Around 5pm on December 5, 1971, just as the sun was setting, Colonel Kuldev Nand, then Captain and part of the 23 Mountain Artillery Brigade, received orders to cross the India-Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) border.
His unit, 197 Mountain Regiment, which was to support the 301 Mountain Brigade, immediately started advancing towards Mudafarganj, more than 100 kilometres from Dhaka.
Around 9am the next day, they reached Mudafarganj and were greeted by enemy fire. “Luckily, the bullets were at a higher level than the ground, so the fire was ineffective. I was told the fire upon the enemy forces and with the support of a company led by Major Narpat Singh Shekhawat, we killed eight Pak soldiers and captured two. Our company commander’s operator got hit in the arm,” recalls the veteran.
But amid death and destruction, acts of kindness and compassion don’t aren’t rare. Col Nand recalls how the Army helped evacuate a Pak havildar who was found critically injured in a wheat field. “He was injured during mopping-up operations. When we found him, he was in severe pain and was pleading to be shot dead. He would have succumbed to his injuries, but in no time, a chopper of the GOC 23 Mountain Division evacuated him,” recalls Col Nand.
“Later we came to know that the havildar was among those repatriated. This is the Indian Army for you,” he says proudly.
After capturing Mudafarganj, the company moved towards Hajiganj. On reaching there, the Army occupied a school building for night halt. Around 8pm, the enemy forces open fire on them but the Company retaliated in equal measure. By the time, the Company reached Chandpur the next morning, over 10,000 Pak soldiers had surrendered.
The Colonel also recalls a close shave when he managed to save another Officiating Company Commander’s life. “When we were on the western side of Lakhiya River, we faced heavy mortar shelling from the rival camp. As an artillery soldier, I immediately sensed an enemy mortar that had been dropped metres away from us. I managed to pull Captain Patnaik out of the way before the mortar went off,” recalls the veteran.
Just as the soldiers were crossing Lakhiya river on December 16, they received a radio message that a ceasefire had been declared and Pak forces had surrendered in front of the Indian Army.
“But we did not rest till we captured the Adamji Mills in Narayanganj, one of the largest jute mills operated by a rich Pakistani industrialist Adamji. Dhaka had been captured by then but the enemy forces were refusing to give up. They surrendered only after the first raging round landed on the mills,” Col Nand recalls.
The colonel has also written a chapter “Liberation of Bangladesh” in a book “In Quest of Freedom – The war of 1971” that shares personal accounts of soldiers from India and Bangladesh. A compilation of first-hand accounts, the book is edited by a celebrated soldier, Major General Ian Cardozo.
Col Nand retired in 1997 from Headquarter 2 Core Artillery Brigade in Ambala Cantt. He now lives with his wife in Defence Colony and plays golf with his friends in free time. His son and daughter are settled abroad.
Know the veteran
• Colonel Kuldev Nand, 77
• Was part of 23 Mountain Artillery Brigade concentrated along the Eastern Border
• Retired in 1997
• Plays golf with friends