50 years of 1971 Indo-Pak war: Lt Gen Tej Kumar Sapru recalls para-drop at Tangail

50 years of 1971 Indo-Pak war: Lt Gen Tej Kumar Sapru recalls para-drop at Tangail
© Provided by Hindustan Times Lt Gen Tej Kumar Sapru said para-landing at Tangail was a a turning point of sorts. In November-end as the war clouds started getting thicker, lots of trans-border actions were undertaken by the Army in conjunction with the Mukti Bahini to break the crust of the Pakistani defenses. (HT Photo)

Captain Tej Kumar Sapru (retired as Lt Gen) was commanding a platoon at the Line of Control, Poonch, J&K, when he was informed that he was to be sent to the Eastern Front as an aide-de-camp (ADC). Fifty years later, he shares his experience of the war as he saw it, including some major victories and casualties.

The Lt Gen recalls: “Maj Gen Gurbaksh Singh Gill was the GOC of the 101 Communication Zone Area (101 CZA) in 1971 on the Eastern Front. He called up the Commanding Officer to send a replacement for his ADC immediately.”

He adds: “Much to my dismay, my name was forwarded for posting as the ADC. I was most unhappy to leave the battalion at that juncture, but there was no way out for me and I landed up in Shillong on November 10, 1971.”

The ADC is a French term that means aide-de-camp authorised to senior field Commanders. In Army, the role of the ADC is that of a personal staff officer to the Commander, to assist him in routine personal and administrative matters.

He said Gen Gill was a tough taskmaster and known to be a terror of sorts. “I by no chance was too happy being posted to his personal staff.”

“What made me feel worse was that 101 CZA was not a normal regular fighting formation like a division or a corps, but primarily a static formation responsible for logistics, administration, communications, repair, supplies, provision of fuel, ammunition, etc, for the Eastern Command Theatre,” the officer said.

However, on reporting at the HQ, 101 CZA, he was surprised that the 101 CZA had been involved in the training and organisation of the Mukti Bahini.

In November-end as the war clouds started getting thicker, lots of trans-border actions were undertaken by the Army in conjunction with the Mukti Bahini to break the crust of the Pakistani defenses up to a depth of 1 to 3 km.

The war started on December 3 evening. The 101 CZA was allotted the 95 Mountain Brigade, which was tasked to capture Jamalpur by December 9 and to be poised towards Tangail.

On the evening of December 4, the 31 Baluch Company of Pakistan at the Kamalpur post surrendered to the 95 Brigade. The GOC, Gen Gurbaksh Singh Gill, took the formal surrender the next morning. However, he got critically injured in a mine blast.

The para landing at Tangail and capturing the Poongli bridge by the 2 Para was another brilliant success and was a turning point of sorts. It was planned in mid-November by Gen Gill.

On December 16 morning, GOC Gen Nagra sent his ADC to the GOC 36 Pak Div, Maj Gen Jamshed with a surrender message: “I am at your door and you may like to surrender.” However, while returning, he got caught up in a crossfire and died.

“In spite of being the weakest force of the four main thrusts which went in, the 101 CZA was the first to reach Dacca,” he said.

Lt Gen said by virtue of being an ADC, got to see and know a lot more than any junior officer would about the planning and conduct of operations in the Central Sector (from the north). “Juniors don’t get to see things from a bird’s eye view, which I was fortunate to see. Being with the GOC, I could get a fair idea of the plans and conduct of operations in the two formations,” he said.

About the veteran

Name: Lt Gen Tej Kumar Sapru (retd)

(72)

Retired on November 30, 2009, as GOC-in-C of Western Command

Regiment – 4 Gorkha Rifles

Awards – PVSM, YSM

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