A 71-year-old-war veteran from Karnataka’s Karwar who fought the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, was felicitated by the Bangladeshi government on the occasion of their 50th Independence Day celebrations in March, 2021.
In 1971, at the age of 19 years, Govind Gaonkar had joined the Indian Army as a specialist in tankers, and belonged to 22 Mountain Regiment. During the same year, he was posted to the Bangla Vimochan warfront, and was rewarded with the Prestigious Army Gallantry medal once Bangladesh was liberated. His father, Raya Gaonkar who was with the Indian Air Force (IAF), was also deputed to the same station. On November 9, 1971, he was instructed to support the Naga Regiment as Gun Position officer at Shikharapura of East Pakistan (present Bangladesh).
Bangladesh organised a series of special events to celebrate its 50th Independence Day from March 26-29. Gaonkar and his wife were invited to the occasion and felicitated along with 29 other Indian soldiers who had fought in the forefront to liberate the neighbouring country.
Being invited to the occasion brought back several several memories of the war, said Goankar. Remembering his days in the battlefield, Goankar said that he had joined the ‘Mukti Bahini’ troupe which was the guerilla resistance movement consisting of Indo-Bangladesh allied forces. How he returned alive amidst the bombings and bullet fires was still considered a miracle, laughed the soldier.
Gaonkar expressed extreme pride in being awarded by the Bangladeshi government, and said that after all these years the neighbouring country remembering the soldiers and celebrating its Independence Day with them was a great recognition in itself.
After serving the nation for 21 years, Gaonkar retired as a helicopter pilot with the Army. He presently leading a peaceful retired life with his wife in Karwar.