The third day of 1971 India Pakistan War marked some extraordinary efforts by the jawans & mahilas of our nation, this story of Bhuj airport often slips below the pages of history and today it’s recapitulation gets extremely essential.
Ever since the great political upheaval of the division of erstwhile British India in 1947 resulted into the creation of Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the two nations have endured a great sense of acrimony that has garnered international recognition and massive surveillance of the two on each other’s activities. The two nations have an age-long history of skirmishes and the second edition of this tussle was witnessed in 1971 amidst the Bangladesh Liberation War.
The 1971 Indo Pakistan War was significant in many ways, be it as the largest military surrender after World War II; as one of the shortest wars of history or the first of a kind that resulted in a nation-state on the basis of language. The 1971 war was perhaps the first time when all three Indian forces fought together and once again provided testimony for the greatness of our defense administration.
With the leadership of someone like Army Chief Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw, the Indian Defense has a long list of valiant heroes whose stories have become an inevitable part of our lives. The 1971 war was no different and gave us some great war heroes that we can cherish all the more (seemingly ignoring the horrors and bloodshed that war endures, the cataclysmic effects are not to be discussed here). One such hero was Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik & the women of the Village of Bhuj.
It’s 8th December, two days since the war has found the bugle; both the belligerents have employed their best to retaliate one another, when fourteen Napalm Bombs were dropped from a squadron of Sabre Jets at the Indian Air Force Strip at Bhuj, Gujarat. The attack stripped the runway in bits and hence useless for the air force commandment.
The Border Security Force who is normally entrusted with the responsibility in such cases was already engaged on the field, squadron leader Vijay Karnik with 50 IAF and 60 Defense Security Corps personnel were amidst an unpleasant state when local villagers from the village of Madhapur, Bhuj took the responsibility of repairing the airstrip and within the next 72 hours completed the assigned task.
What is significant about this event apart from the short duration in which it was achieved, is the will and dedication of 300 amateur villagers who are clouded with the state of war and most of them were women. Yes, the mahila shakti was the force behind the army’s successful campaign. After the sarpanch, Jadhavjibhai Hirani asked the villagers for support, the village women wholeheartedly volunteered for the almost impossible task and did it within 72 hours, without thinking much about their lives they did their job continually someday without food and water away from their homes and family. The officers also had to take care of their security and ensure that the operation is carried without any casualty, this was ultimately achieved and was celebrated on 11th August at 4 pm when the first combat aircraft took from the airstrip successfully.
Three years later the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi did offer gifts to these women, they humbly turned it down saying, “What we did was for our country.”
A war memorial called Virangana Smarak made under the aegis of the Central government was dedicated at Madhapur village of Bhuj in 2018 to commemorate the brave deed that the residents did for the sake of their country. This story will also be told again on the celluloid with Ajay Devgn in the lead role in ‘Bhuj: The Pride of India’
This anniversary of the 1971 war we salute the heroes and the heroines of the war and thank them for their service.
Image Credits: thebetterindia.com
Image Caption: The Women of Bhuj 1971 at Virangana Smarak