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54 missing ‘Indian soldiers during the wars

 54 missing 'Indian soldiers during the wars
54 missing ‘Indian soldiers during the warsNot Indian prisoners captured in the 1971 war in Pakistani prisons (file photo)

54 missing ‘Indian soldiers during the wars

They are known as ‘Lost 54’. These are the 54 Indian soldiers who were forgotten after the wars fought with Pakistan in the past.

These are the 54 soldiers who seem to be in the cracks of the troubled history of rival neighbors (India and Pakistan).

Pakistan and India have fought two wars in 1947 and 1965 over Kashmir.

This was followed by a third war in 1971, which lasted for 13 days and resulted in Pakistan losing its eastern part, present-day Bangladesh. He was later held in Pakistani jails. But even 40 years after his disappearance, no one can say for sure what the actual number of these soldiers was and what happened to them. In July last year, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party informed the Indian Parliament that they were missing. A total of 83 Indian soldiers, including 54 soldiers, are in Pakistan’s custody. Other than the 54, the rest of the soldiers may have crossed the border by mistake or were allegedly caught spying.

Pakistan has always denied that any Indian soldier is in Pakistan’s custody.

Senior Indian journalist Chandra Sota Dogra has spent many years researching the story of these 54 soldiers. In this research, he interviewed retired army officers, bureaucrats and the families of these soldiers, during and after the war. Investigated newspapers, letters, memoirs, diaries, photographs, and other available records.

In this regard, he has written a book, The Prisoners Are Never Come Back, which seeks to answer important questions about the missing soldiers.

Important questions such as whether these soldiers were actually killed on the battlefield? Does India have any evidence to prove that these prisoners were in the custody of Pakistan? Did Pakistan keep these prisoners in its custody only so that in future they could use them for bargaining?

Were some of these soldiers, as some Pakistani military officers think, Indian intelligence personnel caught spying? Was he subjected to so much torture in Pakistani custody that he was unable to return to India? Were there any of the 54 missing soldiers who were killed immediately after their capture? In the early 1990s, the Indian government filed two affidavits in the case of the missing soldiers in an Indian court, claiming that They can confirm that 15 out of 54 soldiers have been killed. An attempt was also made to find out why this was done.

And even if that happened, why is the Indian government’s position today that all those 54 soldiers are still missing?

“It is clear that the (Indian) government knew that some of the missing soldiers were actually killed,” says Indian journalist Chandra Sota Dogra. So why did they leave the names of those killed on the missing list? ‘

“It is clear that this was done deliberately so that they could present their case in front of the families of the soldiers and the Indian people.”

A relative of a missing soldier told him that the government had failed in its duty. “In the excitement of the victories of the war, we have forgotten these soldiers,” he said. I blame the governments of the past and the defense establishment for this. “

“We even wanted a third party to mediate in the matter and bring out the truth.” But the Indian government did not agree.

That’s one side of the story.

Journalist Chandra Dogra also found some evidence that some of the 54 missing soldiers were still alive in Pakistani jails after the end of the war.

For example, a wireless operator went missing during the 1965 war. His family was informed by the Indian Army in August 1966 that he had been killed during the war.

But from 1974 to the early 1980s, three prisoners returning to India from Pakistani prisons reported to authorities and the wireless operator’s family that they were still alive and in Pakistani custody.

But still nothing has been done by the Indian government. It is not that no effort has been made to find and repatriate these soldiers.

The two previous Indian governments had begun talks on his release. Many prime ministers have also tried to resolve the issue. Veterans who fought on both sides of the border also campaigned for the 54 missing.

It is also not the case that prisoners captured after the wars have not been exchanged. India returned 93,000 Pakistani soldiers captured in the 1971 war, while Pakistan returned 600.

Two different groups of relatives of the missing soldiers traveled to Pakistan in 1983 and 2007 and visited different jails. But they did not succeed.

Some relatives of the soldiers accused Pakistan of obstructing the search for their loved ones. Pakistan has denied the allegations.

The group, which visited Pakistan in 2007, said “there is strong evidence that they (the military) are alive and well in Pakistan.” However, the Pakistani Interior Ministry denied this.

In 2007, a Home Ministry spokesman said, “We have repeatedly said that there are no Indian prisoners of war in Pakistan.

But the soldiers’ families do not want to forget them. Consider, for example, the case of Indian Air Force pilot HS Gill, also known as ‘High Speed’.

In the 1971 war, his plane was shot down in Pakistan’s Sindh province. The pilot, HS Gill, was 38 at the time.

His name appeared several times in India’s lists of missing soldiers and his family was confident he would return. But they did not return.

Three years ago, his wife, a school principal, died of cancer. His son committed suicide at a young age, while no one knows where his only daughter is missing.

“I still haven’t lost hope,” says Garbir Singh Gul, the pilot’s brother. I know they are alive. If not, tell us the truth. In the absence of truth you keep the hope alive that they will come back. is not it?’

Hope is hard to come by.

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