Sunday, May 8, 2011

Operation Searchlight Rangpur - Saidpur

Operation Searchlight was a darkness and dirty military operation in Bangladesh’s history. It was carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971. It is known as “The Dark Night of Bangladesh”. This operation ordered by the central government of West Pakistan. The original plan envisioned taking control of the major cities on March 26, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by the Pakistani planners.
These systematic killings enraged the Bengalis, who declared independence from Pakistan (March 26), to achieve the new state of Bangladesh with Indo-Soviet backing.

The violence resulting from Operation Searchlight led to the war of liberation by the Mukti Bahini against Pakistani Army and Pakistani Rajakar forces in Bangladesh. Following the ill fated Operation Chengiz Khan, Indian intervention resulted in the Pakistani Army's unconditional surrender to the joint command of the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini on December 16, 1971.

The planned and designated centers of offensive operations under that plan were Dhaka, Khulna, Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Saidpur and Sylhet areas, where West Pakistani army units were concentrated. Some details of Operation Searchlight in Rangpur-Saidpur are given below:

Rangpur - Saidpur:

Pakistani army Rangpur and Saidpur contingent were given the following objectives:

1.    Secure Rangpur and Saidpur towns.
2.    Secure the Radio Station in Rangpur.
3.    Secure the Telephone exchange in Rangpur.
4.    Secure ammo dump at Bogura.
5.    Disarm 3 EBR at Saidpur.
6.    Disarm EPR Sector Headquarter at Dinajpur.
7.    Arrest Awami League leaders in Rangpur.

During the Operation Searchlight many Bengali forces are alerted about the Pakistani crackdown. 3 EBR (Commanded by Lt. Col Fazal Karim- Pakistani) was at Saidpur.  Its one company (Commanded by Captain Shafat Hossain – Pakistani) was posted at Parvatipur and two companies (Commanded by Major Nizam – Bengali) were posted at Ghoraghat. EPR sector no 5 (Commanded by Lt. Col. Tareq R. Qureshi – Pakistani) was at Dinajpur headquarter. The EPR wing number 8 (Commanded by Major Amin Tareq – West Pakistani) with 5 companies at Dinajpur, EPR Wing number 9 with 5 companies (Commanded by Major Sawar Muhammad Hussain) at Thakurgaon and EPR Wing number 10 with 5 companies (Commanded by Major Md. Kazmi – West Pakistani) at Rangpur. EPR wing number 8 had also 2 companies at Dinajpur and the rest was deployed near the border at Biral and Basudevpur. EPR wing number 0 companies were deployed at Panchagarh, Tetulia, Thakurgaon, Ruhia and Chilahati. EPR wing number 10 companies were posted at Rangpur, Patgram, Chilamari, Joymonirhut and Mogolhat. Rangpur and Saidpur had also some armed police in the city and 29th Cavalry had at least 50% Bengali personnel.

In the Operation Searchlight Pakistani forces are very furious for the general people. The 23rd brigade (Commanded by Brig. Abdullah Malik Khan – W. Pakistani) was at Rangpur. 23rd Field Artillery regiment (Commanded by Lt. Col. Shaffi -Pakistani) and the 26th Frontier Force (Commanded by Lt Col. Hakeem A. Qureshi – Pakistani) was at Saidpur. A company from the 23rd Field was in Bogra and another company from the 26th FF was based at the Dinajpur Circuit house. 29th Cavalry (Commanded by Lt Col. Sagir Hossain Syed- Pakistani) was the only tank regiment in East Pakistan was at Rangpur, along with the brigade signals, engineers and the 10th Field Ambulance (Commanded by Lt. Col. Masud – W. Pakistani). But during 26 march-15 April, the 25th Punjab was at Rajshahi.

3 EBR companies had been posted away from Saidpur to minimize their threat as a part of their pre arranged plan and its anti tank weapons were given to the 26 FF Company in Dinajpur for training purposes, further diminishing its firepower. On March 23, 26 FF planned to disarm the EPR squads at Dinajpur, which failed due to Bengali squads protested the presence of armed Pakistani soldiers in the dinner area and refused to eat until the Pakistani contingent put away their arms before sitting down to eat. On March 25, Pakistani squads moved into Rangpur around 12:00 AM and took up positions around the whole city. Captain Nawajesh had barely escaped from the EPR Headquarter with some men, but the Pakistanis neutralized the police and remaining EPR squads easily. Pakistani squads also took control of Saidpur without any resistance. The situation of Dinajpur, Thakurgaon and Saidpur remained calm. Pakistani squads from 23rd Field and 29th Cavalry began regular patrolling in Rangpur from March 26 onward, aided by local non Bengali police members. On March 27 a group of Bengali civilians, armed with spears and such tried to enter Rangpur cantonment and were mown down by automatic fire, their bodies were burnt.

Captain Nawajesh uddin (commanders of the 10th wing) met with EPR Company and decided to take control of the Tista Bridge, thus cutting off all territory north of the Tista River from Pakistani control on March 28. On April 7, Pakistani squads attacked Nilphamari, Bengali squads left the town the same day and Pakistanis took the town the following day. By April 10, Pakistani squads were poised to attack Bengali positions at T-Junction to the west of Bhushibandar and areas to the west of Nilphamari and south of Parvatipur. By April 27 the division was secured and the area north of the Tista River was retaken by mid May.

After that, Bangladesh Liberation War was continued with Mukti Bahini till December 1971 and it concluded with the unconditional surrender of Pakistan forces on December 16, 1971.

If you want to know more about Operation Searchlight, you can also see the details information of Operation Searchlight in Dhaka, Chittagong, Mymensingh-Joydevpur and Comilla, Sylhet-Jessore, Khulna-Kushtia and Rajshahi.

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