo-Pak border and formation of first Mukti Bahini group on March 26, 1971.

On March 26, 1971 morning, Pakistan army sent an Infantry battalion from Comilla cantonment to Chittagong commanded by a Brigadier to counter the forces of Major Ziaur Rehaman and deployed 10-15 men for protection of Shubhapur Road Bridge, near the Sreenagar BOP in Sabroom, the southernmost town in Tripura, he said.

The bridge was located on a strategic point, which connected the Chittagong and Dhaka and was the main supply line of food and other materials, he added.

“At about 1400 hours, my East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) contact, Havildar Nuruddin came to Sreenagar BOP along with Prof. Obaidullah Majumdar, a member of the National Assembly and Dr. Amir Hussain, a Awami League leader and they told us about the terror let loose by the Pak army personnel on villagers including women and children and asked for immediate intervention to dislodge them”, Ghosh said.

However, Ghosh initially did not take any action, but promised would convey their requests to higher authorities. “They became highly sentimental and exerted emotional pressure on me. I took a cover name as Prof. Ali and accompanied them to investigate. The villagers came out to meet their leaders and raised slogan – Joi Bangabandhu, Joy Bangladesh. During that time came a burst of LMG fire from Pak soldiers, but there was no damage” , he said.

“At about 5 pm in the afternoon the first group of Mukti Bahini with 6 EPR boys under the command of Havildar Nooruddin was formed. They took oath on the spot. (I) Deployed them in groups of 3 each, on either flank of northern end of Shubhapur bridge with clear instructions to deny entry of Pak soldiers in the village and water point and also to fire only one round at a time to conserve ammunitions and draw fire from Pak troops”, Ghosh said.

Returning to the Srinagar BOP in the evening at about 7p, Ghosh prepared a special report on the situation without mentioning his crossing over the international border. “Next day (March 27) morning, Lt Col A K Ghose, my Commanding Officer (CO) visited our BOP and expressed his happiness and thanked me for my special report on the situation. I was hesitant, but as a loyal soldier disclosed that I had crossed over to Shubhapur yesterday. Suddenly the attitude of my CO changed, got angry and shouted at me – how could you dare to cross the international border? You might face court martial. He left in anger. I felt bad, but not sorry for my decision to stand by the ill-fated unarmed innocent civilians across the border”, Ghosh wrote in an article in BSF’s journal Border Men.

He said, on March 27, there was heavy exchange of fire between the Mukti Bahini and Pak soldiers on the Shubhapur bridge. The enemy however ran short of food and ammunitions and in a demoralized state, surrendered to the Mukti Bahini next morning. “This was our first victory. We hoisted the flag of Bangladesh over Shubhapur bridge in presence of large number of villagers, who shouted slogans like – Jai Bangla, Jai Bangabandhu”, he said.

However, though he risked a court martial by crossing the border without clearance from higher ups, the powers that be later appreciated Ghosh’s role.

Ghosh said, just as India and Bangladesh observing Victory Day in December to mark the defeat of the Pakistani forces, BSF too should observe March 26 as ‘Mukti Juddha Divas’ in memory of the role they played in assisting a friendly country.