The missing 54: Fought for India, forgotten by India
Wing Commander Abhinandan Vardhaman of the Indian Air Force was detained by the Pakistani Army.and He was released about 60 hours later.
The release of Abhinandan raise a hope for the release of those Indian soldiers who have been in jails of Pakistan since 1971. Many proofs were presented by India, but despite this, these people are still in jail.
Pakistan has been denying the existence of these soldiers.
45 years ago, 93,000 members of the Pakistani Army raised white flags and surrendered to the Indian Army and the Mukti Corps, ending the 1971 Indo-Pak War. The conflict was the result of the Bangladesh War of Independence, when Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) was fighting the freedom struggle from Pakistan (West).
Here are Some Facts that Prooved still Some Indian soldiers are imprisoned in Pakistani jails.
- On December 26, 1974, R.S. Suri received a hand-written note dated December 7, 1974 from his son Major Ashok Suri. The letter contained a slip in which his son had written, “I am okay here.” The covering note read, “Sahib, Valai-kum-salam, I cannot meet you in person. Your son is alive and he is in Pakistan. I could only bring his slip, which I am sending you. Now going back to Pak.” Signed M. Abdul Hamid. In August, 1975, he received another missive postmark dated ‘June 14/15/16, 1975, Karachi.’ The letter said, “Dear Daddy, Ashok touches thy feet to get your benediction. I am quite ok here. Please try to contact the Indian Army or Government of India about us.
We are 20 officers here. Don’t worry about me. Pay my regards to everybody at home, specially to mummy, grandfather – Indian government can contact Pakistan government for our freedom.” The then Defence Secretary had the handwriting confirmed as Ashok’s and changed the official statement from “killed in action” to “missing in action”!
When one gets one’s son’s letter from a prison in Pakistan, what does one do? Well, R.S. Suri spent the rest of his life making weekly trips to the Ministry of External Affairs where everyone got to know him well. He worked with the government, careful not to involve the media because MEA officials advised him that the missing servicemen were in danger of being killed if they did so.
He along with other Delhi based families formed the Missing Defence Personnel Relative’s organization. He used to write to family members based in other parts of the country updating them on what all had transpired. He wrote regularly to the Prime Minister and received regular replies. The overriding concern was that the issue should be taken up whenever the two sides met as a matter of urgency.
In a letter on Jul 15th, 1980, Dr Suri writes from the Delhi Based Next of Kin to the Honourable Minister of External Affairs of Pakistan, Mr Agha Shahi. Talking of the Missing men and welcoming Pakistan’s gesture to search for these men, “……..
You will appreciate that the family members have undergone enough agony and misery and some have become mental as well as physical wrecks. The suspense for them is unbearable. ….settle this issue on humanitarian grounds.”
- A brief note from Major Ashok Suri followed by another letter in 1975. His father also received letters from a Karachi jail on August 13th 1975 dated June 14/15/16th 1975 stating that there were 20 other officers with him there. The handwriting was authenticated by the Indian government and Indian Ministry of External Affairs officials on many occasions expressed to Dr RS Suri that they believed Ashok Suri was there.
- Flight Lt. V.V. Tambay(Vijay Vasant Tambay) ( the following is often cited as evidence- however if you note, the paper report is on 5th dec. Tambay went missing on 6th dec. SO the newspaper report is wrong.)
- Time magazine dated December 24, 1971, carried a photograph of Indian prisoners behind bars. The photograph turned out to be that of Major A.K. Ghosh, who did not return with the rest of the POWs. Also shown in the Background is Lt. V.V. Tambay.
- Flight Lt. V.V. Tambay’s name was published in the Pakistan paper, Sunday Pakistan Observer on December 5, 1971 as Flt Lt Tombay. It said five Indian pilots were captured . Pakistan did not include his name in the list of Pows and the Indian government forgot to secure his release. Daljit Singh, repatriated on March 4, 1988, said he had seen Flight Lt. Tambay at the Lahore interrogation centre in February 1978.
