1971 Bangladesh War

Operation Vijay

The Portuguese refusal to transfer her Indian settlements of Goa, Daman, Diu and Anjidiv Islands to the Indian Republic, led to Operation Vijay in 1961. They had ruthlessly suppressed a peaceful Satyagraha launched to liberate these territories in 1955. In 1961, they even fired on some Indian coastal steamers and fishing boats near Anjidiv Island. India, therefore, decided to use force to liberate the Portuguese pockets on her soil.

Goa Operations

On 11 December 1961, 17 Inf Div and attached troops were ordered to advance into Goa to capture Panjim and Marmagao. The main thrust on Panjim was to be made by 50 Ind Para Bde Group from the north. Another thrust was to be carried by 63 Inf. Bde from the east. A deceptive thrust, in company strength, was to be made from the south along the Majali-Canacona-Margao axis.

The Eastern Thrust

On December 18th, the 50 Para Bde Group moved into Goa in three columns. The western column (the 2 Sikh LI Group) marched on the Dodamarg-Tivim-Betim-Panjim axis, the central column (1 Para Punjab) on the Benastarim-Panjim axis and the eastern column (2 Para Maratha) on the Dodamarg-Usgao-Ponda axis. The first 2 competed in the race for Panjim. The western column led by armour moved out at 0630 hrs. The armour reached Betim shortly after 1700 hrs without encountering any opposition. The 2 Sikh LI joined it by 2100 hrs, crossing over mines and demolished bridges en-route. Panjim now lay only 549 metres away. But in the absence of orders from above, the unit stayed at Betim for the night. The same night Major Sidhu of the 7 Cavalry was killed when Portuguese guards fired on an unsuspecting Indian rescue party at Aguada Fort.

On December 19th, the 2nd Sikh LI received permission to cross over to Panjim and the two rifle companies landed there at 0735 hrs. The race to Panjim was won. The central column of 1 Para Punjab crossed the border at 0600 hrs. Up to Bicholim it moved as the eastern column but from there it turned on the Banastarim-Panjim axis. It reached Banastarim at 1730 hrs but was held up there on account of the broken bridge. On December 18th, the water obstacle was negotiated and the column reached Panjim by 0830 hrs, 55 minutes after the Sikhs. The eastern most column (2 Para Maratha) moved on the northern route on the Sanquelim-Usgao-Ponda axis. It reached Ponda at 1345 hours and brought order to the town. The eastern column conducted patrolling in the Ponda-Banastarim sector and established contact with the rear elements of 1 Para on December 19th.

The Northern Thrust

The 63 Indian Inf. Bde. moved into Goa from Anmond in two columns. The right column (2 Bihar) moved through a track whereas the left column (3 Sikh) moved down the existing road. Both columns linked up at Mollem and then moved on to Ponda taking separate routes. 3 Sikh could not go beyond Darbandora on December 18th. 2 Bihar went further to settle at Candeapar for the night. Meanwhile the 4 Sikh, the rear battalion, reached Candeapar river crossing at midnight. At 0600 hrs on December 19th, 4 Sikh crossed Candeapar by wading through chest high water and by mid-day rolled into Margao. It then marched on to Dabolim through Verna where a number of Portuguese surrendered at 1530 hrs. Finally it moved to Vasco Da Gama where the Portuguese formally surrendered at 2030 hrs. With the 4 Sikh in the lead, 2 Bihar also pressed on in the direction of Margao. But finding the Sikhs well set on the outskirts of the town it advanced on Verna. The enemy stronghold was attacked on both flanks and their resistance collapsed.

The swift action of 2 Bihar at Verna enabled the 4 Sikh to press on to Dabolim and Marmagao unhindered. The 3 Sikh was put on reserve on December 19th. From here it marched on to Margao and beyond in two columns. Some 400 Portuguese soldiers surrendered before it on December 20th. A diversionary move was made from south along the Majali-Canacon-Margao axis, in company (4 Rajput) strength. It was meant to mislead the Portuguese about the direction of the main Indian thrust. The southern column marched up to Margao overcoming road blocks, mines & broken bridges and helped in restoring order there. The 17 Division ended more than four centuries of Portuguese rule over Goa in just 40 hours. The IAF also played a useful role as its Canberra aircraft, twice bombed the Dabolim airfield whereas Hunters bombed Bombolim Wireless Station.

Daman Operations

Operations in Daman were conducted by the 1 Maratha LI. It launched an attack on Nani Daman from the north after neutralising the Flying Control Tower and Post-175 in a pre-dawn sweep. By 1700 hrs, the two companies had reached the Garden area south of the airfield. The battalion settled in this area for the night. At 1100 hrs on December 19th, the Portuguese made a surrender in Daman without giving any fight. In this push forward, artillery and air support played an effective role. The Army captured 600 soldiers and some guns & mortars in Daman. The Army suffered 1 JCO and 3 ORs killed and 1 JCO and 13 ORs wounded in the Daman operations. Portuguese suffered 10 killed and 2 wounded.

Diu Operations

Diu was the smallest Portuguese possession in India. A two-pronged attack was made on Diu-one from the north-west and the other from the north-east. The north-western thrust on Kob-Forte-Do Passo-De Covo axis was made by two companies of 20 Rajput, to establish a bridge-head and to capture the airfield. But the Rajput effort was frustrated by the well sited MMG and LMG fire across the creek. The Rajputs (B Coy) where, however, successful in their thrust on the Ahmdepur-Gogal axis. They replaced the 4 Madras and successfully attacked Gogla at 1600 hours. The enemy resistance was overcome with heavy pounding of guns. Portuguese garrison showed a white flag and surrendered. In Diu operations the IAF gave very useful support to the Rajputs. Toofani aircraft gave much needed support by bombarding the citadel and the control tower at the airfield on December 18th. On December 19th, the 4 Madras (C Coy) occupied the Island of Panikota and captured 13 Portuguese soldiers.

Anjidiv Island

Anjidiv lies to the south of Goa. The task of capturing this Island was entrusted to the INS Mysore and the INS Trishul. While the INS Mysore was to provide covering fire, the INS Trishul was to land a party on the Island. The assault party called 'Rustum' landed there successfully at 0715 hrs on December 18th. Another party followed at 0746 hrs. At this stage, the Portuguese hoisted a white flag near beach Lima. But this was a deceptive move and the Portuguese soon started firing on the second Indian party nearing the beach. The Army suffered some casualties in this treacherous attack. INS Trishul and the INS Mysore thoroughly shelled the enemy strong points to break the resistance. As a result of this pressure, many Portuguese surrendered on December 18th. More prisoners were taken over on December 19th. At 1425 hrs on December 19th, the Indian Flag was hoisted at Anjidiv

© Stories of Heroism, Dr. B.C. Chakravorty, edited by Dr. U.P. Thapliyal, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, History Division