LEE FALK’S PHANTOM:
Leon Harrison Gross, popularly known as Lee Falk had created the comic strip superhero ‘The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks’. The story of Phantom was initially set in the deep woods of Bengal of India. Later, the setting of the story moved to the jungles of the fictional African country of Bangalla. In that story, the true nature of Phantom is only known to the PYGMY tribe, the natives of the forest.
THE PHANTOMS OF CHITTAGONG: THE FIFTH ARMY IN BANGLADESH
Allied Publishers of India had published this book on April 1, 1985. The author of this Phantom fiction is Major General (Retd)Sujan Singh Uban. He commanded the Special Frontier Force in the rank of Inspector General. In his story, General Uban narrated the military exploits of the Special Frontier Force during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. General Uban was deputed to carry out a hazardous operation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. His force was airlifted to the northeast corner of India and had reached the border of Mizoram State and had proceeded on foot to accomplish its mission. The force had operated independently in the most difficult terrain of Chittagong Hill Tracts. The phrase Fifth Army makes the important distinction between Special Frontier Force and the Indian Army.
For the success of this operation, General Uban was awarded the medal for distinguished service of exceptional order known as ‘Param Vishisht Seva Medal’ ( PVSM). Just like the ‘bush people’ of the forests of Bangalla know the true nature of PHANTOM, the native forest dwellers of the Chittagong Hill Tracts described as ‘CHAKMA’ know the true nature of the Phantoms, the ‘Fifth Army’ in Bangladesh. The Chakmas have eyes that can see. They had silently witnessed the movements of the Fifth Army. General Uban may not have contacted these denizens of the forests. He may have no clue as to what the Chakma might have seen. In the execution of General Urban’s military plan some of the Phantoms, gallant members of the Fifth Army sacrificed their lives. General Uban was not present when the real heroes were cremated or buried. Apart from myself, I presume that the Chakma might have seen where the ‘Phantoms of Chittagong’ were buried.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FIFTH ARMY:
General Uban in his book did not describe the full story about his military expedition to Bangladesh. He did not describe the Medical Evacuation Plan for his operation.
In the history of the Indian Army Medical Corps, a unique chapter was added in the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts. It would be my privilege to narrate that historical moment. General Uban may not be aware of the fact that I had actually marched into enemy territory without my personal weapon to defend myself.
General Uban was not aware of the ‘SERMON’ delivered by Lieutenant Colonel B K Narayan, my South Column Unit Commander in Kaptai. On Friday, December 17, 1971 morning, the religious worship service for Bangla Muslims of Kaptai was conducted by Colonel Narayan, a non-Muslim. I shared this story at my blog post titled ‘A Sermon in Kaptai, Bangladesh’.
General Uban was not aware of the use of Telugu language in military radio communications during a crucial phase of our Unit’s encounter with the enemy. Our enemy was not in a position to comprehend a South Indian language like Telugu. Myself and Colonel Narayan took advantage of the language barriers and had openly communicated in Telugu language. The enemy might have intercepted and listened to our radio conversations but did not decipher our messages. During 1971 War, for brief moments, the airwaves in Chittagong Hill tracts had carried words spoken in Telugu.
General Uban is entitled to take credit for his military plan. However, the real credit goes to the person who had executed the plan on the ground. Lieutenant General T S Oberoi, PVSM, VrC who was the General Officer Commanding – in – Chief at Headquarters Southern Command, Pune during 1982-85 should get the real credit. I knew General Oberoi. In 1971, he was a Brigadier. While I was heading to Kumbhigram airfield, he had personally seen me off in the early morning hours at Sarsawa airfield. He delayed the departure of the aircraft. He insisted that the men must be served a hot breakfast before boarding the plane. I remember him for his sense of devotion to the men he had commanded. He displayed this devotion in his actions and the manner in which the military plan was executed on the ground. Rajiv Gandhi. the Prime Minister of India had simply overlooked his merit and had denied him the opportunity to serve the nation as the Chief of Army Staff. I had also served under General K S Sundarji at the First Armoured Division. In my blog post titled ‘Living Under The Shadow – A Prescription For Death’ dated June 22, 2009, I wrote that I could not perform the simple task of medical evacuation when I was called to attend upon his ailing wife. Whereas while serving under the Command of Brigadier Oberoi, in the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts, I had written a new Chapter in the History Books of the Indian Army Medical Corps. Based upon that story, I ask the Government of India to award me the Gallantry Award Vir Chakra that was recommended but not presented. A gallantry award is not the equivalent of winning a lottery ticket. The award is only a recognition of a past event that had taken place. History cannot be rewritten. Apart from the Citation recommending me for this decoration, my Annual Confidential Report for the year 1971, Colonel Iqbal Singh’s Remarks on my application for Direct Permanent Commission – AMC Examination held in 1972 are part of the documents archived at Ministry of Defence, New Delhi. My actions in Chittagong Hill Tracts were witnessed by Bangla Muslim refugees who had accompanied us and more interestingly by a young Chakma man who had silently observed me while I cared and comforted the battle casualties. I am happy to narrate this Untold Story. Kindly view my Blog Post:
The Medical Plan for Fifth Army in Bangladesh – The Experience of Madhurya in Chittagong Hill Tracts.
I want to express my sense of appreciation and give my warmest regards to Mr. Siddique Ahmed who served at Karnaphuli Complex at Chandraghona near Kaptai and had joined our Unit during the execution of Operation Eagle. I thank him for sharing his comments on this post.
R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Service Number: MS-8466, Rank: CAPTAIN, Branch: Army Medical Corps/Short Service Regular Commission,
Designation: Medical Officer, South Column Operation Eagle, 1971-72,
Organization: Headquarters Establishment No. 22 C/O 56 APO.