The missing 54
The Missing 54 are the soldiers and officers of Indian armed forces who have been given status of missing in action or killed in action in 1971 Indo-Pak war by government. But they are believed to be alive and imprisoned in various Pakistani jails. Though Pakistan have denied existence of any Indian POW's of 1971 Indo-Pak war; there is strong evidence to suggest that they were captured alive and some or all of them still languish in Pakistani jails. The list of names of these soldiers/officers and their respective service units are as follows.
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. Capt Ravinder Kaura SS-20095 39 Med Regiment
5. Capt Giri Raj Singh IC-23283 5 Assam
6. Capt Om Prakash Dalal SS-22536 Grenadiers
7. Maj AK Ghosh IC-18790 15 Rajput
8. Maj AK Suri SS-19807 5 Assam
9. Capt 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. Capt Kamal Bakshi IC-19294 5 Sikh
14. 2/ Lt Paras Ram Sharma SS-22490 5/8 G R
15. Capt Vashisht Nath
16. L/Hv. Krishna Lal Sharma 13719585 1 JAK RIF
17. Subedar Assa Singh JC-41339 5 Sikh
18. Subedar Kalidas JC-59 8 JAKLI
19. L/Nk Jagdish Raj 9208735 Mahar Regiment
20. L/Nk Hazoora Singh 682211303
21. Gunner Sujan Singh 1146819 14 Fd Regiment
22. Sepoy Daler Singh 2461830 15 Punjab
23. Gnr Pal Singh 1239603 181 Lt Regiment
24. Sepoy Jagir Singh 2459087 16 Punjab
25. Gnr Madan Mohan 1157419 94 Mountain Regiment
26. Gnr Gyan Chand Gnr Shyam Singh
27. L/Nk Balbir Singh S B S Chauhan
28. Capt DS jamwal 81 Field Regiment
29. Capt Washisht Nath Attock
Indian Air Force
30. Sq Ldr 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. Wg Cdr Hersern 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. Sqn. Ldr. Jal Manikshaw Mistry 5006-F(P)
42. Flt Lt Harvinder Singh 9441-F(P) 222 Sqn
43. Sqn Ldr 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. Flg Offr. Krishan L Malkani 10576-F(P) 27 Sqn
47. Flt Lt Ashok Balwant Dhavale 9030-F(P) 1 Sqn
48. Flt Lt Shrikant C Mahajan 10239-F(P) 5 Sqn
49. Flt Lt Gurdev Singh Rai 9015-F(P) 27 Sqn
50. Flt Lt Ramesh G Kadam 8404-F(P) TACDE
51. Flg Offr. KP Murlidharan 10575-F(P) 20 Sqn
52. Naval Pilot Lt. Cdr Ashok Roy
53. Sqn Ldr Devaprasad Chatterjee
54. Plt Offr Tejinder Singh Sethi
(This list was tabled in the Lok Sabha in 1979 by Samarendra Kundu, Minister of State of External Affairs, in reply to unstarred question 6803 raised by Amarsingh Pathawa.) Note - Initial list consisted of 40 names which later on expanded to 54.
"If the cause be just and mind be 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. The Army had declared Major Suri as "Killed in action". DR Suri who ran a Yoga Ashram in New Delhi did not believe it. He was sent a helmet with a bullet hole in it and someone else’s name written on it.
During the war, the fifth battalion of the Assam Regiment was deployed as part of 191 Infantry Brigade on the west of Munnawar Tawi River in Chambb sector. 10 Infantry Division on the Indian side faced 23 Division on the Pakistani side. 5 Sikh were at Chhamb and were in the middle of the brigade group with 5 Assam and 4/1 Gorkha Rifles on either side. Throughout 4 December Pakistani artillery and PAF were very active in the areas of 5 Sikh and 5 Assam. On Dec 4th Pakistani infantry supported by armour captured Mandiala North after bitter hand-to-hand fighting. On 5 December, 2 tanks of Deccan Horse and a platoon of 5 Sikh recaptured the MandialaBridge. The battle raged on through the day and night of 5 December. These three battalions were subjected to intense shelling and repeated PAF attacks. During this battle, Maj Ashok Suri went missing.
Then on December 26, 1974, R.S. Suri received a hand-written note dated December 7, 1974 from his son. The letter contained a slip in which his son had written, "I am okay here." The covering note read, "Sahib, valaikumsalam, 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 August, 1975, he received another missive postmark 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, specially to mummy, grandfather – Indian government can contact Pakistan government for our freedom." The then Defence Secretary had the handwriting confirmed as Ashok’s and changed the official statement from "killed in action" to "missing in action"! When one gets one’s son’s letter from a prison in Pakistan, what does one do? Well, R.S. Suri spent the rest of his life making weekly trips to the Ministry of External Affairs where everyone got to know him well. He worked with the government, careful not to involve the media because MEA officials advised him that the missing servicemen were in danger of being killed if they did so. He along with other Delhi based families formed the Missing Defence Personnel Relative’s organization. He used to write to family members based in other parts of the country updating them on what all had transpired. He wrote regularly to the Prime Minister and received regular replies. The overriding concern was that the issue should be taken up whenever the two sides met as a matter of urgency. In a letter on Jul 15th, 1980, Dr Suri writes from the Delhi Based Next of Kin to the Honourable Minister of External Affairs of Pakistan, Mr Agha Shahi. Talking of the Missing men and welcoming Pakistan’s gesture to search for these men, “…….. You will appreciate that the family members have undergone enough agony and misery and some have become mental as well as physical wrecks. The suspense for them is unbearable. ….settle this issue on humanitarian grounds.”
