On Vijay Diwas: Remembering Our Gorkha Legends

Vijay Diwas GorkhaDecember 1971 :: #Pakistani Soldiers Surrender in East Pakistan (Photo - Marc Riboud/Magnum)

To those who don’t know about it Vijay Diwas is when 93000 Pakistani army surrendered to 5000 Indian soldiers on Dec 16 1971, we are celebrating the glorious role played by Gorkhas soldiers.

Vijay Diwas Gorkhas
The surrender of Pakistani troops

Among the various paltans that participated in the war for Bangladesh liberation, the Gorkhas have stood out through their unparalleled bravery, sheer grit and determination, and won the platitude of laurels in not just India, but across the world.

Highlighting three major battles that the Gorkhas fought and won….

VIJAY DIWAS: 5/11 GORKHA RIFLES – BOGRA THE BATTLE OF HILLI OR THE BATTLE OF BOGRA

Among the Gorkhas, the Fighting Fifth 5/11 GR won for themselves the Battle honour “BOGRA” for itself. In fact the battle honour Bogra and theater honour East Pakistan was bestowed to the 5th only.

In the Indo – Pakistani war of 1971 the 5th battalion was instrumental in liberating Bangladesh, In the operations of East Pakistan, the 5th had secured the Bogra town for 20 mountain division, in one of the most daring operations Lt Teja Bedi and his Gorkha troops had single-handedly captured the headquarters along with the Commanding Officer and RMO of the prestigious Baloch Regiment of East Pakistan.

The regimental flag of 52 Baloch Regiment is still HUNG UPSIDE DOWN in the officer’s mess of the 5th and is one of their prized possession.

Vijay Diwas Gorkhas
Sam “Bahadur” Manekshaw

Vijay Diwas and 4/5 Gorkha Rifles: The Battle Fought With Only Khukuris

One great initial battle of the war fought at Atgram to break the outer crust of Pakistani defences in the East opposite Sylhet sector needs revisiting. The battalion tasked was 4/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) which went on to capture Gazipur and eventually single-handedly took the surrender of the Sylhet garrison.

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Not before and not since has any battalion launched a full scale assault employing just the Khukuri and guile alone. After getting their orders, by 5am the fierce Khukuri assault had silenced Pakistani Maj Alvi’s Bravo Company. In the mopping up, nearly 45 bodies were found scattered around the main position.

The heroes of this silent battle were Rifleman Dil Bahadur Chhetri, whose Khukuri accounted for eight Pakistan soldiers, and was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra; Rifleman Phas Bahadur Pun and 2nd Lieutenant Hawa Singh received posthumously, the Vir Chakra; and Captain Pravin Johry (posthumously) and Subedar Teerth Bahadur Gurung won the Sena Medal

Vijay Diwas Gorkhas
Rifleman Dil Bahadur Chettri 4/5 Gorkha Rifles (FF)

4/5 GORKHA RIFLES (FRONTIER FORCE) – OPERATION OF SYLHET GORKHAS

The 4/5 Gorkhas were not to be left behind and were the 1st Indian troops to mount a Heliborne operations.

On a conservative estimate, the Heliborne Operation of Sylhet Gorkhas [4/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force)] made it possible for Indian Army and Mukhti Bahini to reach Dhaka much earlier than planned; at least by 8 days.

On the 16th, when the surrender ceremony was going on at Dhaka, Sylhet Gorkhas were celebrating with a toast, in honour of three fold success of the Battalion:

  • First Ever Successful Heliborne Operation of Indian Army, which tied the two brigades from the 7th to the 15th of December.
  • Surrender of two Pakistani Brigades (202 and 313) on 15th December 1971.
  • First major surrender to own forces in the Eastern Theatre.

But the fourth larger toast, unknown to them at that time, was reserved for surrender at Dhaka, which was thought unattainable.

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Vijay Diwas Gorkhas
Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh and Maj. Gen. K. V. Krishna Rao with Hav. Dil Bahadur Chettri at Sylhet

For ‘Early Dhaka Surrender’ was made possible by Sylhet Gorkhas tying down the Pakistani Meghna River Brigade (313), in addition to 202 Pak Infantry Brigade at Sylhet from the 7th to the 15th.

However, the degree of valour and contribution to the early creation of free Bangladesh, credit also goes to the men of the Sylhet Gorkhas, but not without a price. The cost of glory over the 27 days (20th November to 16th December) was not meager.

Thirty one (4 Officers, 3 Junior Commissioned Officers, 7 Non-Commissioned Officers and 17 Riflemen) sacrificed their lives. Ironically one officer (Major Puri) and one Rifleman (Rifleman Kanta Bir Thapa) were injured during the 1965 War also, but this time they sacrificed their lives.

Another 122 (7 Officers, 2 Junior Commissioned Officers, 32 Non- Commissioned Officers and 81 Riflemen) were injured. A total of 153 casualties, including 11 Officers, constituted nearly 25 percent of the Battalion strength, out of which 55 were leaders at different levels (Officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers); nearly 8 percent of the Battalion strength. This was the leadership and lead provided by Company, Platoon and Section Commanders.

Sylhet is the Battle Honour of The Sylhet Gorkhas and East Pakistan as Theatre Honour and nobody can deny that Heliborne Operations by Sylhet Gorkhas lead to early surrender at Dhaka in December 1971.

We SALUTE the bravery of our troops, and today as we celebrate Vijay Diwas we celebrate the great legacy of our Gorkha soldiers.

While others may forget – WE REMEMBER!!


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