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Vijay Diwas: army okays civilian salute to martyrs

You need not be a man in uniform to salute the martyrs on Vijay Diwas at Vijay Smarak on Red Road.

Eastern Command has decided to throw open the gates on December 16 for civilians wishing to pay tribute to the soldiers who laid their lives to ensure India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Until last year, Vijay Diwas at Vijay Smarak was strictly a military affair though it was not off-limits for the common citizen.

The programme will start from 8.30am and civilians would be allowed in from 10.30 onwards for two-and-a-half hours.

“We would be too happy to welcome all civilians who want to pay tribute during the memorial service at Vijay Smarak on Red Road,” said Major-General Bipin Rawat of Eastern Command.

“This is an occasion that tugs at the heartstrings of all of us in the armed forces and epitomises the fortitude of our military.”

Vijay Diwas commemorates the Indian victory over Pakistan that led to the historic surrender of over 93,000 Pakistani soldiers and liberation of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971. Eastern Command was at the forefront of the war and this year marks the 42nd anniversary of that famous military triumph in modern Indian history.

Fort William sources said anybody could participate in the Vijay Diwas celebrations but civilians seldom attended the function because “probably thinking they were not allowed”.

The army wants to do away with this misconception and send the message across that the celebrations are open for one and all.

“This is an emotional occasion for many civilians who have either witnessed the war or have seen the birth of a nation. We felt they should also be made a part of the solemn function,” said a senior officer of Eastern Command.

More than 82 Mukti Jodhas — part of the Mukti Bahini, the Bangladeshi resistance that fought alongside the Indian forces — and their families would attend the function on Monday. Six officers from the Bangladesh Army, including Maj-Gen. A.K.M. Humayun Kabir, will accompany them.

General (retd) Sankar Roy Chowdhury will lead a clutch of serving and retired officers from the Indian side.

“It would not be proper to comment but the political turmoil in Bangladesh doesn’t seem to have come in the way of the Mukti Jodhas coming for the Vijay Diwas celebrations in Calcutta,” an officer said. “The number, in fact, shot up this year.”

Vijay Smarak, a set of three granite towers representing the three services, near JK Island on Red Road was built in 1996.

Unlike previous Vijay Diwas celebrations, Eastern Command will not hold the tattoo show this year. It will be held later.

“We would like to focus soley on the Vijay Diwas celebrations this time,” said an officer.