In 1983, after what seemed like a breakthrough, the Pakistan government invited family members to Pakistan to identify, if found, it’s missing defence personnel. This happened after November, 1982 when India and Pakistan signed a protocol on exchange of prisoners when Zia Ul Haque visited India. On May 30, 1983 – 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 were allowed to go. It was made very clear that this was a classified visit that the press should not get wind of. 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. The families got to know that some officials of the MEA will also be going with them toMultan jail. Indira Gandhi in India was meanwhile making aggressive statements in favour of Khan Abdul Gafar Khan & the MQM movement which was irritating Pak. On Sept 14th they flew to Multan. There was a sense of enthusiasm. That 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 it’s words”.
On Sept 15, 1983, the families visited Multan jail. Dr.Suri was getting hysterical, laughing and crying at the same time. The Pakistani newspaper report of India going back on its word in showing 25 prisoners in Patialajail was at the back of his mind at that time. However, they still clung to the promise and hope that the Indian Govt. had given them.
. 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 Huq could help us with this category of prisoners.
Even after the visit, disheartening though it had been, did not dampen Dr Suri’s commitment. He 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 passed away in 1999 saying,” Perhaps I will finally find peace in the grave.”
As per the Geneva Conventions, “Parties to the conflict shall communicate to each other the names of any prisoners of war who are detained till the end of proceedings or until punishment has been completed. By agreement between the parties to the conflict, commissions shall be established for the purpose of searching for dispersed prisoners of war and assuring their repatriation with the least possible delay.”
On the Eastern front where there were 93,007 POWs (of which 72795 were soldiers), an agreement was signed by the Foreign Ministers of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan on 30 April 1974 at New Delhi. Thereafter the Pakistani POWs captured on the Eastern front were also repatriated.
SOME OF THE MAIN EVIDENCES
Flight Lt. V.V. Tambay ( the following is often cited as evidence- however if you note, the paper report ison 5th dec. Tambay went missing on 6th dec. SO the newspaper report is wrong.) Maj Ghosh’s photograph published in Time Magazine Maj AK Ghosh’s photograph was published in Time Magazine dated 27-12-1971 The photograph is proof that Maj AK Ghosh was in Pakistani custody when the war ended on 17 December 1971. He did not return with the POWs in 1972 at the time of the Simla agreement. He may have died in the interim period in a Pakistani jail. Surely there must be some record of that. The Indian and Pakistan governments can work together to find out what happened to such men. Why were some names not included in the POW list is again a moot point. A brief note from Maj Ashok Suri followed by another letter in 1975 On 26 December 1974, R S Suri received a hand written note dated 07-12-1974 the words “ I am okay here: scribbled on a tiny scrap of paper from Ashok Suri. His father also received letters from a Karachi jail on August 13th 1975 dated June 14/15/16th 1975 stating that there were 20 other officers with him there. The handwriting was authenticated by the Indian government and Indian Ministry of External Affairs officials on many occasions expressed to Dr RS Suri that they believed Ashok Suri was there. Why would someone come and send the note to Maj Suri’s distraught father if there was no basis for it. What purpose would it serve? Mohanlal Bhaskar repatriated on 09.12.1974- writes “Main Bharat ka jasoos tha” or “ I spied for India” Mohanlal Bhaskar, who was in a jail between 1968 and 1974 and repatriated on 09.12.1974 wrote a book in Hindi ( I was a spy for India) and gave a signed affidavit stating that he met a Col Asif Shafi of Second Punjab regt of Pakistan and a Maj Ayaaz Ahmed Sipra in Fort of Attock imprisoned for conspiring against Bhutto in the infamous “Attock conspiracy” . The Pakistani Major Ayaaz Ahmed Sipra spoke of his befriending a Gill of the Indian Air Force and a Captain Singh of the Indian Army as well as mentioning that there were around 40 Pows of the 1965 and 1971 wars in that jail who had no chances of release. In the Attock Conspiracy, several officers of Pakistan's army and air force were arrested on March 30, 1973, on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The detainees included Major Farooq Adam, Major Nadir Pervez (who later became a federal minister in the Nawaz Sharif government), Brigadier Wajid Ali Shah, Colonel Hamdani, and Major Ayaz Sipra, and a total of 59 officers were declared conspirators. The case is well known as the Attock conspiracy. Fifteen army and four air-force officers were found guilty of conspiracy and were handed jail terms ranging from three months to life.
In this conspiracy, 15 officers were sentenced to terms in prison- among them Maj Ayaaz Ahmed Sipra and Col Asif Shafi. Others such as Farooq Adam ( a Gallian, i.e. from Lawrence school, Ghoraghali) were also sentenced in the Attock conspiracy .
Ayaaz Ahmed and Shafi later apparently moved to the US where Shafi was again traced by Manish Jain ( son in law of Sqn Ldr Jain, another Indian Officer missing and believed to be in Pakistani jails since the 1971 war) and Shafi confirmed to Jain unofficially that he had met Wg Cdr Gill in Attock in 2000 in a telephonic conversation.
A Pakistani General, General Riaz, Governor NWFP who subsequently died in an accident informed Mr Ashwini Kumar, then IG of the Border Security Force as a personal favour to him at the Munich Olympics in 1972 that Major Waraich was being held in Dargai jail, NWFP. The earlier sightings in 1972, 1975 seem true even if later sightings may have been mistakes. This is because at that time noone knew of the case of Missing defence personnel. Mohan Lal Bhaskar had no knowledge that some Indian Officers were kept back in Pakistan when he returned and wrote his book. In those days there was no internet or even widespread television. That is why the movement to trace the Indian POWs has remained so strong.
LETTER FROM ASHOK SURI TO HIS FATHER IN 1975