|Battle of Hilli|
|Part of Bangladesh Liberation War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971|
General Commanding officer of the 205th Mountaineering Brigade of Pakistan Army, Brigadier-General Hussain (left), surrendering to the Indian Army on 16 December 1971
|Commanders and leaders|
Major Quazi Nuruzzaman |
Maj.Gen. Lachhman Singh
|Brigadier Tajammul Malik|
Sector 7 |
20th Indian Mountain Division
|205th Mountaineering Brigade|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Hilli or the Battle of Bogra was a major battle fought in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War. It is generally regarded as the most pitched battle that took place in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The battle of Hilli took place between 23 November 1971 and 11 December 1971, although the final surrender took place on 18 December 1971.
The main objective of the Indian Army was to control Bogra, thereby cutting off Pakistan forces in the north from the rest of East Pakistan. The best way of getting to Bogra was through Hilli. The frontal assault on the Pakistan fortifications took a huge toll on both sides before Indian forces finally broke through by establishing a block in the rear of Pakistani forces in Hilli, upon which the 4FF Battalion in Hilli withdrew for the defence of Bogra.
The Indian side consisted of the 20 Indian Mountain Division led by Maj-Gen. Lachhman Singh. The constituent units of this division were 66 Brigade, 165 Brigade, 202 Brigade and 340 Brigade (all infantry units), 3 Armoured Brigade, 471 Engineer Brigade and two artillery brigades augmented by 33 Corps Artillery. The ground troops were aided by aerial support provided by the Indian Air Force which had acquired air superiority in the east and were armed with rockets, guns and 100 lb bombs.
On the Pakistan side, the Area of Responsibility (AOR) was on 205 Brigade of Pakistan Army led by Brigadier (later retired as Major General) Tajammul Hussain Malik. He had joined the brigade 4 days ago, when he volunteered to leave GHQ, Rawalpindi and command troops in the East Pakistan. He put up a stiff resistance that earned praise from many quarters.
Major events of the battle
Malik had placed screens along the railway line nearby and at the Railway Station complex in the area. The defensive positions were sited in depth to cover all routes leading into East Pakistan. They fought the entire Indian division and the Mukti Bahini soldiers until the Indians decided to bypass Hilli and establish a block in its rear. Brig. Malik then withdrew the forces in Hilli to avoid being cut off and to defend for the Bogra itself.
Bogra was surrounded from all sides by the greater numbers of the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini. Brig. Malik's resistance continued even after the Pakistani Eastern Command surrendered in Dhaka on 16 December. He, in his staff car with flags and stars uncovered went around the streets of Bogra motivating his soldiers to keep fighting. The Indian army had by then, surrounded the city of Bogra. The Brigade Major along with some 50 ORs surrendered but the Brigadier still full of vigour refused to give up.
Brig. Malik ordered the rest of his brigade to break out in small groups to Naogong, where one of his units was still fighting on. However en route, his jeep was ambushed, severely injuring him and his orderly. Muktis captured both of them and subjected them to torture. They broke his arms and split his head after which he was taken semi-conscious to an Indian army hospital. Major General Nazar Hussain Shah, was especially flown in from Natore for the surrender of this brigade on 18 December 1971, due to the refusal of Brigadier Malik. Upon return from captivity, he was the only brigadier out of 32 or so who fought the 1971 War in East Pakistan to have been promoted to Major General rank.
The battle was a significant one as it involved great personal valour on both sides. This is highlighted by the fact that soldiers on either side won their nation's highest military honours. One of the infantry battalions of the 20 Indian Mountain Division 5/11 Gorkha Rifles distinguished itself here and later earned the battle honour Bogra for itself, the commanding officer of the Indian battalion, then Lt Col F T Dias later rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the Indian Army. In fact other than the battalion commander one of the company commanders, then Maj J B S Yadava become Lieutenant General and Maj Abjeet Mamik rose to become a Brigadier and Capt B K Bopanna later become Lieutenant General in the Indian Armed Forces, which is a unique honour to the soldiers of an army.
This battle was also unique in that it had started before the official start of the India Pakistan war but continued right until the formal surrender of Pakistan. Unlike other battles in the East where the Indian army dominated, Pakistan forces gave a very good account of themselves before the combined might of the Indian military managed to occupy the area.
- Major Quazi Nuruzzaman was awarded with Bir Uttom, the second-highest award for individual gallantry in Bangladesh, but he rejected it as thousands of Mukti Bahini volunteers were killed and did not receive any recognition.
- Lance Naik Albert Ekka, 14 Guards of the Indian Army, who fought in this battle, received the only Param Vir Chakra to be awarded in the Eastern Sector during the 1971 War.
- Maj J B S Yadava ( later Lt General ) and Maj Abjeet Mamik (later Brigadier), both then company commanders of 5/11 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army were awarded Vir Chakra the third highest gallantry award of India.
- Major Muhammad Akram Shaheed of Pakistan won the Nishan-E-Haider, the highest military honour of the country.
- Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier) Tariq Anees Malik of Pakistan received Sitar-e-Jurat.
- General A.A.K.Niazi (1998). Betrayal of East Pakistan. Manohar Publishers. ISBN 81-7304-256-X.
- Indian Air Force
- Defence Journal of Pakistan
- Lehl, Major General Lachhman Singh. Indian Sword Strikes in East Pakistan
- Lehl, Major General Lachhman Singh. Victory in Bangladesh
- Malik, Major General Tajamal Hussain, Story of my Struggle
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