SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE DEMANDS ACCOUNT OF THE MISSING 54, INDIAN ARMED FORCES PERSONNEL HELD CAPTIVE IN PAKISTAN
On behalf of Special Frontier Force, I demand Government of India to give account of the Missing 54, Indian Armed Forces Personnel (Prisoners of War) held captive in Pakistan.
India cannot accept Pakistan’s unwillingness to provide information. I ask India to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Pakistan as the first step to obtain Pakistan’s cooperation.
KULBUSHAN JADHAV IS ONE. HERE IS THE STORY ‘MISSING 54’ THE INDIAN SOLDIERS TAKEN AS PoWs BY PAK WHO NEVER RETURNED
The 1971 war, when India gave a crushing defeat to Pakistan and split it into two and took 90,000 plus of its soldiers as Prisoners of War (PoWs), was indeed the greatest achievement of Indian armed forces.
While India’s feat remains undisputed with Indians celebrating December 16 as ‘Vijay Divas’ every year, 54 families in India probably don’t get that ecstatic as one more year passes since they last spoke to their loved ones.
We all know that India took 90,000 soldiers of Pakistan as POWs, but not many know that after the two wars of 1965 and 1971, Pakistan held 54 of our valiant soldiers whose whereabouts are still unknown.
The Government of India in 2015 had given an affidavit in the Supreme Court that it has no details regarding 54 missing Defence personnel believed to be held captive as prisoners of wars (POWs) in Pakistan jails after 1965 and 1971 wars.
Submitting an affidavit on the status of 54 Defence personnel reportedly in Pakistan jails after the two Indo-Pak wars, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) expressed its inability to state anything affirmatively about their whereabouts and said it would continue making efforts for their release and repatriation.
“As such, the exact status of these 54 ‘missing defense personnel’, believed to be in Pakistan jails, is not known. Amongst 54 such personnel, no service details are available with respect to three personnel of the Indian Army,” stated the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
These 54 belong to all three wings of armed forces
Of 54 missing personnel, 27 were from the Army, 24 from the Air Force, two from the Navy and one personnel from the Border Security Force. While 48 out of the 54 were missing since the 1971 war, three went missing in the 1965 war.
Pakistan always denied their existence
Though India was kind to Pakistani POWs which accounted for roughly 30 per cent of its army, but when it came India’s PoWs, Pakistan never acknowledged that they exist.
But here Is Maj Suri’s story that says otherwise
“If the cause is just and mind is strong, no force is great, No distance long, If selfless souls with such a strength, Face hazards all, they win at length.”
This is a diary noting in Dr R.S. Suri’s diary, father of Major Ashok Suri, captured in the 1971 war. Though the army had declared Major Suri as “Killed in action”, the Suri senior never believed it despite the army sent him a helmet with a bullet hole in it (but with someone else’s name written on it).
Dr Suri never bought any of the stories cooked or presented before him by the army or the government and his belief got cemented on 26 December 1974 when he received a handwritten note believed to be written by Major Suri himself. The note dated December 7, 1974, contained a slip. “I am okay here.”
These words filled Dr Suri with an energy one can only dream of. Though the letter had one only line, but the covering note helped further as it read, “Sahib, Valaikum 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 1975, Dr Suri received another letter, this time with more about his son
Another letter confirmed Dr Suri that his son, whom the army designated as ‘killed in action’ is alive. 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, especially to mummy, grandfather – Indian government can contact Pakistan government for our freedom.”
Dr Suri rushed to the Defence Ministry in South Block and the then Defence Secretary had the handwriting confirmed as Maj Ashok’s and changed the official statement from “killed in action” to “missing in action”! Ecstatic about the development Dr Suri and other members of families of other soldiers formed a the Missing Defence Personnel Relative’s organization and Dr Suri kept visiting South Block weekly till he breathed last in 1999.
General Zia ul Haq’s visit gave some hope
In 1982, Pakistan’s military dictator visited India and Dr Suri and several other families got hopeful that government of India will work out something to get their loved one back. And surprisingly, in 1983 what it looked like a breakthrough, Pakistan government invited Indian family members to Pakistan.
The then MEA, Narasimha Rao said that he would take up at the highest level the visit of the parents of missing Defence personnel to Pakistan, since India had allowed the visit of some Pakistani family members to India in 1972.
Dr Suri, on behalf of the missing Defence families, was assured that Rao would try to facilitate this visit.
A delegation of six next-of-kin was allowed to go. It was made very clear that this was a classified visit that the press should not get wind off. There was a feeling of some deal having been done. The families were told to “Get the men back. They may not be in good health but you can nurse them back to health.”
The families left on September 12, 1983, Monday for Lahore. This was the first time the Indians had got consular access after 1971.
Families went to Pakistan
The families left on September 12, 1983, Monday for Lahore. This was the first time the Indians had got consular access after 1971. The families later got to know that MEA officials will go with them to Multan jail where the majority of the prisoner were believed to be kept. On Sept 14th, they flew to Multan.
But politics again did what it does best
In those days, PM Indira Gandhi was quite critical about Zia-ul-Haq and was aggressive in her statements in favor of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan & the MQM movement which made Pakistan quite skeptical. It might be seen as a larger cause, but what could be called the immediate cause that on the 14th day India was supposed to grant Pak officials reciprocal access to 25 Pakistani prisoners at Patiala jail which did not happen.
