This is a book which chronicles the heart-rending stories of the Indian families of prisoners of war and the inability of the Indian Government to get the prisoners freed from the clutches of the Pakistani Government. It tries to pinpoint the flaws in the system which has left many tortured families who had sent their sons to serve the nation but who are serving unspecified periods in jails under a hostile government.
Following the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, nearly 3,702 Pakistani prisoners of war in the west and 93,007 in the east of Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were imprisoned. In addition, the Indian Army occupied 9,047 sq. km. of Pakistan territory in Punjab and this included 90 villages. Pakistan took 2,307 Indian prisoners of war. The author says that following the Shimla Accord of June 28-July 3, 1972 between Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Z.A. Bhutto, India vacated Pakistani territory by August 7, 1972, prisoners of war of West Pakistan on December 1, 1972 and prisoners of war of Bangladesh by November 14, 1974. But the Indian Government ?perpetuated a human tragedy of untold magnitude? by abandoning the Indian prisoners of war in West Pakistan and causing never-ending pain and suffering to their families.
The author says that the prisoners of war captured by the Indian Army in Pakistan and Bangladesh were ?lodged in comfortable and well-equipped army barracks under the management of the central Army command with headquarter at Lucknow and Lt. General P.S. Bhagat as the General Officer Commanding in Chief.? There were a total of 23 camps in various cantonments, with the largest one being located in Bareilly. General P.S. Bhagat issued personal orders to the camp commanders and other officers in the stations to look after the ?Pakistani prisoner as a guest. Whenever he visited an Army station, he requested the Army Wives? Association to pay a visit to the families lodged in the camps and attend to their problems.?
He complains that India spent Rs 35 crore on the Pakistani prisoners of war till their repatriation in 1974-75. What is more, following the highest traditions of the ancient Indian (Hindu) culture, all the families were presented a copy of the Holy Quran with ?no reciprocation.?
The author then provides a list of about 55 prisoners of war in Pakistan saying that no good international or professional Army ever leaves her living or dead in the battlefield. All dead bodies are retrieved and cremated/buried with full military honours. ?How did it happen that the Indian Army left so many men in Pakistan? How is it that the Indian Government has failed to get them released??
This is a dated book as it pertains to an era when the leaders mentioned and accused of their crimes are no longer alive. It may, however, bring some relief to the families affected by the 1971 war to know that their plight has been conveyed to the readers of this book at least.
(Trishul Publications, Noida-201 303.)