“If the cause be just and the mind be strong, no force is greater no distance long. If selfless souls with such a strength, face hazards all, they win at length.” This is what reads the diary of Dr. R. S. Suri, father of Major Ashok Suri, captured in the 1971 War. The recent attention grabbing series of P.O.W – Bandhi Yudh Ke got us interested in digging further into the dark holes of the lives of the real life Prisoners Of War and what came out were some sad stories.
The Government used a term known to few - The Missing 54!
“The Missing 54” is a list of 54 soldiers and officers of the Indian Armed Forces who have been given status of ‘Missing in action’ or ‘Killed in action’ in the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
A father who fought an untold war for Freedom
Dr.Suri was one day given a helmet of a soldier with a bullet hole in it along with letters that stated his son Major Ashok Suri “killed in Action”. Later in August 1975, he got another letter which read, "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."
Getting a letter from his dead son shook him to the core was. The Government had termed him as “Killed in action”. Some term it as a strategy while some call it carelessness but for a father this was only the start of his struggle to bring his son back.
A wife whose husband was “Killed in action”
Karachi Sunday Observer published a news which read, ‘ Flt. Lt. Tombay captured alive with other 4 pilots’. However Damayanti Tambay, wife of Flt. Lt. Tambay was told that her husband was “Killed in action”. Flt. Lt. Tambay had told her that if at all he was captured he would introduce himself as “Tombay” and not “Tambay” so that she would know he was alive. If only a few codes could make her struggle to get back her husband easily.
"Was our son really 'killed in action?'"
Fg Offr K P Murlidharan was the pilot of ‘The Fast and Fearless Squadron’ of IAF that marched out for air support and offensive operations during the war. He flew deep into enemy territory and displayed exceptional bravery was however declared “Killed in action” weeks after the war was over. An unofficial sources postulated of him being captured in the jails of Pakistan.
A few years back Pakistan newspaper gave a list of 54 such officers captured as Prisoners of war. It had a name on it – Fg Offr K P Murlidharan, No 20 Squadron.
Parents of Murlidharan were left to fight the battle for his freedom till their last breath. A 26 year old lad had a brave yet ambiguous goodbye to say!
Title image: dhakadigest