Battle of Garibpur

The Battle of Garibpur was fought between Pakistan and Mukti Bahini on 20–21 November 1971. The Indian Armed Forces joined the Mukti Bahini on 3 December 1971, creating the alliance named Mitro Bahini. The battle was a part of Bangladesh liberation war.

Battle of Garibpur
Part of Bangladesh Liberation War
Date20–21 November 1971
Location
Garibpur, present day Bangladesh
Result Decisive Indo-Bangladeshi victory
Belligerents
 Bangladesh (Mukti Bahini)
 India
(Joined the war on 3 December 1971)
 Pakistan
Commanders and leaders
India Lt. Col. R.K. Singh Pakistan Flt. Lt. Parvaiz Mehdi Qureshi
Strength
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown but heavy 180 killed
11 tanks destroyed, 3 captured[1]
2 F-86 Sabres shot down, 1 damaged.

An intimately entangled part of this battle is the air battle over the Boyra Salient, the actual Battle of Boyra where the Mitro Bahini and Indian troops successfully engaged and destroyed strike elements of the Pakistan Air Force. The battle took place prior to the start of hostilities in the western front of India (known as Indo-Pakistani War of 1971). The Mitro Bahini and Indian troops defeated Pakistan Army in the battle, thus capturing key areas and severely denting Pakistani morale.

BackgroundEdit

After months of internal tensions in East Pakistan (current day Bangladesh) and a clampdown on Bengali nationalists, many independence fighters had organised themselves into a guerilla army. Called the Mukti Bahini, these rebels were aided by India in their struggle. After initial success by Pakistani troops against the Mukti Bahini there had been some relative calm in the region and further Indian assistance was sought to turn the tide. India thus started to involve itself deeper into the conflict brewing in the east and stationed its troops near the border.

The Boyra salient located inside the northwest part of East Pakistan consisting of Garibpur village was at an important crossroads for both nations. Its control was thus vital as it included a highway to Jessore from India.

The battleEdit

On 21 November, the 14 Punjab Battalion supported by PT-76 tanks from 45 Cavalry and Mukti Bahini moved in to capture the areas around Garibpur inside Pakistani territory. The move was supposed to be a surprise, but following a skirmish with patrol troops of both armies the previous day, Pakistan was alerted to this impending attack. Pakistan immediately retaliated with infantry sized battalion supported by 3rd Independent Armoured Squadron, equipped with M24 Chaffee light tanks. Retaining the Infantry and the Recoilless rifles in a defensive position, the Indian tanks were sent forward to ambush the oncoming Pakistani charge. In the next couple of hours Indian troops pounded the Pakistani attack who couldn't pinpoint the source of attacks due to poor visibility on account of fog. Undeterred, Pakistan tanks and infantry were thrown into an offensive against the Indian defensive positions. However, the attack was repulsed by the Indians and resulted in heavy casualties for both Pakistan and India. Indian military had employed PT-76 tanks which were superior then M24 Chaffee tanks. By noon more than 11 Pakistani tanks lay smouldering with a further 3 captured in working condition whilst losing only 8 of the PT-76 tanks.[2] Indian troops and Mukti Bahini also suffered heavy casualties during the battle.

Pakistan Army had called for help from the Pakistan Air Force which soon responded with attacks on Indian positions. At around 3:00 p.m. three F-86 Sabres of the PAF flew in to provide close air support and hit the Indian positions using machine guns and rocket fire. The Indian Air Force however was prepared for such an attack and was thrust to neutralise the threat from the skies. Flying in their Mig-21s the four pilots were soon engaged in a dog fight against their Pakistani counterparts. In the first engagement of the two air powers in six years, two Sabres were shot down while another was damaged after a brief dog fight. Two of the pilots ejected safely but were captured by the Mukti Bahini and Indian troops and were taken to India as POWs.

AftermathEdit

The battle coming just weeks before the official start of the war had an unexpected turn of events. Victory in this and other battles like Battle of Hilli ensured that the Northern sector of East Pakistan was virtually in the hands of Mitro Bahini (Allied forces) before the war was declared. The morale of the Pakistanis dipped and following the mass defections of Bengalis, it was only a matter of time before they would face ultimate defeat.

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