“On 22 November, the Pakistani forces called up an air strike of four Sabrejets on our positions. These were intercepted within Indian territory by our Gnats, which destroyed three Sabrejets. Two of the Pakistani pilots who bailed out were captured in our territory, indicating the Pakistani air intrusion into Indian air space. We regard this as a purely local action.”
On November 22, India claimed the destruction of 13 Pakistani tanks against six of our own and three Sabrejets shot down by IAF units supporting the land battle. This action prompted Yahya Khan to declare a national emergency the next day and complain to U Thant about an alleged Indian violation of the UN Charter. Mrs Gandhi replied that “even though Pakistan has declared an emergency, we shall refrain from taking a similar step unless further aggressive action by Pakistan compels us to do so in the interest of national security.”
In the meantime, the country should remain “unruffled.” The net gain of this action at Bayra was that India reached almost halfway to Jessore up to Arpara on the Chaughcha-Jessore road and came in contact with the Pakistani defence west of Jessore town.
Mrs Gandhi replied that “even though Pakistan has declared an emergency, we shall refrain from taking a similar step unless further aggressive action by Pakistan compels us to do so in the interest of national security.”
Farther north, the liberation forces had captured Jiban Nagar, Uthalo and Darsana and were leaning on Khalispur on the Jiban Nagar-Kot Chandpur road. In the northwestern sector, some areas north and south of it had however been captured, but the Pakistanis continued to resist at Hilli. This small railway town on the border on top of the Balurghat bulge was held by 4 Frontier Force Battalion beefed up by elements of EPCAF, and these forces were a foil to activity in support of the Mukti Bahini. Attacks were launched on Hilli with about two battalions but did rot make much headway because of the stout resistance of the defenders.
These attacks went in frontally, in a [typically orthodox World War I manner, and suffered heavy casualties in 67 killed and 90 wounded. The first attack went in on 24 November. Fighting continued with varying intensity, and Hilli could eventually be cleared only as late as 11 December, and that too only because Indian out-flanking movements some distance away had made it untenable.
In the Dinajpur area, Khanpur and Mukandpur had been occupied on its southern approaches, and both banks of the Icchamati river were secured along the Sanjia-Phulbari axis. Meanwhile, a force advancing south on the Mirganj-Dinajpur road had secured the town of Thakargaon. In the Barakhata salient, Barakhata had been captured and Hathi Banda had been contacted and effectively contained. In the Nageshwari salient, all the area north of the Dharla river had been completely cleared.
This threat forced Niazi to rush reinforcements to the area, thus denuding some other important sectors of their defenders.
In the northern sector, the Kamalpur garrison, comprising a strong company group, had been completely surrounded by about a brigade strength, but it continued to hold out till the evening of 4 December after having beaten back two attempts at its capture. This position was held by a company of 31 Baluch Battalion augmented by elements of paramilitary forces under Capt Ashan Malik.
In the northeastern sector, Radhanagar had been captured north of Sylhet after overcoming BOPS at Takiganj and Atgram. In the area opposite Karimganj, the salient east of the general Chargram-Karimganj line had been secured. Similarly, Gazipur had been captured in the Kalaura area while Kalaura itself had been successfully invested. The Shamshernagar airfield fell into Indian hands, but a few Pakistani pockets continued to hold out. In the southeastern sector Ganganagar had been captured in the Akhaura area. The Akhaura defences were surrounded and expected to fall any moment. Farther south, the entire Belonia bulge had been cleared, and Mukti Bahini were holding positions directly threatening rail and road communications between Comilla and Chittagong in the area of Feni. This threat forced Niazi to rush reinforcements to the area, thus denuding some other important sectors of their defenders.
A special force operating towards Rangamati had pushed back Pakistan’s forward posts in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and was leaning against the Rangamati lake area and in occupation of the salient north of Ramgarh. This force was operating on a manpack basis, supported by helicopters and air supplies. The Pakistani opposition in this region was minimal. It appeared that Niazi, had given this area a low tactical priority.
The Pakistani opposition in this region was minimal. It appeared that Niazi, had given this area a low tactical priority.
In addition, Freedom Fighters’ raids were directed towards dislocating the local economy. They had damaged the tea and cement factories at Chhatak and the gas pipeline in Sunamganj. A tea estate at Dhalai was also captured and extensively damaged. The Dhalai position had repulsed the first attack with heavy casualties. An unorthodox second attempt carried the position and saved the day. Along with these attacks and raids close to the border, the intensity of the Mukti Bahini guerilla operations in the interior, particularly around Dacca, were stepped up to a high pitch. The rear lines of communication were extensively disrupted. Ambushes of convovys and raids on small bodies of troops were common. To hold the border, Niazi had to disperse his troops more widely, eventually leading to a breakdown of formations and of fire units in support to plug holes, here and there, and reinforce the defences at points where threats were increasing.