(This opinion editorial has been penned by a student who wished to remain anonymous owing to personal and academic compulsions)
The year 2021 had multiple events held to commemorate 1971 under the banner of Vijay Diwas. What bothered me about this entire celebration was that the government and the armed forces failed to mention/barely mention those men and their families who still suffer from the repercussions of this war. I am talking about the Prisoners of War (P.O.W) who never returned, aka 'The missing 54'.
The 1971 war was a victory where we failed to get our approximately 54) P.O.Ws (not including prisoners of war from 1965) back home despite accepting the largest military surrender since the second world war. On top of it, these are P.O.W whose existence has been corroborated by multiple sources like eyewitnesses, documents, pictures, etc. Even the Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had verified the presence of Indian Prisoners of War of 1965 and 1971 in the Kot Lakhpat prison post the 1971 war. Despite all this, the Indian government has failed to act!
The door of every political figure and every government official has been knocked. Still, sadly almost all pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Hopes have been raised and dashed off the families of these P.O.W. multiple times, and the central government has also refused to move to the I.C.J. for the P.O.W. of the 1971 war and 1965 war. I will not parrot facts that are posted all over the internet to see regarding the abuse and injustice our missing P.O.W have faced at the hands of the Pakistani military establishment, but I will ask one question to the concerned Pakistani and Indian establishments- 'WHY?'
In addition to the inaction from India, one more thing that baffles me is why the Indian government bizarrely "admitted" that 15 of the 54 had been "confirmed killed" in two affidavits, submitted to a local court in the early 1990s in response to a petition: on missing soldiers? And if that is the case, why does the government today insist that all 54 are still missing?
Hopefully, if not in life, then in death, the government and the defence establishment will let our warriors be at ease by attempting to bring their mortal remains back to their homeland and maybe clarify what happened. Were these soldiers forgotten due to post-war euphoria, or is there a grey zone where no one wants to tread?
Jai Hind! Jai Bharat!