In Bharat, December 16 is celebrated as Victory Day to commemorate the decisive victory in 1971, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Bharat played a crucial role in the formation of a new nation by supporting the oppressed people of East Pakistan against the atrocities of Pakistani power and military. The war of 1971 was a military conflict between Bharat and Pakistan, where Pakistan faced a severe defeat. It began on December 3, 1971, with pre-emptive air strikes by Pakistan on 11 Bharatiya air stations, leading to Bharat’s decision to actively support Bengali nationalist groups in East Pakistan’s struggle for independence. As a result of the unexpected defeat, Pakistan had to face the capture of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers by the Bharatiya army. East Pakistan, freed from Pakistan’s control, subsequently became the independent nation of Bangladesh.
After the partition in 1947, the land was divided into two parts in the region that became Pakistan—one in the west of Bharat and the other in the east of Bharat. The eastern part, situated near Bengal, was referred to as East Pakistan during that period. In East Pakistan, approximately 75 million people, both Hindus and Muslims, spoke Bengali. Bengali Muslims had distinct characteristics and held different political ideologies. The political views of Bengali Muslims were liberal, indicating a liberal mindset.
Not only was there a geographical distance of about 1600 kilometers between West and East Pakistan, but the two regions also differed in their thinking, cuisine, and language.
Officials in West Pakistan attempted to suppress the Bengali language and culture, making strenuous efforts to eradicate them. This injustice fueled the fire smouldering in the heart of East Pakistan.
The desire for a separate nation in East Bengal (East Pakistan) started gaining momentum. When Pakistan declared Urdu as the national language in 1951, protests erupted in the east. People appealed for the recognition of Bengali as a second language, but Pakistani authorities paid no heed.
Tensions between East and West Pakistan had been ongoing since 1947. The 1970 elections revealed the true aspirations of the residents of East Pakistan. It was the first democratic election after the creation of Pakistan. The Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, achieved a historic victory, but West Pakistan denied them the right to form a government. Prime Minister Yahya Khan of West Pakistan imposed martial law in East Pakistan.
In the months leading up to the 1971 war, the streets of East Pakistan echoed with protests, and blood was shed. The actions of the Pakistani army have been compared to the Holocaust perpetrated by Hitler against the Jews. In March 1971, the Pakistani military decided to eliminate patriotism and linguistic pride from East Pakistan. Operation Searchlight by Pakistan Army was initiated, and a ruthless crackdown on Bengali nationalists began. It is noteworthy that both men and women played a crucial role in the struggle for the liberation of Bangladesh.
The religious leaders of Western Pakistan openly referred to Bengali freedom fighters as “Hindus,” even though at that time 80 per cent of the Bengali population was Muslim. Not only that, but they also supported crimes such as rape by stigmatising Bengali women as “spoils of war” to weaken the fight for the independence of Bangladesh. This not only led to atrocities committed by the Pakistani army but also by supporters of the Pakistani army on a large scale against female revolutionaries. Pakistani soldiers raped women in East Pakistan with the intention of impregnating them. During the nine months of the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Pakistani army, with the collaboration of Islamic groups in Bangladesh, took the lives of 2 to 3 million people and committed rape against 200,000 to 400,000 women. However, officially, Pakistan only acknowledges a death toll of 26,000.
The orders of the Pakistani army led to the massacre of a large section of the intellectual community of the Buddhist community in Bangladesh. Not only that, just two days before the surrender, on December 14, 1971, the Pakistani army abducted and murdered 100 doctors, professors, writers, and engineers, leaving their bodies in a mass grave.
The Mukti Bahini in Bangladesh was fighting in its own way. College students, common people, everyone was fighting for independence and struggling. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, Bharat supported Bangladesh by sending ration and its military. During the war, thousands of Bangladeshis sought refuge in Bharat.
On December 3, Pakistan launched an attack on 11 Bharatiya airbases. In response, Bharat retaliated by conducting airstrikes in Pakistan’s eastern and western regions. Following this, the Bharatiya government issued orders for the Bharatiya Army to engage in a war against Pakistan to rescue the people of ‘Eastern Pakistan.’ The leadership of this war from the Bharatiya side was being led by Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
In this war against Pakistan, more than 1400 Bharatiya soldiers sacrificed their lives. Bharatiya soldiers fought with utmost bravery, and not a single Pakistani soldier was allowed to advance. Pakistan suffered heavy losses in this war, and it concluded within a mere 13 days. On December 16, 1971, Pakistani Army Chief General A.A. Khan Niazi surrendered to Bharat with approximately 93,000 soldiers. As a result, every year on December 16, Victory Day is celebrated, paying homage to the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country. On this day, the entire nation, along with the Prime Minister of Bharat, pays tribute to those heroic soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in this war.
In this war, both the United States and the Soviet Union were involved indirectly. Taking advantage of this situation, on December 14, the Bharatiya Army launched an attack on the residence of the Governor of Pakistan in Dhaka. The Bharatiya Air Force carried out numerous sorties against Pakistan during the Indo-Pak War of 1971, establishing dominance over the skies of eastern Pakistan within a week. By the end of the first week of the Bharat-Pakistan War in 1971, the Bharatiya Air Force had almost completely achieved air supremacy. One reason for this was the effective neutralisation of the entire Pakistani Air Force in the eastern region , including PAF No. 14 Squadron in Tejgaon, Kurmitola, Lalmonirhat, and Shamsher Nagar, due to Bharatiya and Bangladeshi airstrikes.
The naval warships of the Bharatiya Navy, particularly the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant’s Sea Hawk fighter jets, also conducted airstrikes on Chittagong, Barisal, and Cox’s Bazar, resulting in the destruction of the Pakistani Navy’s East Wing and effectively blockading the eastern Pakistani ports. This action closed all escape routes for trapped Pakistani soldiers.
At that time, all high-ranking officials in Pakistan gathered for meetings. The intensity of the attack shook Pakistan, prompting General Niazi to propose a ceasefire. As a result, on December 16, 1971, around 2:30 pm, the process of surrender began, and at that time, approximately 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered.
On December 16, 1971, Bangladesh was born as a new nation, gaining independence from East Pakistan, which became known as Pakistan. This war is considered a historic conflict for Bharat. Therefore, across the country, December 16 is celebrated as ‘Vijay Diwas’ (Victory Day) in commemoration of Bharat’s victory over Pakistan. It is said that in the 1971 war, around 3,900 Bharatiya soldiers were martyred, and approximately 9,851 were injured. Eight months after the war, in August 1972, Bharat and Pakistan signed the Shimla Agreement, under which Pakistani prisoners of war were repatriated to Pakistan.
Vijay Diwas and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
To honour the day of the surrender of 97,368 Pakistani soldiers to Bharat’s valiant army, and with the aim of increasing the strength and capabilities of Swayamsevaks and instilling a spirit of victory, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) organizes a grand ceremony called “Prahar Mahayagya” on December 16 every year.
On this day, Swayamsevaks are reminded of the strength of-Maharana Pratap, who, with a single stroke of his sword, cut down Bahadur Khan, along with his horse, in the Battle of Haldighati.
Rani Durgavati held the reins of her horse in her mouth, wielding a sword in both hands, and devoured her enemies.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, using the strength of his sword, established Hindu rule by challenging the Adilshahi and Mughal empires.
We are the descendants of these great ancestors. May the strength in our arms remain eternal, and may we continue to be capable and powerful.