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Monday, January 03, 2011

The Phantoms of Chittagong

Courtesy: Claude Arpi, Jan 3, 2011

A few years ago, I wrote an article for on The Phantoms of Chittagong.Very little is still known of the Tibetan participation during the 1971 operations. One of the Tibetan leaders, Ratu Ngawang has written his Memoirs, unfortunately it is in Tibetan language.

According to Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob, who was posted as Chief of Staff, Eastern Command during the War and was therefore responsible for the military operations, the Tibetan contribution to the over-all victory was minimal.

The fact remains that the Tibetans participated to a War which was not theirs and had a lot of casualties.

Phantom Warriors of 1971
Unsung Tibetan Guerrillas
By Manas Paul
First published in
13 Dec, 2010

Forty years ago in 1971 on a cool and scary November 14 night in Chittagong a Pakistani sniper of Special Service Group perched silently on his hidden location near his camp felt he saw a ‘phantom’. The days were then uncertain and nights were too risky. So, the Pakistani soldier did not take any chance and opened fire. And the shadowy creatures just melted away in the darkness. One among them was, however, dying. He was shot at fatally. The Pakistani soldier did not know that he had just killed one of the toughest and CIA trained Tibetan guerrilla leaders — Dhondup Gyatotsang. As Gyatotsang — a Dapon or Brigadier in Tibetan language — died his comrades, all armed simply with a Bulgarian AK 47 and their Tibetan knives, made radio contact with a turbaned Sikh some kilometres away and across the border. The Sikh barked at them the order: carry on with the task you are assigned to. As the order came the Tibetan guerrillas once again spread in the darkness and coiled up behind the Pakistani barracks and posts. They remained as shadows as long as they wanted and when the right time came they just struck with lightning speed raiding the Pak positions. One after another Pakistani posts fell as the Tibetans, who by this gained the title ‘Phantoms of Chittagong’, swept the hills and valleys of the hilly district of East Pakistan and restrained the Pakistani military movement to only small pockets. Weeks before the real war actually broke out on December 3rd, the Tibetan guerrillas turned Chittagong into a virtually a free zone with pre-emptive strikes for Indian army movement. On December 16, 1971 when the Pakistani army surrendered, the Tibetan commandos were only 40 km from the Chittagong Port. By this time they had successfully accomplished the task that their chief, General Sujan Singh Uban had assigned to them: The Operation Mountain Eagle. They had, however, lost 49 of their comrades and had 190 injured.

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