Missing 54 PoWs: Families of Indian soldiers captured by Pakistan in 1971 war demand more govt efforts to trace kin

Relatives of the Indian PoWs also visited Pakistan in 2007 after the then President Pervez Musharraf, facilitated their visit but they failed to find any traces of the prisoners.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Updated: April 21, 2017 12:11 pm
Kulbhushan jadhav, Indian government, Indian government on kulbhushan jadhav, Jadhav , missing kulbhushan jashav, Pakistan, Pakistan on kulbhusan jadhav, Kulbhushan jadhav's relatives, PoW, prisoners of war, 1971 war, second world war, india news, indian express news Kulbhushan jadhav. (File photo)


In the backdrop of the Indian government trying to secure the release of former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan, the kin of Indians captured by the neighbouring country in the 1971 war have again raised the demand that efforts be made to know about their fate too.

There are 54 personnel from the armed forces who are believed to have been captured  by Pakistan in the 1971 war and are Prisoners of War  (PoW) in that country. Their whereabouts remain unknown till date. These personnel are said to have been occasionally sighted by fellow civilian prisoners in some jails across Pakistan and a letter has also been received from a PoW.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Simmi Waraich, member of the Missing Defence Personnel Relatives Association (MDPRA), said the union government has not made any effort to institutionalise the efforts to search for the soldiers believed to be held as PoW in Pakistan. Dr Waraich, whose father, Maj HPS Waraich of Punjab Regiment, is also among those who are believed to be a PoW in Pakistan, said, “Jadhav’s case has made the government act swiftly because of the media focus. “It is good that the government is making all efforts to get him back but the same should also be done for the 1971 PoWs so that it is finally known what happened to them,” she said.

“I have sent fax messages to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Defence regarding the PoW case but I have not even received acknowledgment from them. While we allow the US military to come to remote areas in the North East and search for the remains of their airmen who were killed in crashes in the second World War, we do not even have a missing in action cell in the defence ministry to look for our PoWs in Pakistan,” said Waraich.

After the 1971 war ended, the number of defence personnel missing in action and believed to have been taken prisoners stood at 40 but later this figure was revised to 54 in 1975. “A question was asked in the Lok Sabha in 1975 and the government gave the names of 54 persons believed to be in captivity in Pakistan and even gave the names of the jails in which they were supposed to be in custody. However, later when we asked where they had got this information from, we did not get any satisfactory answer,” she said.

In the case of her own father, a former IPS officer Ashwini Kumar, who was the manager of Indian hockey team in Munich Olympics in 1972, had managed to find out from a Pakistani team member about his whereabouts and had learnt that he was held in a jail in Dagai, near Swabi in Pakistan. “We were told at the time that the Indian PoWs were being rotated among  four jails in Pakistan in the north west frontier region,” she said. Relatives of the Indian PoWs also visited Pakistan in 2007 after the then President Pervez Musharraf facilitated their visit but they failed to find any traces of the prisoners.

Damyanti Tambey, wife of Flight Lieutenant Vijay Tambey, who is believed to be among the 54 PoWs, has been fighting a case in the Supreme Court for the PoWs for the past several years. Speaking on phone from New Delhi,  she said: “I also met the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar on the issue and he promised to do whatever he could but now he has also left. There is definitely a need to establish a missing in action cell to trace the whereabouts of the PoWs,” she said.

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  1. B
    bp sharma
    Jun 8, 2017 at 8:16 pm
    had something like this happened to American POWs paks would have bee blown to smithereens , why cant we do this after all we returned their 90,000 POWs
  2. C
    Col NN Bhatia
    Apr 29, 2017 at 2:54 pm
    I have managed to send my mail below to PM that has been acknowledged vide Registration No is PMOPG/E/2017/0234544. Let us hope for the best. Col Bhatia Dear Honourable PM, With great anguish I send you this email on 54 Indian POWs of 1971 still languishing in stani jails. Many more may have perished or on the verge of collapse under tyrannical and barbarian stani treatment. I had sent by email & by speed post my pleas for their earliest release to you & the RM but I did not receive any reply. We had requested for small 5 minutes meeting with you also in that request. May I request all out efforts diplomatically, economically, and international pressure thro the US, UK, human right organisations, Amnesty International, International Court of Justice, the UN & IMF/World etc need to exerted to get our brave hearts back. Wishing you success in your endeavou
  3. C
    Col NN Bhatia
    Apr 29, 2017 at 2:51 pm
    List of Indian POWs 1. Major SPS Waraich IC-12712 15 Punjab 2. Major Kanwaljit Singh Sandhu IC-14590 15 Punjab 3. Lt SM Sabharwal SS-23957 87 Lt Regiment 4. Capt Ravinder Kaura SS-20095 39 Med Regiment 5. Sq Ldr MK Jain 5327-F (P) 6. Flt Lt Sudhir Kumar Goswami 8956-F (P) 7. Flying Officer Sudhir Tyagi 10871-F (P) 8. Flt Lt Vijay Vasant Tambay 7662 –F (P) 9. Flt Lt Nagaswami Shanker 9773-F (P) 10. Sq Ldr PN Malhotra 11. Flt Lt SK Chibber 12. Capt GR Singh IC-23283 5 am 13. Capt OP Dalal SS-22536 Grenadiers 14. Maj AK Ghosh IC-18790 15 Rajput 15. Maj AK Suri SS-19807 5 am 16. Capt KS Rathod IC23148 5 am 17. Flt Lt Ram Metharam Advani 7812-F (P) 18. Flt Lt Manohar Purohit 10249(N) 5 Squadron 19. Flt Lt Tanmaya Singh Dandoss 8160-F (P) 20. Wg Cdr Harsharan Singh Gill 4657-F (P) 21. Flt Lt Babul Guha 5105-F (P) 22. Flt Lt Suresh Chander Sandal 8659-F (P) 23. Major JS Malik IC-14457 8 Raj. Rifles 24. Major SC Guleri IC-20230 9 Jat
  4. K
    Kiki Bakshi
    Apr 27, 2017 at 11:53 am
    It is about time the government addressed the case of the missing 54 (the number presumably has changed by now). No sincere effort has ever been made for their release.      The visits organized to  stani jails were an eyewash. My brother Capt. Kamal Bakshi is on that list -- the callousness with which these missing personnel have been treated is truly lamentable. Is there any door one can knock on?