The news came in Pakistani papers that “India goes back on its words”.
Thus, despite reaching Multan, they couldn’t meet anybody
On September 15, 1983, the families visited Multan jail. Dr Suri was unable to control himself and was laughing and crying in the same go. The jail official who was present commented when Mrs.Tambay was signing her name remarked: “Sorry Mrs.Tambay, Tambay is not here.”
They did not find any of the people they were looking for there. 200 odd prisoners were being offered repatriation by Pakistan, subject to verification during the consular access. The families including Dr Suri wondered when Pakistan had already offered to repatriate these people where was the need for the visit?
The family members sat through the consular access process for about 6 people, after which they were asked to go out as their part was done. The jail officials told them that only Zia ul Haq could help us with this category of prisoners.
Dr Suri believed the government was doing all it could to get the men back. He never gave up hope. Finally, though his body gave up and he died in 1999 saying,” Perhaps I will finally find peace in the grave.”
There has been no clue of those brave 54 soldiers and government of India as their affidavit in the SC suggests too seems to have given up on those who fought for the nation.
Here are the names of those ‘Missing 54’.
1. Major SPS Waraich IC-12712 15 Punjab
2. Major Kanwaljit Singh Sandhu IC-14590 15 Punjab
3. 2/Lt Sudhir Mohan Sabharwal SS-23957 87 Lt Regiment
4. Captain Ravinder Kaura SS-20095 39 Med Regiment
5. Captain Giri Raj Singh IC-23283 5 Assam
6. Captain Om Prakash Dalal SS-22536 Grenadiers
7. Maj Suraj Singh IC-18790 15 Rajput
8. Maj AK Suri SS-19807 5 Assam
9. Captain Kalyan Singh Rathod IC-28148 5 Assam
10. Major Jaskiran Singh Malik IC-14457 8 Raj. Rifles
11. Major SC Guleri IC-20230 9 Jat
12. Lt Vijay Kumar Azad IC-58589 1/9 G R
13. Captain Kamal Bakshi IC-19294 5 Sikh
14. 2/ Lt Paras Ram Sharma SS-22490 5/8 G R
15. Captain Vashisht Nath
16. L/Havildar. Krishna Lal Sharma 13719585 1 JAK RIF
17. Subedar Assa Singh JC-41339 5 Sikh
18. Subedar Kalidas JC-59 8 JAKLI
19. Lance Naik Jagdish Raj 9208735 Mahar Regiment
20. Lance Naik Hazoora Singh 682211303
21. Gunner Sujan Singh 1146819 14 Field Regiment
22. Sepoy Daler Singh 2461830 15 Punjab
23. Gunner Pal Singh 1239603 181 Lt Regiment
24. Sepoy Jagir Singh 2459087 16 Punjab
25. Gunner Madan Mohan 1157419 94 Mountain Regiment
26. Gunner Gyan Chand; Gunner Shyam Singh
27. Lance Naik Balbir Singh S B S Chauhan
28. Captain DS Jamwal 81 Field Regiment
29. Captain Vashisht Nath Attock
30. Squadron Leader Mohinder Kumar Jain 5327-F(P) 27 Sqn
31. Flt Lt Sudhir Kumar Goswami 8956-F(P) 5 Sqn
32. Flying Officer Sudhir Tyagi 10871-F(P) 27 Sqn
33. Flt Lt Vijay Vasant Tambay 7662 –F(P) 32 Sqn
34. Flt Lt Nagaswami Shanker 9773-F(P) 32 Sqn
35. Flt Lt Ram Metharam Advani 7812-F(P) JBCU
36. Flt Lt Manohar Purohit 10249(N) 5 Sqn
37. Flt Lt Tanmaya Singh Dandoss 8160-F(P) 26 Sqn
38. Wing Commander Harcharan Singh Gill 4657-F(P) 47 Sqn
39. Flt Lt Babul Guha 5105-F(P)
40. Flt Lt Suresh Chander Sandal 8659-F(P) 35 Sqn
41. Squadron. Leader. Jal Manikshaw Mistry 5006-F(P)
42. Flt Lt Harvinder Singh 9441-F(P) 222 Sqn
43. Squadron Leader Jatinder Das Kumar 4896-F(P) 3 Sqn
44. Flt Lt LM Sassoon 7419-F(P) JBCU
45. Flt Lt Kushalpal Singh Nanda 7819-F(N) 35 Sqn
46. Flying Officer. Krishan L Malkani 10576-F(P) 27 Sqn
47. Flight Lieutenant Ashok Balwant Dhavale 9030-F(P) 1 Sqn
48. Flight Lieutenant Shrikant C Mahajan 10239-F(P) 5 Sqn
49. Flight Lieutenant Gurdev Singh Rai 9015-F(P) 27 Sqn
50. Flight Lieutenant Ramesh G Kadam 8404-F(P) TACDE
51. Flag Officer. KP Murlidharan 10575-F(P) 20 Sqn
52. Naval Pilot Lt. Commander Ashok Roy
53. Squadron Leader Deva Prasad Chatterjee
54. Pilot Officer Tejinder Singh Sethi