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
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
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
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'
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
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."