Cannot let bygones be bygones

While looking at the videos of Abhinandan being beat up by the Pakistanis when his fighter crash crashed in enemy territory, I wish he had read the first chapter of the recently released book 1971: A War Story. Might have helped him in hiding his identity

Quoting verbatim from Wikipedia on Geneva Convention ‘The singular term Geneva Convention usually denotes the agreements of 1949, negotiated in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–45), which updated the terms of the two 1929 treaties, and added two new conventions. The Geneva Conventions extensively defined the basic rights of wartime prisoners (civilians and military personnel), established protections for the wounded and sick, and established protections for the civilians in and around a war-zone.” .

Does it mean that India and Pakistan were at war when Wing Commander Abhinandan was taken by the Pakistani Army? No war has officially been declared by either country, though disturbances and skirmishes at the border are a daily occurrence since the partition of the country in 1947. So, where did the question arise about Geneva Convention? Why is the media highlighting violation of the Geneva Convention if the Indian pilot taken into custody by Pakistan, is not released etc. Who is feeding the Indian media and who would have taken the mileage if the pilot was not freed? Was that the plan? Elections in India are round the corner.

It is unfortunate but true, while the army men fight it out at the borders, risking their lives on the orders of the politicians, the latter sit in their comfortable air conditioned confines, barking orders with the single aim of winning the next general elections. They have no clue about the emotional state the family gets into when they learn their loved one is in the war zone. It is rightly said wars are too dangerous to be left in the hands of the politicians, yet seem to be inevitable.

The world certainly heaved a sigh of relief after Wing Commander Abhinandan, after spending about 2 days in Pakistani military custody, walked through the Wagah border to the safety of his own country last week. The world perceives the battles between the two nuclear powered states, with caution and any escalation of hostilities between the two countries has the world on its feet. Some political pundits credit international pressure to the early release of the pilot, while others perceive the emerging of India as too powerful in the global arena to be ignored. However, the goodwill gesture by Pakistani President and former cricketer Imran Khan, too would have played a role in the early release of the pilot, as it was not the first time that Pakistan has had the opportunity to apprehend an Indian but a first that he was released immediately.

Indians have been known to be rotting in Pakistani jails for decades, with many Presidents of Pakistan and Prime Ministers of India, come and gone. The plight of these prisoners, some even Prisoners of War, have remained unchanged as their families wait for closure. Who can forget the ‘The Missing 54” of the 1971 war where Pakistan has always denied their existence on their soil while over the years, evidence has percolated down to the families that their loved ones are alive and need to be rescued.

While congratulating Wing Commander Abhinandan on his safe return, how can the valour and sacrifice of the “The Forgotten 54”, or more appropriately “The Abandoned 54”, be consigned to oblivion. For the last 48 years, their families have pursued the Indian government with evidence of their family members being alive and somewhere in Pakistan but all efforts have come to a naught. The evidence available sheds light on the hope these Prisoners of War had that their government, might one day, help in getting them released.

1971: A War Story, pays tribute to these soldiers lost in Pakistan and is a passionate, thought provoking suspense thriller, which documents the life of one such family whose only bread winner never comes back from the border after Bangladesh is created. The author, Dr Neelam Batra-Verma, a Coquitlam based writer, while working on an article, spent hours with the families of missing defence personnel in India and saw with her own eyes the suffering the families were going through – parents waiting for their missing sons, longing to see them just once before they leave for their heavenly abode; wives living like widows despite evidence that their husbands were alive; children growing up not knowing who their father is.

Just before emigrating to Canada in 2002, a gentleman, who said he was in Pakistan jail for years and was, then, released recently, had come all the way from Jammu to meet the author, since he had seen the series of articles done on the issue by the author. He wanted her to write his story but because she was in the middle of a big relocation of her life, she could not take the time to do so. And eventually, she even lost all his contact information. However, all these years, the author could not help but feel the guilt for not being able to write his story. The remorse felt resulted in finally the author penning down a story, she dreamt should have been. The author’s debut fiction novel reflects the pain, seen firsthand, by the families of missing soldiers or those who die during conflicts….be it the 40 CRPF troopers who died on Valentine’s day this year at the hands of terrorists or directly in the range of fire at the borders. The novel is dedicated to all forgotten Bravehearts and their families whose legends never die!

1971: A War Story is available on Amazon.

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