KENDRAPARA: As the nation gears up to celebrate the 49th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971, a 70-year-old Duryodhana Mohanty from Barunadiha village in Rajkanika block is lost in nostalgia. Reminiscing pages from the glorious chapter of the nation’s history, the braveheart is filled with pride describing his time behind enemy lines.
“We crossed the border from Agartala to reach East Pakistan on December 1, 1971. I was on the battlefront at Habibganj, Laskarpur, Ajmirigank, Tongi junction and Dhaka as a soldier of the 14th Battalion of the Brigade of the Guards,” recalls Mohanty, who retired as a Subedar and was given the rank of Honorary Captain. The Indian Army fought alongside Mukti Bahini and caused considerable losses to the Pakistanis, he said.
The fight with Pakistani Army continued for more than two weeks from Habibganj to Dhaka. “The 17-day war caused thousands of casualties on both sides. Around eight soldiers from our regiment including Kashinath Sahoo from Odisha were martyred as the Pakistanis fled towards Dhaka after we defeated them,” he said.
On December 16, the chief of Pakistani forces, General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi along with 93,000 troops surrendered to the Indian Army led by General Jagjit Singh Aurora at the Ramna Race Course in Dhaka. “It was a proud moment for us. We celebrated the victory by dancing on the streets of Dhaka along with Mukti Bahini operatives,” said the veteran, who wishes to visit Dhaka next year to pay tribute to the martyrs, when India will celebrate the golden jubilee of the war that changed the map of the sub-continent.
Duryodhana had joined the Army in 1970 at the age of 20. During his 32-year long service, he served in Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir. He also participated in Operation Meghdoot, an offensive of the Indian Army to seize control of Siachen Glacier in 1984. After his retirement in 2002, he settled in his village and was elected sarpanch of the gram panchayat for two terms from 2007 to 2017. He now draws a monthly pension and lives with his wife and other family members.
Duryodhana tryst with the country’s armed forces did not end with his retirement. His family members have followed suit with his elder son, Amit serving in the Army as a soldier and younger one Arijit works with Odisha police.
President of the district unit of ex-servicemen’s association, Mahesh Kar said, 49 years after the Bangladesh war, the number of veterans can be counted on fingers. Thousands of people lost their lives by fighting on foreign land. But their names have been lost in obscurity, he said.