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commando operation

Operation Jackpot

Operation Jackpot was the codename assigned to several different operations during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The original "Operation Jackpot" was the logistical and training operation set up under the Indian Army Eastern Command to aid the Mukti Bahini-led insurgency. The commando operation that sabotaged Pakistan Navy and other ships in Chittagong, Chandpur, Mongla and Naryanganj on the 15th of August is known in Bangladesh as "Operation Jackpot". Finally, the operational plan of Lt Gen Sagat Singh, commanding the Indian Army IV corps and Mukti Bahini personnel against Pakistani forces defending the eastern sector (Syhlet, Comilla, Noakhali and Chittagong districts) during December 3-16 may also have been named "Operation Jackpot".

Indian Army and Mukti Bahini joint operation (May to December 1971)

After the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight in March 1971 in a bid to curb all resistance (political and otherwise), the Indian government decided to open the borders to admit Bengali refugees and the Bengali resistance fighters. By mid May, the Pakistan Army had occupied all major towns and had driven the battered remnants of the Mukti Bahini across the border into India, forcing the Mukti Bahihi to switch to guerrilla warefare. The Indian BSF (Border Security Force) had given supplies locally to the Mukti Bahini since April, and had even made some incursions across the border, but these efforts had been disorganised, uncoordinated and inadequate to meet the needs of the Mukti Bahini.

The Operational Setup

On May 15th, the Indian Army took over the task of aiding the Mukti Bahini, setting up a coordinated enterprise under the Eastern Command for meeting the logistical and training needs and, to some extent, lend operational support and planning advice. The operation was codenamed "Operation Jackpot". It was initially commanded by Maj. Gen. Onkar Singh Kalkat and after 2 months command was assumed by Maj. Gen. B.N. 'Jimmy' Sarcar. The border areas around Bangladesh was divided into 6 logistical sectors, each commanded by a Brigadier.

The Indian logistical sectors for this operation were: Alpha (HQ: Murti Camp, West Bengal, C.O Brig. B.C. Joshi), Bravo (HQ: Rajgaunj, West Bengal, C.O Brig. Prem Singh,), Charlie (HQ: Chakulia, Bihar, C.O. Brig. N.A. Salik), Delta (HQ: Devta Mura, Tripura, C.O Brig. Sabeg Singh), Echo (HQ: Masimpur, Assam, C.O Brig. M.B. Wadh), and Foxtrot, (HQ: Tura, Meghalaya, C.O.) Brig. Sant Singh). Through this network, Mukti Bahini sector commanders communicated with the Bangladesh Forces Headquarters in Kolkata and coordinated all supply, training and operational efforts for the war. Lt Gen J.S. Aurora, commander of Eastern Command, was closely involved in the operation.

Effectiveness and Importance

Despite the limitations and challenges rising from the state of the Indian transport system (training camps were located inside India), remoteness of the guerrilla bases, unavailability and inadequacy of proper supplies, and the decision of Bangladesh High Command to put the maximum number of guerrillas into battle in the minimum time possible (often after 4 to 6 weeks of training, often resulting in only 50% of the personnel receiving firearms initially), the operation was effective enough to support the 30,000 regular soldiers (8 infantry battalions, and sector troops) and 100,000 guerrillas that Bangladesh eventually fielded in 1971, and help run a Mukti Bahini campaign that destroyed or damaged at least 231 bridges, 122 railway lines and 90 power stations, while killing 237 officers, 136 JCOs/NCOs and 3,559 soldiers, of the Pakistan army and an unspecified nunber of EPCAF and police and an estimated 5,000 Razakar personnel during the period of April-November 1971. The Mukti Bahini efforts also demoralised the Pakistani Army to the extent that, by November, they left their bases only if the need arose. The contribution of the Mukti Bahini to the eventual defeat of Pakistan was enormous, which would not have been as effective without the aid of Operation Jackpot.

Bangladesh naval commando operation (August 16, 1971)

The Bangladesh naval commando operation that was called "Operation Jackpot" was precipitated by events in Toulon, a coastal city of southern France. In 1971, there were 11 East Pakistan naval submarine crewmen receiving training there aboard a Pakistani submarine. One commissioned officer (Mosharraf Hassain) and 8 crewmen decided to take control of the submarine and to fight against Pakistan. Their plan was disclosed, however, causing them to flee from death threats made by Pakistani intelligence. Out of the 9 crewmen, one was killed by Pakistani Intelligence, but the others managed to travel to the Indian Embassy in Geneva, Switzerland. From Geneva, embassy officials took them to New Delhi on the 9th of April where they began a program of top secret naval training.

At the conclusion of Operation Searchlight, the Pakistani Army had driven the Mukti Bahini into India, where they entered a period of reorganization during June and July 1971 to train guerrillas, set up networks and safe houses in the occupied territories to run the insurgency and rebuild the conventional forces. As the pace of military operations in East Pakistan slacked off, the civilian morale was adversely affected, which prompted Pakistani authorities to claim that the situation had returned to "normal". In response to this declaration, the Mukti Bahini launched 2 operations: 1) Guerrilla attacks in targets in Dhaka by a crack commando group trained by Major ATM Haider (ex-SSG commando), and 2) the simultaneous mining and damaging of ships in Chittagong, Chandpur, Mongla and Narayanganj on the 15th of August, which became known in Bangladesh and international media as "Operation Jackpot".

