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Indian army officer Maj Gen Cardozo honoured by UK Bengali diaspora

gfffAnsar Ahmed Ullah ::

A Reception was given in honour of retired Indian army officer Maj Gen Ian Gen Cardozo on 26 July at the Bangladesh High Commission, hosted by the Acting High Commissioner Khondker Mohammad Talha in association with Swadhinata Trust and Curry Life Magazine on behalf of the UK Bengali diaspora.

Maj Gen Cardozo in his address said. ‘People always praise the Indian Army and freedom fighters for our victory over Pakistan, but in fact it was the people of Bangladesh who fought to win’. In his brief speech he narrated a number of battles fought in Sylhet by 4/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) which he commanded from 7 to 16 December in 1971 including the first ever Heliborne operation of Indian Army.

He described how his Battalion had fought two decisive battles at Atgram and Gazipur Tea State near Kulaura, where they wiped out B Company 31 Punjab (Pakistan Army) at Atgram including the Company Commander purely with Kukris (knife).

The surrender of the entire Pakistani Sylhet Garrison, which included 3 Brigadiers, 1 Colonel, 107 officers, 219 JCO’s, 6190 Pakistani soldiers and 39 non-combatants was taken on the morning of 16 December. During the battle at Sylhet between 7 and 16 December 1 officer, 2 JCOs and 11 other Indian ranks made the supreme sacrifice, while 3 officers including Maj Ian Cardozo and 36 other ranks were wounded. The Indian Battalion strength in Sylhet consisted of about 6-7 officers, 10-15 JCOs and about 300- 350 soldiers.

After the surrender of the Pakistanis, the Indian Battalion triumphantly entered Sylhet town. It was when this march towards the town was taking place Major Ian Cardozo stepped over a mine and lost his leg. He overcame his disability & became the first disabled officer to command an infantry battalion, brigade and division in operational areas. Following his retirement he was appointed as Chairman of Rehabilitation Council of India.

Also present at the reception was Lord Karan Bilimoria who also in a brief address said his father Lt Gen Bilimoria told him about the bravery of the Mukti Bahinis (freedom fighters). ‘Teenaged boys were ready to take up any challenges and give their life for Bangladesh,’ he said. His father, Lt. General Faridoon Bilimoria was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Central Indian Army and led the 2/5 Gurkha Rifles during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

Acting High Commissioner Khondker Talha thanked the Maj General on behalf of the Bengali community for attending the event, sharing his memories of and gratefully appreciated his contribution in freeing our motherland. He presented Gen Cardoza and his wife Priscila Cardoza with a bouquet and gifts. Minister (Press) Nadeem Qadir presented the General with his book ‘My Beautiful Bangladesh,’ which carries the story of his martyred freedom fighter father Lt Col M Abdul Qadir.  Mayor of Brent Cllr Parvez Ahmed presented the Gen with a crest. In addition, the UK Mohila Awami League also gave Priscilla Cardoza a floral bouquet. The reception in the Conference room was attended by a cross section of freedom fighters, media corps, community activists and High Commission officials including the Acting High Commissioner Khondker Mohammad Talha, Minister (Press) Nadeem Qadir, Defence Advisor Major General Sheikh Pasha Habibuddin and Minister (Consular) T M Jobaer amongst others.