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Bangladesh@50 Book excerpt: Portraits of Courage

🔴 For a commander who raised, trained and led into battle the SFF, comprising mainly an intrepid group of Tibetan fighters, Major General Sujan Singh Uban (Retd) was not quite your typical military man of action.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina |
December 16, 2021 4:11:46 am
1971 Bangladesh Liberation War (Express Archive)

Lance Naik Albert Ekka

As a child growing up in the village of Jari in what  is now Jharkhand, Albert Ekka became adept at the  traditional skills of the Oraon tribal community to  which he belonged. He grew into an expert marksman  with the bow and arrow, and he learnt to move stealthily  through the jungles near his home as he tracked deer,  quail or hare…. In December 1962, at the age of twenty, physically  superbly fit and with a spirit of adventure hungering for bigger challenges, he joined the Bihar regiment of  the Indian Army, later transferring to the 14 Battalion of the Brigade of Guards. Just nine years later, on December 3, 1971, his heroism in battle at Gangasagar,  East Pakistan, would silence Pakistani guns, save the  lives of dozens of his fellow soldiers and enable the  Indian Army to take control of the strategically crucial  junction at Gangasagar. At the end of the battle – one  of the bloodiest battles of the 1971 war, fought in hand-to-hand combat – the gravely wounded soldier died on  the battlefield. Lance Naik Ekka was the only jawan  (non-commissioned officer) awarded the Param Vir Chakra in the 1971 war. He was also the only one to  be awarded the Param Vir Chakra in the eastern sector in that war.

MUST READ | Bangladesh@50: A timeline of the 1971 Liberation War, as it unfolded

One of the primary tasks given to Ekka’s battalion, right at the onset of the official hostilities on December  3, 1971, was the capture of Pakistan Army positions at Gangasagar in East Pakistan’s Brahmanbaria district, just 7 km from Agartala. This was crucial for the 4  Corps’ advance towards Akhaura, which would then  clear their way towards the capital of East Pakistan,  Dhaka. Gangasagar was a major railway junction…

A detailed account of the battle at Gangasagar  written by Col V. Ganapathy (Retd), a senior fellow  at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS),  recounts that the Pakistani defences were mainly based  on the high ground around the railway station and  the built-up areas near it…

Seven Heroes of 1971: Stories of Courage and Sacrifice By Man Aman Singh Chinna
Juggernaut/160 pages
`261

Major General Sujan Singh Uban

For a commander who raised, trained and led into battle the Special Frontier Force (SFF), comprising mainly an intrepid group of Tibetan fighters, Major General Sujan Singh Uban (Retd) was not quite your typical military man of action. A deeply spiritual person, Uban was drawn towards mystics and religious leaders, seeking answers to the deeper meaning of life and the afterlife…

Termed as the ‘Fifth Army’,1 the SFF not only kept a flank of Lieutenant General Sagat Singh’s 4 Corps secure but also managed to cut away a vital retreat route into the jungles of Burma (now Myanmar) for the Pakistan Army, encircling and preventing the escape of Pakistan’s 97 Brigade and 2 Commando Battalion, who were taken prisoner at the end of the war.

As all this was happening, Maj Gen Uban was also busy training Bangladeshi volunteers to take on the Pakistan Army in guerrilla warfare. The men of the Mujib Bahini (named after Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman) were given extensive training under SFF leadership, and together with the Mukti Bahini they wreaked havoc on the Pakistan Army behind their lines, seriously affecting their fighting prowess against the advancing Indian Army forces.

Man Aman Singh Chhina is an assistant editor with The Indian Express. Seven Heroes of 1971: Stories of Courage and Sacrifice will be out this month

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