Lt (IN) Samir Das was a Bengali belonging to a middle class family in Benaras. He completed his post graduate degree in Geology from Benaras University. A keen sportsman and a state level football player, he was commissioned into the Indian Navy in April 1966 and showed great promise to be an excellent naval officer.
In 1968, Samir qualified as a Ship Diving Officer. A year later, when the Indian Navy for the first time started conducting Clearance Diving Officers (CDO) course, Samir was selected for the same. After successfully completing the course, he was sent for Long Mine Clearance Diving Officers (LMCDO) course with Royal Navy in UK. During the LMCDO training, he was attached to HMS Vernon at Portsmouth. On completion of LMCDO, he was appointed as an instructor in Naval Diving School in Cochin. He was awarded the prestigious ‘Nausena Medal’ for his contribution to diving operations in 1970. During the training period, he suggested development of limpet mines which was later accepted by Indian Navy. His ideas of using limpet mines were adopted by the Navy which became effective weapons in the riverine warfare which the Navy was to take part in later.
In early April 1971, eight Bengali submariners of Pakistan Navy escaped from France via Spain to New Delhi with the help of Indian authorities and later joined the Mukti Bahini. Initially, decision was taken to train the submariners as naval commandos in the Jamuna River near Delhi. This would form the basis of the Bangladesh Navy. Lt Samir Das was called upon from Naval Diving School at Cochin to join the Mukti Bahini naval commando training camp in Delhi as an instructor.
In mid April 1971, authorities decided to expand the training facilities for the naval commandos. There were hundreds of young men who were excellent swimmers from the rural areas of Bangladesh who could be trained as naval commandos. They were looking for a training area with more facilities. Lt. Das along with Lt. Vijay P. Kapil, under the leadership of Commander M.N.R. Samant visited Diamond Harbour, Sundarbans areas and Plassey. Finally, Plassey, near the Bhagirathi River, was selected as the training centre. Captain Samant was made the commandant of the camp and Lt. Kapil and Lt. Samir Das along with other officers were posted as instructors.
At this time, there was a shortage of limpet mines in Indian Navy as these were imported ordnance. There was an urgent need for development and production of these mines in large numbers, but the major problem was the timer mechanism. Lt. Das along with his colleagues developed soluble plugs which worked as delay mechanism for the depth chargers. They developed the idea of basically using condoms over the soluble plugs and removing them after attaching the limpet mine to the target which allowed the delay in explosion!
In July 1971, Lt. Das completed training of a few batches of naval commandos. He was instructed to undertake a number of reconnaissance missions with Mukti Bahini officers on future operation plans. On 26 September 1971, he attended a meeting with Commander 101 Communication Zone, Major General Gurbax Singh Gill and Commander of Sector 7, Major Nazmul Haque, at Siliguri. After holding detailed meetings, he along with Major Nazmul Haque were returning to Maldah at night. At dead of the night, the vehicle carrying the officials met with an accident in which both Lt. Das and Major Haque were killed. Eventually his body was flown to Calcutta where it was cremated with full military honours. His ashes were taken to Cochin and scattered in the Ernakulam Channel.
As an instructor, Samir worked relentlessly to select, train and motivate the young naval commandos of Mukti Bahini and turn them into professional brave naval commandos. It was these naval commandos of the Mukti Bahini who created havoc with the Pakistani forces in the sea and river ports of Bangladesh, drawing the attention of the world media and the admiration of freedom loving people all over the world. Samir’s contribution to the organising and training of these naval commandos of Mukti Bahini are unforgettable. I Salute him.
Lt Col Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahir, Bir Protik is a veteran from the Bangladesh Army. Recipient of highest national honour of Bangladesh ‘Swadhinata Padak’, he is a researcher on the Liberation War. In 1971, he defected from the Pakistan Army, crossed over to India and fought with 2 Field Battery in Sylhet, for which he was awarded Bir Protik for gallantry in battle. He is the Project Director of Bangladesh Army History Project and regularly addresses seminars in Bangladesh and abroad.