While the Balakot air strike continues to dominate the campaign narrative for the Lok Sabha polls, men who were held as prisoners of war (PoWs) during the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, and kin of soldiers killed in the Pathankot terror attack, feel that heroic acts of armed forces should not be used for political mileage.
Colonel Baldev Singh Chahal (Retd) of 4 Sikh Battalion, who had become a POW along with 138 others of his battalion in 1965 war, while talking to The Indian Express on the phone from Patiala said that every political party tries to take credit of ‘heroic acts’ of the Indian Armed forces. “It happens after every war that political parties take mileage was taken by the ruling parties after 1971 war, after Kargil war and now after surgical strikes,” he said, adding that parties should avoid leaking such secret acts of Army to public.
Col Chahal (retd) said: “Armed forces are the forces of the country, not of any political party.” Another POW of the 1965 war, Brig Kanwaljit Singh (retd), who commanded 4 Sikh Battalion, currently settled in Gurgaon, said that a soldier fights for the nation not for any political party. “He is a patriot and not the member of any political party then why his name is dragged to gain political benefit.
“At least these political parties should leave armed forces alone, otherwise it would have far reaching consequences,” he stressed.
During the 1965 war, Brig Singh and Col Chahal were deputed along with over 100 men to block Pakistani troops in Khemkaran sector of Punjab. Pakistani troops surrounded them from all sides and took them to Lahore Civil jail. Among the 138 troops, there were five officers, six JCOs. They were released after five months in February, 1966 as an agreement between two countries. Six years later, in 1971, both men were in charge of separate camps where Pak POWs were kept.
In 2016, Kulwant Singh of Chak Sharif village in Gurdaspur district was killed the Pathankot terror attack. At the time of his death, Kulwant had served in Indian Army for 20 years and then in DSC (Defence Security Corps) for 11 years. Harbhajan Kaur, his wife, said: “Asin tan army te DSC (Defence Security Corps) di service karke hi apna gujara karde han, te shaheedan de naam te political partiyan nu vote nahin mangne chahide (We make a living serving the Army and the DSC. Political parties should not ask for votes in the name of any martyr).”
She said that government had promised a road and a gate in the name of Kulwant and job to her son, but even after three years these promises are unfulfilled.
Another soldier, Fateh Singh, was also killed in Pathankot IAF attack . His family of Jhandha Gurjjran village in Gurdaspur too that there should be no politics in the name of the martyrs. Fateh, a gold medalist of Commonwealth Shooting Championship held in 1995, had retired from Army’s 15 Dogra regiment in 2009 as Hon. Captain and then he had joined DSC.
Family of Naik Bakhtawar Singh, of 8 Sikh LI, who was killed in Pakistan shelling in Nowshehra in 2017, said that political leaders conveniently forget slain soldiers and only remember them when they need political mileage.