In early 70s, East Pakistan was on the boil. The West Pakistan was committing atrocities and a complete joke of human rights was happening. India under Indira Gandhi had no intentions to interrupt between the affairs of the two sides of Pakistan. India tried to remain silent till the time the refugees started coming in heavy numbers from Dhaka. Indira Gandhi had a lot to worry. In April 1971, a meeting took place between the army chief, General Sam Manekshaw, defense minister, minister of external affairs and Indira Gandhi was adamant on attacking from the eastern front. Under the amazing guidance of Manekshaw, the war was delayed until the winter arrived.
The issues between the native Bengalis and the West Pakistan muslims were on a high. There were countless rapes, murders and brutal torture which was unleashed on the East Bengalis. The muslims from West Pakistan thought themselves as a pure breed and they wanted convert East Pakistan into one of their kind. India set up some refugee camps initially but it was not possible to accommodate complete East Pakistan with India. The Indian Govt. tried to ask the help from the International community and world superpowers, but nobody responded.
The major reason for human rights violation was the winning of the opposition party, the Awami League and it’s leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. He won 167 seats of 169 in general elections and demanded a separate state for Bengalis due to religious and racial tensions between Bengalis and multi-ethnic Bengalis. General Yahya Khan didn’t like it and he banned Awami League and called for the arrest of all major Bengali Leaders.
Pakistan imprisoned Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and forcefully put family in house arrest. The house was located at Dharmandi Area, about twenty minutes of Dhaka(Dhaka Airport now).
On seeing that this has no end, and after months of planning and preparation, India declared war on Pakistan on 3rd December, 1971. When Indian Army took the control of situations in East Pakistan, they came to know about the situation of the family of Mujibur Rehman, and they decided to help.
Colonel Ashoka Tara(Then Major), Vir Chakra Awardee in the Battle of Gangasagar was tasked to rescue the family of Bangabandu Mujibur Rehman. Mujibur Rehman’s family including his 24-year-old daughter Sheikh Hasina(the current prime minister of Bangladesh) was also hosted by Pakistani troops with her child. The house was heavily guarded by trigger friendly soldiers and it was protected like a fortress. Pakistan Army had placed riflemen and machine gunners.
On the fateful day, Major Tara accompanied with his three soldiers, was approaching the house but the locals stopped them and told them to not to proceed any further as it was very dangerous. Tara played a clever card, understood the situation and left his weapon inside his vehicle and went ahead to talk with the Pakistani guards. The house guards had no clue that the whole eastern command has surrendered to Indian army. They were off the grid in terms of communication, Tara approached them unguarded. He displayed unmatchable professionalism and tried to convince them that everything is over. Colonel Ashok Tara said, “I told them an unarmed Indian officer would not be standing in front of them if that was not the case,”. And he pointed to some Indian helicopters flying overhead to underline his assertion.
The Pakistani Guards laid down their arms and Col. Tara was able to rescue Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s family without any loss of blood. Tara assured Pakistani soldiers that they will not get hurt and they will meet their families safely. In June 2012, PM Sheikh Hasina conferred the “Friend of Bangladesh” award on Tara, who was commissioned into 14 Guards in the Indian Army in 1963 and retired as a Colonel in 1994.
On 8th April 2017, PM Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina attended the Sommanona Ceremony to honour the martyrs and brave soldiers of 1971 Indo -Pak war. Colonel Tara(retired) was among the others who shared the spotlight a the ceremony.