Wing Commander Krishnamurthy, IAF officer remembers Pakistan’s Surrender in 1971

By Jayanta Bhattacharya

Pakistan laid down arms in surrender before the Indian Army on December 16, 1971. The historic event is famously caught in a photograph depicting Lt Gen AAK Niazi of Pakistan signing the Instrument of Surrender under the supervision of a victorious Lt Gen J S Aurora. Veteran newscaster Surojit Sen of All India Radio is also seen holding a microphone to capture the momentous day.

Standing in the back are Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan, Air Marshal Hari Chand Dewan, Lt Gen Sagat Singh, Maj Gen JFR Jacob, among others.

Wait… who is that young officer peeping over Major Gen Jacob’s shoulder? It’s (then) Flying Officer SS Krishnamurthy, then a helicopter pilot. He is now 78.

Imagine me being featured by the photographer out of hundreds of thousands of military, paramilitary, and civil society members who fought in the war,” he laughed, recalling the moment.

His Squadron was then stationed in Silchar, Assam. The officer has since retired as Wing Commander. His unit played an important role in airlifting soldiers and equipment. It also carried out Special Helicopter Borne Operation for troops to cross the various rivers – including the mighty Meghna – and rivulets that criss-cross Bangladesh.

On the historic day, December 16 (1971), his Squadron reached Dhaka on the occasion of the signing of the Instrument of Surrender. “It was the second big surrender in the history of the world after World War-II,” he recounted.

The legendary Field Marshal, then leading the Indian Army as General Sam Manekshaw, had clearly told Pakistan, “You surrender, or we wipe you out”!

India proceeded to take a surrender of 93,000 enemy soldiers and officers as Prisoners of War. We helped create Bangladesh as an independent country, setting partly aside the ‘two-nation’ syndrome,” added the 78-year-old (retired) Wing Commander, now settled in Mumbai.

On June 2, 1968, (then) Pilot Officer Krishnamurthy being Commissioned

Pakistan’s army and its supporting militia is estimated to have butchered hundreds and thousands in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). And about ten million fled the country to seek refuge in India.

Lt Gen Sagat Singh, who led the 4 Corps from the front, deserves full credit for thinking out of the box. The ‘Leap across Meghna’ was in conjunction with the IAF maestro Group Captain (later Air Vice Marshal) Chandan Singh. Kudos to our IAF who converted ‘Favourable Air Situation’ to ‘Total Air Superiority’. This enabled our ground forces to accelerate the ‘advance to contact’ and achieve total victory with the surrender that followed,” reminiscence Wing Commander Krishnamurthy.

He has been an active aviator whether in war or peace. He has flown to Antarctica as a member of the Indian scientific expedition and provided logistic support to scientists. He coordinated five more similar expeditions from Air Headquarters.

Wing Commander Krishnamurthy has specialised in Civil Aviation Security, Flight Safety and Quality (ISO) and worked hands on in several companies and carried out audits.

He has also been to Kailash and Manasarovar, ferrying the pilgrims. Not one to hang up his boots his service years with the Air Force, he has been flying in civilian life too.

A witness to the vagaries of war and the casualty it inflicts, Wing Commander Krishnamurthy and his friends have been contributing to the Artificial Limb Centre, Pune, which caters to injured braves. He has also written a book ‘Through the Rotor Disc’, proceeds from the sale of which go to the Artificial Limb Centre, Pune.

Writer of the article Jayanta Bhattacharya is a Delhi-based journalist who has covered East and South Asia extensively for well over three decades. He has covered the Afghan conflict on-ground since 1991 and still closely follows ‘The Great Game’. He also writes on political matters, and farmers’ and human interest issues.


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