Srinagar: Every Vijay Diwas, Nirmal Kour, 76, stands before a huge portrait of her husband Subaidar Assa Singh of 5-Sikh regiment and sobs quietly. Vijay Diwas is celebrated on December 16 to mark India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.
Subaidar Singh went missing as he fought gallantly against the Pakistani army in the Chamb sector of Jammu region in 1971. For the last 48 years, Kour has been fighting a quiet battle to trace her husband.
Despite her failing health, Kour has knocked on every door to locate her husband. In 2007, she even went to Pakistan along with the family members of other missing soldiers but to no avail.
“It was a disappointing visit. The Pakistani authorities did not allow us to enter the jail to see the prisoners. Nor was anybody presented before us. Jail authorities showed us some files written in Urdu when nobody in the delegation knew the language. We were unable to comprehend anything," said Kour.
At her advanced age, Kour’s last wish is to see her husband in blood and flesh. “I am not keeping well. Only people like us can feel the pain. We can’t forget our dear ones. When everyone would be celebrating Vijay Diwas, our home will be mourning the loss of our dear ones,” she said.
Subaidar Singh is among the six soldiers of Jammu and Kashmir who went missing in the Bangladesh war and their families are not giving up their fight for their return.
Rano Devi was five months pregnant when her husband Sepoy Jagdish Lal of 2-Mahar regiment went missing in the Dhaka Theater in the 1971 war. Sepoy Lal had chosen the battlefield over his family in the best traditions of the Indian Army.
Nearly five decades on, Devi is still hopeful that her husband will return home one day from a Pakistani jail. And this hope was reinforced when Wing Commander Abhinandan was released after his MIG 21 jet went down during a dogfight with Pakistani aircraft in February this year.
“Pictures do not lie. We have preserved the pictures and newspaper cuttings of the past events when BJP leaders were part of our movement for the return of war heroes. If Wing Commander Abhinandan can be released why can’t our dear ones? Aren’t they sons of soil? Didn’t they fight for the motherland,” said Bansi Lal Raja, son-in-law of Sepoy Lal.
Colonel (retired) RK Pattu, president of Missing Defence Personnel Relatives Association, an apex body of family members of the prisoners of war, said even late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during a SAARC summit had agreed that 41 PoWs were in Pakistan.
Colonel Pattu, who has written a book Indian Prisoners of War in Pakistan, has fought a relentless legal battle for 11 years in the Gujarat High Court for justice to missing soldiers. “I provided three books to the honourable judges of the Gujarat High Court. The court directed the defence ministry to treat them on duty and give them next promotion and other pension benefits,” said Colonel Pattu.