In last message, General Rawat paid tribute to 1971 war heroes

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In his last message, recorded the evening before his death in a helicopter crash on December 8, late chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat paid tributes to the heroes of the 1971 India-Pakistan war and invited citizens to take part in the golden jubilee celebrations of the decisive victory against the neighbour and the liberation of Bangladesh.

The 70-second video clip was played on Sunday at the inauguration of the Swarnim Vijay Parv at India Gate by defence minister Rajnath Singh. The three-day event, from December 12-14, will mark the culmination of year-long celebrations organised across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of victory in the 1971 war.

“I extend my best wishes to all soldiers of the Indian armed forces on the occasion of Swarnim Vijay Parv. I remember the brave men of the armed forces and offer tributes to the sacrifices made by them in the war,” Rawat said in his message.

“It is a matter of good fortune that the Vijay Parv is being celebrated under the shade of Amar Jawan Jyoti, which was set up in the memory of our brave men killed in action. We invited all citizens to take part in the celebrations,” he concluded.

General Rawat, his wife Madhulika Raje Singh Rawat, the CDS’s defence assistant Brigadier LS Lidder and his staff officer Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh were among the 13 people killed in the Mi-17V5 helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.

Rawat was on a visit to the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) at Wellington to address the faculty and student officers there when the chopper crashed seven minutes away from its destination.

Inaugurating the Swarnim Vijay Parv, the defence minister said, “In the untimely death of General Rawat, India has lost a brave soldier, an able advisor and a lively person. He was looking forward to taking part in the Swarnim Vijay Parv.”

Paying tributes to the soldiers who took part in the war, the minister said the “glorious victory” in 1971 changed the history and geography of South Asia and the country would remain indebted to the sacrifices made by its warriors.

“This festival is a testament to the fact that the memories of 1971 are still fresh in the heart of every Indian. At the same time, it is a symbol of the zeal, passion and valour our forces displayed during the 1971 war. It inspires us to keep moving forward on the path of nation’s progress with the same zeal and passion.”

Singh said the atrocities committed on the people of then East Pakistan were a threat to entire humanity and it was India’s responsibility to liberate them. He was referring to the barbarism carried out by the Pakistan army under Operation Searchlight, a crackdown to crush the voices of self-determination.

“Our armed forces supported Mukti Bahini, helped lakhs of refugees and prevented any kind of aggression from western and northern sectors. They ensured that the credibility of India’s commitment towards peace, justice and humanity in the world community is maintained,” the minister said.

Singh said the 1971 war as among the most decisive wars in the world after the two World Wars.

“This war tells us that the Partition of India on the basis of religion was a historic mistake. Pakistan was born in the name of one religion but it could not remain one. After the defeat in 1971, it is continuously fighting a proxy war…We won in a direct war and the victory will be ours in indirect war as well,” he added.

The event came a day after paratroopers of the army carried out a mass jump at a premier base in Agra to mark 50 years of the historic battalion-sized Tangail airdrop north of Dhaka during the 1971 war, a critical operation that set the stage for surrender by the rival army.

Central Army commander Lieutenant General Yogendra Dimri led the mass jump involving 120 elite paratroopers and four veterans who took part in the 1971 war. The army and the air force dedicated the jump to Rawat and the 12 others killed in the helicopter crash.

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