The strategy used in the Tank Battle of Shiromoni is now taught in military defence colleges in 35 countries
The entire Khulna region was rocking to the sound of mortar shelling, gunshots and bombs for over two days. Many people were killed, scores injured and the few residents who did not want to flee their homes, were forced to leave.
On December 11, the Pakistan military attacked a battalion of Indian troops near Fultala while they were marching towards Khulna through the Jashore-Khulna road. Firings continued from both sides and the joint forces used cannons to defeat the Pakistan military.
Pakistani army locked in a fierce battle with the Mukti Bahini and joint forces at Mikshimil. The military was forced to retreat in the face of repetitive mortar shelling from the Indian Air Force. Twelve members of the Pakistan army's Punjab regiment were killed.
Brigadier Hayat Khan, commander of Pakistan Army Brigade 107, had taken days to chalk out the plan of attack. But he did not know that Mukti Bahini and the joint forces had a better plan and had made a strategy that would defeat them on all fronts.
The Mukti Bahini and joint forces were making their way to forming a cobweb around the powerful Brigadier's base in Shiromoni. The plan was to attack them from all sides, so that nobody could flee.
The battle that lasted for five days is recalled as the Tank Battle of Shiromoni, one of the most powerful battles of the Liberation War of 1971.
This strategy was later adopted by the military defence colleges in 35 countries, including India and Poland. Such frontal battle was rare not only in Bangladesh but in the entire Asia.
On that cold night of December 11, while Hayat's men were fighting with a group of Indian troops and Mukti Bahini at Fultala, two other groups of joint forces were marching towards Shiromoni from Kalaroa in Satkhira and Chuknagar-Kharnia-Shahpur-Daulatpur road.
The Pakistani soldiers had created a strong base within a five-kilometre radius in the area centering Eastern, Alim and Afil jute mills in Atra Industrial area, and Cable factory and Fulbari Gate in Shiromoni Industrial area. Outposts and bunkers were set up every 15-20 yards all through the area. They had also captured the pucca houses of local people.
The brigadier had chalked out a masterplan and set up camps in several places of Shiromoni, Atra, Gilatala, Teligati, Daulatpur, and Sholgatia in Khulna. Then on December 6, 1971, the brigadier stepped out of with his army and spread around the entire region like a cobweb.
Brigadier Hayat's army was deployed at certain key points around Khulna city to thwart the freedom fighters and Indian troops. The military knew Indian soldiers were invading the area. They wanted to keep the Indian soldiers away for as long as possible.
On December 13, 1971 Major Manjur joined the joint forces with a large contingent from the Rajput Division near Shiromoni in Khulna. They were guided to the area by Freedom fighters Rezwan, Alkas and Gani. Meanwhile, another group crossed the Bhairab river and gathered at Dhulgram, Siddipasha, Barrackpur and Lakhohati.
The group that fought the Fultala battle gathered at Shalua, Rangpur, Gaikur and Arong Ghata areas on the western side of Khulna-Daulatpur and another was ready at Batiaghata and Gallamari area near Khulna city on the southern side of Shiromoni.
In the afternoon a battalion led by Major Gani and Major Mahendra breached the first obstacle at Piprail and marched towards Khulna city.
Suddenly, the military attacked them. The tanks of the Pakistani military roared at the same time when the troupe reached Badaltala in Shiromoni.
The combined force was totally taken aback by the attack and could not put up any resistance. About 250 to 300 Indian soldiers lost their lives in that ambush. The large convoy of the joint forces was also destroyed by the military. That was a big blow to the Indian military.
Meanwhile, Eastern Jute Mills had turned into a battle-ground as firing from both sides continued. After a long round of fire, the military and the joint forces locked in a battle of bayonet and fist-fight.
The soldiers were dispersed by repeated attacks carried out by the joint forces. A good number of Pakistani soldiers were captured by the joint forces.
"The house of Mia Nurul Huda, chairman of Shanti Committee, was the main communication hub for the military. All arrangements were made there for strong wireless and telephone services," said Freedom fighter SM Babar Ali.
Muslim League leader Munsur Ahmed's jute press on the other side of Daulatpur launch Ghat was a strong base for Rajakars. Under the leadership of then Dighalia Union chairman Barik Morol, who was also a key commander of the base, the Rajakars fired rifles at the aircraft of the Indian Air Force. In retaliation, the Indian Air Force dropped bombs on the jute press and destroyed it.
Four tanks were set up beside Abdul Gaffar's house in Shiromoni. The military were becoming restless and Brigadier Hayat could sense his plan failing. He ordered the men to keep firing from the tanks. His men obliged. Meanwhile, the Indian forces then attacked the tanks and destroyed them. It was then that the Brigadier knew he was on the edge of defeat.
Then it was all calm on December 15, after four days of fire from both ends that caused massive destruction to the area.
On December 16, 1971 Brigadier Hayat Khan, top official of the Pakistan Army, was informed that General Niazi, the supreme commander of the Pakistan occupation forces, had surrendered to the joint forces in Dhaka.
"I will not surrender," the Brigadier said and thus the combined forces resumed mortar shelling on the last hideouts of the military till they agreed to surrender. The surrender ceremony was held on the premises of the Khulna Circuit House at 1.30 pm on December 17.
Major General Dalbir Singh from the joint forces and commanders of the Sector Number 8 and 9 Major Abul Manjur and Major MA Jalil took off the belt and badges of Hayat Khan and got him to sign the papers of surrender. Thus Khulna became independent one day after the country was liberated.
The Ministry of Liberation War Affairs has constructed a memorial in front of Jahanabad Cantonment in Gilatala in memory of the battle of Shiromoni.