We returned 93,000 of them, and never got back our fifty four heroes.
1972, mother and a wailing baby awaited the return of Maj AK Ghosh. 46 years later, now in her mid-forties Ms. Nilanjana Ghosh tearfully recalls her father. Barring a few photographs, all she was left were a few wistful memories. She is among the kith and kin of the missing fifty four , the lost fifty four, rather I would write the glorious fifty four.
It was in 2015 when I first met Nilanjana Ma’am in college. It was during one of the Soft Skills lectures that she happened to mention her father Maj. AK Ghosh. The same officer who featured in the Times Magazine’s cover page but was never recognised as a POW by the Pakistani government.
A thousand interviews and thousands of days of struggle later, the families have received nothing in response. A few visits to the dingy jails in Multan and the existence of our missing fifty four has been blatantly denied!
An interview with the Times of India dated 13 May 2007, reflected the state of penury and helplessness to which these families have been reduced. For four decades, they have been hunting for a stray mention of their kin in the local newspapers. Countless petitions, discussions, peace marches, letters to the ministry have yielded agony as they all turn a deaf year to their pleas.
A thousand interviews and thousands of days of struggle later, the families have received nothing in response. A few visits to the dingy jails in Multan and the existence of our missing 54 has been blatantly denied!
It is strange, and a mockery of our policies, that we refuse to adopt the “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 8 June 1977”. Adopted 40 years ago, these Additional Protocols of 1977 are considered part of the bedrock of international humanitarian law, yet India refuses to sign them.
The fifty four lives and more
On the other side of the border, it is a frenzy of confusion as to what has happened to them, where they are. “Some,” that is all the English language can provide for, to address the lost case of the fifty-four. By now, some have vanished in the dark abysmal cells of Lahore and Multan. While a few prisoners likely have given in to the ageing minds and lost the faint recollections of their families.
It is heartbreaking to know that few might have even lost their identity and memories. Shahrukh Khan’s similar role in Veer Zara might stir our hearts; however, in reality, one entire generation has lost its fathers, sons, and the only bread-earning members. In addition, the succeeding generations continue to grow under the tenebrous shadows of disappointment and denial of human rights.
We want our soldiers back.
Five and Four: Fifty-four,
for men may come
and men may go,
you all will live on, forever.