Vintage Dakota that 'saved Srinagar' and helped 'liberate Bangladesh' to fly over Rajpath this Republic Day
Amidst the thunderous roar of modern supersonic fighter aircraft, a unique feature of this year's Republic Day parade will be the Rudra flying formation consisting of Dakota aircraft, flanked by two Russian-origin modern Mi-17s helicopters. Anish Singh reports
Amidst the thunderous roar of modern supersonic fighter aircraft, a unique feature of this year's Republic Day parade will be the Rudra flying formation consisting of Dakota aircraft, flanked by two Russian-origin modern Mi-17s helicopters.
The significance of the Dakota lies in the fact that it had played a key role in Bangladesh's war of liberation during 1971 Indo-Pak war and formation of Bangladesh Air Force and these aircraft were used as transporters to airdrop soldiers in Bangladesh's Tangail during the war.
Vintage Dakota aircraft
The Dakota had played a crucial role in 1947-48 Indo-Pak conflict just after India got independence. When the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, an urgent need arose to induct armed forces into Srinagar to save the city and airport from being overrun by tribal militants backed by Pakistan.
The first three Dakotas carrying soldiers of 1st Sikh Regiment landed at Srinagar on October 27, 1947. In the weeks ahead, an entire infantry brigade was airlifted to Srinagar.
In order to commemorate 50 years of India's victory over Pakistan, the government has invited a contingent of Bangladesh army to participate in Republic Day parade down the majestic Rajpath in Delhi. A 122-member Bangladesh contingent arrived in Delhi last week and has been practising for the parade.
On Republic Day, the vintage Dakota aircraft along with Mi-171V choppers will be flying past the saluting dais where the President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister will be seated and will coincide with the Bangladesh contingent's March in front of the dais.
The vintage aircraft was obtained from scrap in 2011 and was restored to flying condition in the United Kingdom by Rajya Sabha MP and senior BJP leader Rajeev Chandrasekhar for gifting it to the Indian Air Force.
Speaking on IAF Day in 2018, Chandrasekhar had said, "I am delighted to see the Dakota participating in its maiden fly past. Dakota is an important part of the Air Force's history - and J&K history. If it was not for the Dakotas and the troops it airlifted in 1947 -- Srinagar would not be with India today."
"The restoration took over 6 years and cost me a lot of money. But I was motivated mainly for my father and many others who served and the need to remind the country of the bravery of IAF and Army in 1947 which kept young independent India together with J&K," Chandrasekhar had said.
It is pertinent to mention here that he is the son of an Air Force Officer Air Commodore M K Chandrasekhar (Retired), who was a Dakota pilot in the IAF.
Rechristened as 'Parashuram' the Dakota was inducted into 'Vintage Fly' in May 2018 at Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad. It made the first appearance at the Air Force Day flypast on October 8, 2018, along with other members of the IAF's vintage fleet.
Till 1988, a large fleet of Dakota aircraft had served in the IAF.
Hailing the qualities of the aircraft, the then IAF Chief ACM BS Dhanoa had said in 2018, "They were introduced in the 1930s. As part of the 12th squadron of the then Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF), Dakotas were the main workhorse in Ladakh and Northeast region. And, they intervened in time to save the Valley of Kashmir (in 1947)."
Golden Victory Year
Indian Army has already announced that the year 2021 will be celebrated as the Golden Victory Year to mark the remarkable victory of 1971 war.
On the occasion of Veterans Day this year on January 14, Army chief General MM Naravane had said, "Some Veterans had expressed disappointment that not much importance is being given to the 50 yrs of 1971 war. I'd like to say that this entire yr will be celebrated as 'Golden Victory Year' to mark 1971 war victory. Several events will be organised across the country."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Bangladesh in March 2021 to join the celebrations to mark 50 years of Bangladesh's Independence and India-Bangladesh diplomatic relations.
"Was honoured to review our diverse ties with Bangladesh during my Virtual Summit with PM Sheikh Hasina today. We also unveiled a stamp honouring Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman), and launched the Bangabandhu-Bapu museum and the Chilahati-Haldibari rail link," PM Modi had said in a tweet after the Indo-Bangla bilateral summit in December 2020.