- Mohanlal Bhaskar, who was in a jail between 1968 and 1974 and repatriated on 09.12.1974 wrote a book in hindi ( I was a spy for India) and gave a signed affidavit stating that he met a Col Asif Shafi of Second Punjab regt of Pakistan and a Maj Ayaaz Ahmed Sipra in Fort of Attock imprisoned for conspiring against Bhutto in the infamous “Attock conspiracy” . The Pakistani Major Ayaaz Ahmed Sipra spoke of his befriending a Gill of the Indian Air Force and a Captain Singh of the Indian Army as well as mentioning that there were around 40 Pows of the 1965 and 1971 wars in that jail who had no chances of release.
- Assa Singh’s son, Harcharan Singh, is convinced that his father is still alive. Harcharan Singh said that Bhogal Ram, another soldier, was released from Pakistan in 2000 and had seen Assa Singh alive at the Kot Lakhpat jail. Harcharan was five when his father left for war and the growing up was hard.
- In a book published in 1980 titled “Bhutto- Trial and Execution” written by Victoria Schofield, a senior BBC London reporter, covering the period 1978 when Bhutto was detained in Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore. Page No. 59 reads: ‘‘(Bhutto’s) cell separated from a barrack area by a 10 foot high wall, did not prevent him from hearing horrific shrieks and screams at night from the other side of the wall. One of Bhutto’s lawyers made enquiries amongst the jail staff and ascertained that they were in fact Indian Prisoners of War who had been rendered delinquent and mental during the course of the 1971 war….Fifty-odd lunatics were lodged in the ward next to mine. Their screams and shrieks in the dead of night are something I will not forget,’’ wrote former Pakistan prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, referring to Indian Prisoners of War of 1965 and 1971 who were kept in a cell next to his in Kot Lakhpat prison.
- Mukhtiar Singh, who was repatriated from Pakistan on July 5, 1988, says Captain Giriraj Singh is still lodged in Kot Lakhpat jail. Singh also reportedly saw Captain Kamal Bakshi in Multan jail around 1983. He says Bakshi could be either in Multan jail or Bhawalpur jail. There are numerous other such eyewitness reports.
- Capt Ravinder Kaura’s name was announced on Lahore radio on 07.12.71. Mukhtiar Singh who was repatriated on 05.07.1988 said that Capt Kaura was in Multan jail around 1981 and was in Kot Lakhpat jail later.
- The name of flying officer Sudhir Tyagi, whose plane was shot down near Peshawar on December 4, 1971, was announced over Pakistan Radio the next day. Ghulam Husain s/o Hayat Dutt who was repatriated from Pakistan on 24.03.1988 said that he had seen F/O Tyagi at Shahi Qila, Lahore in 1973.
- Flt Lt Harvinder Singh’s name was announced on 05.12.1971 on Pakistan radio that he had been captured.
- Wing Commander HS Gill’s plane was shot down over Badin on 13.12.71. Pakistan radio gave news of his capture the same day. Subsequently the news was reported to be incorrect and Pakistani authorities mentioned that a plane was shot down over Badin but the identity of the pilot could not be ascertained till after the war (How could his correct name then be announced on the same day?).
- Flt Lt Sudhir K Goswami’s plane was shot down over Sarghda on 05.12.71 at about 7.00pm. the same day at 1130 pm Radio Lahore announced his capture.
- 2nd Lt Paras Lal Sharma: His father heard his particulars being announced on Pak radio on Jan 2nd, 8th and November 29th. L/ Nk Ram Lal (retd) ( no 9071130) of erstwhile 2 JAK Militia after his return from Pakistan said that he had met 2nd Lt Paras Sharma in Lahore jail for 5 days from 20.04.73 to 24.04 73 while awaiting his repatriation to India.
- Balwan Singh, an Indian prisoner who returned home to India on 03.10.1998 after 9 years in Pakistan prisons claims to have met Indian POWs of the 1971 war. He said there were seven jails in which the POWs were rotated. He distinctly remembered one of the POWs as Jagdish Raj Chandra who was being kept in “Phansi ki Kothi”(Fort of Attock) with other POWs. (LNk Jagdish Raj figures in the list of 54 POWs).
- General Yeager of the US, consultant for Pakistan Air Force in 1971 has written a book of his role in the Pakistan human rights commission and has written of his interviewing about 20 Indian pilots of the 1965 and 1971 wars who are still lodged in Pakistani prisons.