Jaintia, East Pakistan Sitrep
(summer, 1971)




Intro: Sylhet District on East Pakistan's northeast border with India is the scene of Indian and Pakistan shelling. Pakistan also reports clashes there between supportive Indian forces and Mukti Bahini guerrillas on the one hand and Pakistani troops on the other. VOA Correspondent Don Weaver visited the district and has this report.

Text: Pakistan government officials and Army spokesman refer to Sylhet District as a "hot spot," with several military actions reported this month.

Pakistani and Indian troops are posted along the border, sometimes only a few hundred meters apart, where they can easily observe each other's movements.

Pakistani officers report the Indian army has deployed three divisions of regulars in the Sylhet area. And this, the officers add, is in addition to Indian border security forces and Mukti Bahini guerrilla secessionists. For security reasons, no information is given on Pakistani troop strength.

The Pakistani officers report daily shellings from Indian light and heavy field guns and mortars. They say the shooting is frequently in support of Mukti Bahini forces or as Pakistani soldiers call them, miscreants and Indian agents.

At Jaintia, forty-six kilometers northeast of the town of Sylhet, and only eight hundred meters from the border of India, the effects of the tension between India and Pakistan are clearly visible. There are signs of shell damage. And Jaintia--a town of ten thousand--is abandoned by civilians.

Pakistani troops say the reason for this is Indian shelling and Mukti Bahini activity. Another possibility could be evacuation ordered by the military. There have been reports that both India and Pakistan are evacuating civilians from border areas along both East and West Pakistan.

Along the road from Sylhet to Jaintia, Pakistani officers display large, fresh craters. Digging out metal fragments with their fingers, they explain the craters have been caused by Indian field guns and powerful one hundred twenty millimeter mortars. They point out sections of the hills opposite in India where they say Indian army artillery--including British and Soviet guns equivalent to one-oh-five howitzers--blast Pakistani territory.

One the Jaintia road a portion of a highway bridge has been blown apart, the officers say, by a Mukti Bahini dynamite blast. Many bridges now are protected by bamboo poles lashed together to keep enemy boats from slipping beneath them at night to plant charges. Each bridge is guarded by young armed policemen, called Rajakars.

The Pakistani major heading up the Jaintia sector escorts correspondents to a border observation post under his command only five hundred meters from the Indian frontier. He points to one Indian post clearly observable through binoculars.

From trenches across a stretch of grassy no-man's land, the officer describes Indian artillery emplacements on high ground near the Indian town of Muktapur. Emplacements, however, cannot be seen, perhaps due to heavy tree cover or camouflage.

Halfway up a high hill opposite is a road along which, the major says, twenty-five Indian trucks transported seven hundred-fifty reinforcing troops during the past twenty-four hours. The major reports daily shelling from India--three one hundred twenty millimeter mortar rounds the previous day to get the range for later barrages. He reports sixty-five artillery and mortar shells the previous day, with no casualties. All was quiet on the day of the correspondents' visit.

Pakistan officers are quick to admit strategic handicaps due to Indian occupation of the hilly Assam state territory on the fringe of the Sylhet frontier, while Pakistani troops are on the lowlands.

"The Indians are on the roof," said one officer, "while we are on the first floor. They could easily drop stones on our head."

Yet he expressed firm confidence in victory for his men in the event of an Indian attack. A correspondent asked the Jaintia sector commander whether he felt India would attack. He said he did not know, perhaps something would happen soon.

Raising his automatic rifle, the major said he carried one hundred twenty bullets. "If the Indians attack," he said, "one hundred and twenty of them will die."