Setup and Training

After initial training in Delhi under commader Sharma and DFI chief Brd. Gupta, from April 25 to May 15, the Indian trainers planned for bigger actions. The river transport system was vital for economic activity given the primitive state of the road and railways system of East Pakistan. Indian Commander Bhattachariya, Major Jalil and Colonel M.A.G. Osmani in collaboration with top regional commanders established the secret camp, codenamed C2P, in Plassy, West Bengal on May 23 to train volunteers selected from various Mukti Bahini sectors (Bangladesh was divided in 10 operational sectors for Mukti Bahini operations) for this purpose. Initially 300 volunteers were chosen, ultimately 499 commandos were trained in the camp. The course included swimming, survival training, using limpet mines, hand to hand combat and navigation. By August 1971, the first batch of commandos were ready for operation.

The Operation

The operation was planned in the last week of September, under tight security. Information on river tides, weather and Pakistani infrastructure and deployment was collected through the Mukti Bahini. Selected commandos were sent from C2P to forward bases in Tripura and West Bengal, where a final briefing was given to them. Mukti Bahini in Sector 1 assisted the group going to Chittagong, Sector 2 aided the groups going to Chandpur and Naryanganj and Sector 9 assisted the group targeting Mongla. Each commando carried a pair of fins, a knife, a limpet mine, and swimming trunks. Some had compasses, 1 in 3 commandos had sten guns and hand grenades, the group leaders carried a transistor radio. All the groups carried their own equipment to their targets and after entering Bangladesh between August 3 and 9, reached their destinations by August 12th, using the local Mukti Bahini network of safehouses. A pair of songs was played in India Radio (Akashbani) at specific times to convey the intended signal for commencing the operations. The first song (Amar putul ajke prothom jabe shoshur bari) was played on the 13th of August, the second song (Ami tomay joto shuniyechilem gan tar bodole chaini kono dan) on the 14th. The result of this operation was:

  • Chittagong: 60 commandos were sent, out of which 31 finally took part in the sabotage operation on the 16th. Between 1:45 to 2:15AM explosions sank the MV Al-Abbas, the MV Hormuz and the Orient barge no.6, sinking 19,000 tons of arms and ammunitions.
  • Chandpur: 18 out of 40 commandos finally took part in the operation. 3 steamers/barges were damaged or sunk.
  • Narayanganj: 20 commandos conducted the sabotage operation. 4 ships were sunk or damaged.
  • Mongla: 20 commandos managed to damage 6 foreign owned ships.

The simultaneous attacks on Pakistani shipping assets on August 16th destroyed the myth of normalcy in East Pakistan when the news was flashed in the international media.

Naval Commandos killed in Operation Jackpot

  • Commando Abdur Raquib, who was killed in Foolchhori Ghat Operation
  • Commando Hossain Farid, who was killed in second Chittagong operation. He was caught by Pakintaki army. They put him in a manhole and bend his body until his vertibral column was broken.
  • Commando Khabiruzzaman, who was killed in second operation in Faridpur
  • Comamndo Sirajul Islam, M. Aziz, Aftab Uddin, and Rafiqul Islam, nother further known about them.

Naval Commandos Who Received Bangladesh 'National Hero' Recognition

  • Mr. A.W. Chowdhury- Beer Uttam
  • Mr. Badiul Alam- Beer Uttam
  • Dr. Shah Alam- Beer Uttam
  • Mr. Mazhar Ullah- Beer Uttam
  • Mr. Sheikh Md. Amin Ullah- Beer Uttam
  • Mr. Abedur Rahman- Beer Uttam
  • Mr. Mosharraf Hossain- Beer Uttam (His honor was revoked by the ruling Government of Bangladesh)
  • Mohammad Khabiruzzan- Beer Bikrom
  • Mr. Momin Ullah Patwari- Beer Protik
  • Mr. Shahjahan Kabir- Beer Protik
  • Mr. Faruq-e-Azam- Beer Protik
  • Mohammad Rahmatullah-Beer Protik
  • Mohammad Mojjamel Hossain- Beer Protik
  • Mr. Mosharraf Hossain- Beer Uttam * (His honor was revoked by the Government of Bangladesh)

Indian Army IV corps operation (November 21, 1971)

The plan of operation for the Indian Army IV corps (8 Mountain Div., 23 Mountain Div., 57 Mountain Div. and "Kilo Force") and the Bangladesh forces (8 infantry battalions, and guerrillas and sector troops of Sector 1-5 of Mukti Bahini) may have been codenamed "Operation Jackpot". The opposition forces included the Pakistani 14th Infantry division defending Syhlet, Maulaviabazar and Akhaura, the 39th ad hoc division in Comilla, Laksham and Feni and the 97th independent infantry brigade stationed in Chittagong. Indian army had supported Mukti Bahini efforts to seize salients in the Eastern border from November 21, 1971. After Pakistan launched air attacks on India on December 3rd, the Indian army crossed the border into Bangladesh. By the end of the war on 16th December, 1971, the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini had isolated and surrounded the remnants of the 14th division in Syhlet and Bhairabbazar, the 39th division was cornered in Comilla and Chittagong, with all other areas of Syhlet, Comilla, Noakhali and Chittagong clear of enemy forces. Part of the corps and Mukti Bahini forces had crossed the Meghna river using the "Meghna Heli Bridge" and using local boats collected by Mukti Bahini to drive towards Dhaka when the Pakistani army surrendered.

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