Colonel (Retd) Baldev Singh Chahal, who was taken Prisoner of War (POW) along with 138 others of his battalion in the 1965 Indo-Pak War, said “life had come a full circle” for him six years later, during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, when over 90,000 Pakistani soldiers were taken POW and he was in charge of a camp of Pakistani POWs in Bangladesh. “Despite bitter memories of the days as POW in Pakistan, we ensured that humane treatment was given to Pak POWs,” said Chahal.
He was speaking to The Indian Express on the sidelines of a function organised by 11 Corps in Jalandhar as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of the 1965 Indo-Pak war.”
“We were given just two salted chapattis daily during the first two months in Pakistan. When we returned to India in February 1966 after the Indo-Pak agreement, our uniforms were in tatters. But when Pak POWs returned in 1971, we provided them clothes, radio sets and other thing,” said Chahal.
During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Chahal, then a Lieutenant of 4 Sikh battalion, was deputed to block the road for Pakistani troops along with 138 others of his battalion behind enemy lines in Khemkaran sector of Punjab. However, Pakistani troops surrounded them from all sides and took them to Lahore Civil jail.
Among the 138 soldiers, five were officers, six JCOs and remaining were Havildars, Naiks, Jawans and Sepoy, etc.
“We were put in the criminal cell and were interrogated every two hours. We were later shifted to Rawalpindi and then to Kasur. The interrogation continued. After a few days, we were moved to Kohat, a POW camp near the Afghanistan border, and then to Durgai,” he said.
He added that it was a harrowing experience till the Red Cross society provided them with medicines, warm clothes and so on.”
“We were kept in the dark at times and they kept putting pressure on us trying to get military secrets such as information about the kind of machinery, weapons and officers we had as a consideration for our safe return to India,” he recalls.
“When their efforts yielded no result, we were taken from one place to another. Chahal also said that during the last months of their stay in Pakistan, the Indian POWs were allowed to cook food for themselves.”
“After five months, on February 12, 1966, we came back,” he said.
Wreath-laying ceremony at Fazilka, Ferozepur
Ludhiana: A wreath-laying ceremony was organised Tuesday at Asafwala War Memorial, Fazilka, and Prerna Sthal War Memorial, Hussainiwala, to mark the Indian victory in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. In August 1965, 67 armymen of the (Independent) Infantry Brigade, led by Brig Bant Singh, had moved from Jodhpur to defend the Fazilka sector. As many as 36 soldiers from the 14th battalion of the Punjab regiment and third battalion of 9 Gorkha Rifles made the supreme sacrifice. The function was attended by a large number of ex-servicemen, war veterans and civil dignitaries.