SSB’s Assamese Connection In 1971 Bangladesh War Of Liberation

SSB’s Assamese Connection In 1971 Bangladesh War Of Liberation

On one occasion, Rita recalled, she crossed the border into East Pakistan with her father and a combined squad of SSB-Mukti Bahini to a spot where bunkers were created for the freedom fighters.

Some of the officers from Assam which borders Bangladesh, called East Pakistan until 1971, trained and equipped freedom fighters of the Mukti Bahini to take on the Pakistani Army during the 1971 War of Liberation in Bangladesh.

Two of them, Jnanananda Sarma Pathak and Biraja Nanda Choudhury, belonging to the Special Security Bureau (SSB), which was considered the "guerrilla wing" of India's external intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), played an important role in the Liberation War.

Jnanananda Sarma Pathak was a deputy inspector general (DIG) from the Assam cadre of the Indian Police Service and was deputed to the SSB two years before the Liberation War to manage the SSB's operations in the border regions of the northeastern part of India.

The SSB's primary role was to train the local populace living along the India-China border in subversive activities to prevent China's People's Liberation Army from coming into India.

Biraja Nanda Choudhury on the other hand was a political officer in the border state of Arunachal Pradesh from where he was sent to serve the SSB as a senior instructor.  He had undergone extensive training on demolition tactics at Mahabaleswar in Maharashtra.

Pathak and Choudhury were called in when the RAW took over the training of Mukti Bahini functionaries, which was mostly undertaken by the Indian army in an exercise codenamed Operation Jackpot.

Vijayanta, the son of Pathak, currently the chief sub-editor of The Assam Tribune said, "The module was fine-tuned at the Salonibari establishment of the 27SSB Battalion near Tezpur in Assam following a series of discussions among senior officers of the organization. They decided to begin the training of the Mukti Bahini functionaries in Lower Haflong without delay". 

According to Vijayanta, approximately 10,000 functionaries were trained at the center in several batches. The course was brief and lasted for around two months after which they were infiltrated into East Pakistan.

"On some occasions, personnel from the SSB crossed the border into Bangladesh with the trained fighters," Vijayanta said. "Many of them never returned home."

On March 25, 1971, the Pakistan Army had launched a crackdown in East Pakistan, after which the Mukti Bahini emerged. Within months, it had evolved into a huge organization of armed and trained men owing allegiance to the provisional government of Bangladesh.

The Mukti Bahini comprised two divisions: the Niyomito Bahini or the regular army and the Gano Bahini or the people's army.

The Niyomito Bahini was divided into the Swadhin Bangla Regiment and the Mukti Fauj.

Meanwhile, Suicide Squads, Scorpion Squads, and Toofan Bahini (storm troops) were the three wings of the Gano Bahini.

The Mukti Bahini's count slowly increased to around 70,000, about two full divisions of regular soldiers, in addition to 50,000 irregulars and guerrillas trained by India.

In addition, there was also the Mujib Bahini, an independent force of 10,000, made up of students owing allegiance to the Awami League's student wing.

Under Operation Jackpot, Mukti Bahini functionaries were trained for four to six weeks by the Indian Army at different locations in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, and Meghalaya.

Guerrilla bases were created inside Bangladesh as well, where they were given shelter, food, medicines, and information about the operations.

Rita Choudhury, the daughter of Biraja Nanda Choudhury and a renowned writer said, "The training sessions in Lower Haflong were exhaustive and ran the whole day and sometimes after sunset. The curriculum included weapons training, ambushes, commando training, espionage and training in wireless communication".

On one occasion, Rita recalled, she crossed the border into East Pakistan with her father and a combined squad of SSB-Mukti Bahini to a spot where bunkers were created for the freedom fighters.

Besides Pathak and Choudhury, D. N. Sonowal and Hiranya Kumar Bhattacharyya, both belonging to the Indian Police Service, were engaged in different roles in the operation.

D. N. Sonowal served in the SSB on deputation at Salonibari when the training sessions were done. Bhattacharyya, in 2013, was invited to Bangladesh and awarded the War of Liberation War Honour for his role in training a batch of Mukti Bahini in close combat tactics.

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