From Warring Nuclear Navies ——-Ranjit B Rai
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And ne’er brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot.
And days o’ auld Lang Syne. – Robert Burns.
An unsung hero of the Bangla Desh war, known as ‘Navy Bahadur’ in the Lebongsuburb of Darjeeling where he resides, and was given a small piece of land for his VirChakra. He left the Navy in a huff as this story tells in part 2 and thought he would build a few cottages for tourism as he taught us friends and Bashi Gupta of Tatas what Shikar is in Kerala’s luscious forests in the late 1960s. He loved the out doors as a sportsman ace shooter. But as he said, “These bl..dy politicians have never allowed a day of peace in Darjeeling and screwed Tourism. So I had to sail tramp ships to eke a living and there is no pension for me like you bug..rs get for pushing files”.
In the Navy he was “Roy Chou” a close friend and course mate of the author, lives frugally in crowded Lebong no more the forest he chose. Lt Cdr JK Roy Choudhry, the East Bengali was quietly whisked away from his gunnery instructor job in Cochin in INS Venduruthy mid-1971 to work under directions of Capt. R.P. Khanna (NOIC Calcutta) and Capt MN Samant MVC later a submariner to join the Mukti Bahini force, as some other Indian Navy officers. The Army officers possibly worked from Centre 22 did the same pre 1971 war.
Roy Chou’s an educated East Bengali family was landed and on partition his aged father had been left behind in East Pakistan, when the rest of the family migrated to India during that tragic blood soaked transfer. The family had fallen from zamindari riches in Calcutta but elder brothers worked hard. Roy Chou’s brothers sent him to the Prince of Wales Military College, Dehradun (RIMC) and then he qualified for National DefenceAcademy out of a huge number and among the top 278 only 38 got Navy as first choice. IDF adds today NDA fails to fill vacancies despite lowering of standards.
It was his boxing, athletics and football ‘Blues’ (Cadets who achieved high standards) from the NDA Khadakvasla, that kept him in fine fettle in whatever he was achieving near enemy lines later. He excelled in all games and showed his grit, and later served as Gunnery Officer on INS Vikrant under Capt Chandy Kuruvilla.
When called up in mid-1971, to join the Mukti Bahini he was possibly happy to go to East Bengal, even though no immediate family remained there. It was a nostalgic return to his land of birth and he was there for a cause and to serve to his country, like many others.
He now speaks of the operations he executed with Mukti Bahini
sailors deep into East Pakistan, and when asked about the massive
shrapnel wound in his leg, the reply he offers is interesting: “Oh
that I got from my own Indian Air Force, as my prize for my service to the nation. Thank God they left me alive. Most of my Bengali
Chou operated with Mukti Bahini as Captain of a requisitioned
fishing craft Padma fitted out with 70/60 Bofors guns at Calcutta.
The guns were incidentally supplied by a retired naval commander
Rao who was the legal agent of Bofors. Later Rao handed over to
Win Chadha, who got entangled in the infamous Bofors scandal,
for accepting winding up Agency charges, not a bribe I think when Rajiv Gandhi banned arms agents. Chadha family took refuge in Dubai, as Win’s earnings were being linked to the Rs 64 crore bribe (commission) with the Hindujas to divert attention from Italian Ottavio Quattrocchi who died in 2013.Others got pittance. IDF feels even ChirstainMichel may not be able to sing and help as the big money trail that CBI is following itself headless which speaks volumes, is in Italy and courts there let off all. IDF hopes between Rafale and AW-101 the fine Indian Armed Forces procurement does not get screwed up like Bofors did scripted in Indians Why We Are What We Are and Supreme Court raps the PM for hastening deals but throws the case out on National Security Grounds!
Twenty Indian naval divers and sailors, mostly Bengalis, trained
over few hundred young East Bengali naval swimmers as divers, sailors and volunteers atPlassey near Calcutta, including PakistanNavy submariners who had deserted from France. The submariners were debriefed in Delhi by Capt MN Vasudev and they all were later supported by BSF and Eastern Naval Command Gen Jacob and a Gen Shabeg to carry out attacks deep into East Pakistanwith limpet mines and grenades as MuktiBahini.
Mukhti Bahini made many forays into Bangladesh and attacked ships like in theSecond World War raids, sinking 200,000 tons. One
day during the war around 8th December a squadron of three boats,
under Cdr M.N. Samant (Sammy) in INS Panvel (Lt Cdr J.P.A.
Noronha, both later decorated MVC), the Padma and Palash (Lt Cdr Roy Chou) with BSF craft Chitrangada, as Force Alpha, set sail from Calcutta. They were advised to display a yellow bunting cloth,
four feet by four feet square on the ship’s bridge top to avoid being strafed by the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy planes andto also fly a yellow flag.
All was well till the craft departed Hasnabadfrom the Indian
side and arrived at Akram Point to enter the Pussur river, and at 2
am saw two merchant ships on radar trying to escape. The ships
were out of range of the Bofors 40/60 mm, but the reporting led to
the capture of Anwar Baksh and Baqir by Indian Navy later carrying Baluchi troopsand families to Karachi when they reached the open seas.
In the book is the famous story of the capture of Anwar Baksh by a boarding party led by Lt Cdr Raz Bajaj when he killed a soldier on board who tried to attack him. He was castigated.
IDF adds Indian leadership with little experience of war expects its forces to fight with one hand tied as a recent Seminar in CLAWS showed when Op Vijay in Kargilwas discussed by former COAS Gen VP Malik and 8 Mountain Div Cdr Gen Mohinder Puri. Puri was ordered to move his Srinagar troops fighting insurgency to heights not acclimatized but that is the Indian soldier Chinese fear. . His book, Turning The Tide with Gen Malik’s book Kargil are true authentic accounts of that 1999 half war and Gen Bammi’s details but true story is still coming out. .
Task force Alpha led by Sammy crossed Mongla and Chalna early morning and neared Khulna to attack PNS Titumeer underthe command of Commodore Gulberdin in single column, when a
formation of our own IAF Gnats appeared overhead and began to
pull up for a diving run. No one realized the ‘Snafu’ (situation all
f****d up), that the yellow bunting was helping the IAF to aim
better on otherwise camouflaged boats.
When all hell broke loose and IAF’sproficient aim, meant for the Pakistanis, was targeted on Sammy’s force, it was Roy Chou who saw his boat Padma subjected to a strafing run with men on deck being killed even as they waved. Roy Chou saw his boat floundering and decided to beach his boat, and like Capt M.N. Mulla on INS Khukri, ordered “Abandon ship” when all hope was lost. Forty died in the Khulna operation by Force Alpha.
Roy Chou was thrown overboard into the Pussur river, a tributary of the holy Ganga, and to his good luck INS Panvel under Lt Cdr JPA Naronha later MVC sailed inches past him, also maneuvering in the melee to avoid the ‘friendly’ Gnats who reappeared. Some one recognized Chou, bloody and with shrapnel in his leg, saw he could not swim ashore, and rescued him.
Roy Chou was filled with thoughts of some of his colleagues, now no more. He was hospitalized in the Military Hospital atCalcutta, where his wife had delivered a baby girl in the maternity ward not far away from his room a day before, but his thoughts were, “Why did this Blue on Blue happen?” and even asks that today. He remained melancholy and the thought of a daughter did not elevate his mood. Records of attacks by Mukhti Bahini were destroyed by Eastern Command to avoid maritime insurance claims, and is another story as story of Lt Cdr Aku Roy fallows. Shan Na Varuna