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As A Navy Kid, I Loved ‘The Ghazi Attack’ And How It Highlighted India’s First Victory At Sea

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Childhood Memories

If we were playing the word association game and someone said, “Military life,” I would answer: “white walls.” If there is one thing I learned as a kid, it’s to make myself feel at home wherever I am for as long as I am there. It also gives each of us the opportunity to unpack our boxes and make an impact while we are here. I’m thinking about the things that need to be done to help me feel settled and at home.

When you are shifting towns, homes, schools and friends every two years, change and transition don’t seem that intimidating anymore. As kids, we zigzag across the country, adjusting, shifting, learning but always enjoying whatever each place has to offer! We always looked forward to festivals and holidays. An ideal childhood memory – except in some cases, the circumstances weren’t so ideal. Later on, as a teen, I loved to spend more time in Vizag. Little joys like the beach, the small town, watching and playing football, table tennis, billiards, swimming. I loved watching skating, boating, Navy Ball, Navy mela and was literally surrounded by them everywhere.

We Boarded A Submarine

I also used to admire the Indian Navy for their bravery, courage and commitment. I remember that one of my friends Abhay Singh’s schoolmates were working on a submarine and he had taken special permission for us to visit. We went through the naval dockyard and boarded the submarine. It was pretty big. Once you went inside, you entered something like a playground of about 100 feet in length. Weapons like missiles, torpedoes, missile launchers and other ammunition were kept inside strong rooms. It was a Kalvari-class submarine. The submarine was highly equipped with state of the art nuclear-enabled ballistic missiles and by all means, it was a huge war Submarine.

I am rewinding a little bit to understand the historical perspective. The sinking of the Pakistani submarine Ghazi off the coast of Visakhapatnam on December 3, 1971, has attracted enough attention for a movie to be made on the lines of the mystery surrounding it. It is about a surprising and previously unknown fact that has been disclosed to others. Almost 46 years later, it was decided to bring this story to the mainstream and public life. There are various versions of events behind the sinking of submarine Ghazi. According to the Indian Navy the Ghazi submarine was hit and sunk by the destroyer ship “Rajput” and the Pakistan Navy claims the sinking of Ghazi was due to an accidental internal explosion.

“The Ghazi Attack” takes inspiration from the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. The film explores the mysterious circumstances under which the PNS Ghazi sank off the coast of Visakhapatnam in 1971. It is an underwater tale of the passion, pride, courage and patriotism of the men aboard the Indian Submarine S-21 who destroyed the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi when it ventured into Indian waters to destroy the INS Vikrant. Vice Admiral Krishnan was solely responsible for saving India’s premier carrier the INS Vikrant.  Reports from various sources also said that a fire on Ghazi spread to the storage unit with mines and torpedoes and this might have caused an explosion and ultimately blown the hull. Also, the dysfunctional equipment might have been responsible for the submarine hitting a mine which was actually laid down for the Indian vessels. The detonation was so severe that Ghazi entered its own minefield and collided with one of the mines it had lain there. The Ghazi had sunk, along with all its crew members.

Commitment, Honour And Pride For The Country

The Indian Navy has contributed a great deal of commitment, honour and pride for the country after 1947. These are real-life stories, memories filled with valour, pride coming at key points in military history. We saw in the year 1961 how the Indian Navy liberated Goa from the Portuguese. The bravery and superior intelligence of the Indian Navy’s officers and sailors was exhibited in 1971 when the Indian missile boats carried a massive historic assault on Karachi. We also reckoned the services of the Indian Navy as a part of Operation Cactus which enabled them to flush out the mercenaries from Maldives who had overthrown the regime of President Gayoom. In 1988, it also was involved in Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka.

The Indian Navy has its own special forces unit known as Marine Commandos or MARCOS. In 2006, Operation Sukoon was a massive operation to rescue people from the conflict in Lebanon.  In 2015, to provide protection and support to Indian ships and aircrafts in Yemen which was the conflict zone, the Indian Navy had deployed three ships – INS Mumbai a Delhi class destroyer, INS Tarkash, a Trawler class Stealth frigate and INS Sumitra, a Saryu class Offshore Patrol Vessel in evacuation operations. As soon as the Shiite rebels and their allies captured its airport and put a bounty on his head, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea.  As Yemen was not accessible due to a no-fly zone, Indians in Yemen were advised to reach Sana’a and Aden.  India chose Djibouti as a center for initial evacuation by sea. It is a remarkable rescue operation carried out by India. About 26 nations reached out for help in evacuating her citizens. Countries like USA, Germany, and France were amongst those which sought India’s help. Special commendation was given to the Naval Special Forces which won the Maha Vir Chakra which is the second-highest military gallantry award in war for acts of conspicuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy whether on land, at sea or in the air.

All too often, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and forget what truly matters. Quite simply, it is to love and cherish every single moment we spend in recollecting the great services of our Armed forces, Navy and the Airforce. It is important to remember that though bridges may fall, though tunnels are destroyed, though ships may be dislocated, though lives will be lost, though war threatens to invade, we will not give in to fear.

Retired Vice Admiral G.M. Hiranandani, in his book “Transition to Triumph” wrote, “The truth about the Ghazi, which remains on what the submarine community calls the ‘eternal parole’, lies somewhere between the Indian and Pakistani versions of the sinking but no one knows exactly where.” Since ample research is required to arrive at conclusions on the battleship Ghazi, director Sankalp Reddy and actor Rana Daggubati believed in the philosophy of leaving no stone unturned while doing research about Ghazi.

The submerging of submarine Ghazi was a real event and a fact. She is lying there in the Bay of Bengal. The files are termed as “classified” so they have tried to reconstruct it as close as possible to the real story. One of the end points and salient features was the sinking of the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi with 90 men aboard in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. It is regarded as one of the greatest victories at sea proclaiming the pinnacle of India’s first-ever emphatic military victory.

“The Ghazi Attack” is a patriotic film, factual and realistic. Cinema has the power to bring such stories to life. Incidentally, out of the blue, I was hoping that Sankalp Reddy, the director of the movie may walk away with the best film award. And just last week, on April 14, the news emerged all across the nation that “The Ghazi Attack” won the National Award. I was very hopeful since its release last year. It was one of the things on my wishlist and it came true.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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