The bund of picturesque Hussain Sagar in the heart of Hyderabad is thronged by hundreds of tourists everyday and battle tank there is a centre of attraction.
Visitors to Tank Bund, a key city landmark linking twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, are seen taking photographs with the tank in the background but not many are aware of its significance.
The only piece of information available about the tank is on a stone inscribed plate but very few bother to find out why a tank is lying on Tank Bund.
This is Pakistan’s M-47 Patton tank, which was given as war trophy to 54th Infantry Division after the 1971 war. It was installed on Tank Bund after the battalion gifted it to the city.
“Bash On Regardless. Presented to the citizens of the twin cities on 26 Nov 1973 by Major General, WAG Pinto, PVSM, and all ranks 54 INF Division (The Bash-on-Regardless Bison Division) as a token of esteem and appreciation for their unstinted support ever since the division was raised in Hyderabad-Secunderabad in Oct 1966. This M-47 Patton Tank is one of the 66 tanks knocked out by the Division in the wake of its swift advance and capture of 988 SQ KMS of enemy territory during the 14 days war of Dec 1971,” reads the plate.
The tank which was disabled during Battle of Basantar, one of the major events in the war, is sitting as the enduring testimony of the valour of the Indian Army, especially the Bison division which had played a key role in foiling the plans of Pakistan to take over Shakargarh Bulge.
During his visit to Hyderabad in 2011, Lieutenant General Walter Anthony Gustavo Pinto (retired), who had commanded the 54th Infantry Division during the Battle of Basantar, had recalled the story behind the tank.
He had to convince the then Andhra Pradesh administration to accept the war trophy as a gift to the city. The state was then under President’s rule and the officials were reluctant to accept and install it for public display. The advisor to the governor thought that this might unnecessarily arouse old sensitivities and animosities. He, however, agreed after some persuasion and second thought.
The war hero, during 2011 visit, had also released a book on his war experiences. The title of the book is ‘Bash on regardless’, which is also the motto of the 54th infantry Division.
The phrase, Lt Gen Pinto had recalled, originated from a sign he had erected in the Pakistani territory after capturing it. The signs read “You are now entering Pakistan. No passports required. So Bash on Regardless.”
Well-known heritage activist Anuradha Reddy described the M-47 Patton Tank as a very good reminder of the sacrifices made by the Army at that time. “By gifting it to the city and in public visual state, it is a constant reminder for people with that memory and it is an introduction to the newer generation that see, learn and value the role of the defence forces in safeguarding India,” she told IANS.
She, however, laments lack of proper protection and the poor maintenance of the war trophy by the civic authorities concerned.
Over the years, the iconic symbol was dilapidated. There are no railings to protect the tank and visitors are often seen climbing and playing on it. A closer look shows the tank catching rust at a few points. The negligence has led to the serial number and other signs on the tank getting erased.