Need it now for POW's - Guru Hargobind's call for Bandi Chhhorh !
1619 AD, a resonating call from Guru Hargobind went out to Mughal Emperor Jehangir…
Today, 2011 AD….perhaps there could be a call for Guru Hargobind to help us bring home the 54 Indian soldiers held as POW’s in Pakistani Jails …They have been lost in transition somewhere in Pakistani jails for almost 40 years and desperately need divine intervention.
A prisoner is a Bandhi…..
Political prisoners….Prisoners of war are those hapless victims caught in the crossfire of political compulsions through the ages. The apathy of the country for these honourable, but unfortunate gentlemen can be felt deeply in Byron’s Poem ‘Prisoner of Chillon.
In the summer of 1816, Byron and Shelley sailed around Lake Leman (Lake Geneva). While on their way they stopped at the Chateau of Chillon, and deep in the dungeons, below the water-line of the lake, they visited the place where François de Bonnivard was imprisoned for four years (1532-1536). During those years, Bonnivard had worn an imprint in the stone floor from his pacing of the confined area.
And Bonnivard was imprisoned for 4 years only….
Byron was so impressed with the event, he composed the poem The Prisoner of Chillon.
My hair is gray, but not with years,Nor grew it white
In a single night,
As men's have grown from sudden fears:
My limbs are bow'd, though not with toil,
But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon's spoil,
And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann'd, and barr'd - forbidden fare;
Bandhi Chhorh…. Guru Hargobind deliverer of Prisoners.
Young Guru Hargobind was held a prisoner as well…but he had the courage and conviction to snook his head at the all-powerful Mughal Emperor to say “ Bandhi Chorhh’ …. The 6th Guru of the Sikhs as the spiritual King...was the mentor and the role model. The lofty standards he set, evidently, have been long forgotten today in the run for ill-gotten power and more power…Is there anyone today who can stand up and say the same for the Indian soldiers held as POW ’s and are languishing in Pakistan jails …may be a few Pakistani soldiers are POW’s are in Indian jails as well.
Both countries deny their existence.
General Yeager of the US Air Force wrote a book on his role in the Pakistan Human Rights Commission. The book mentions his interviews with 20 Indian pilots of the 1965 and 1971 wars lodged in Pakistani prisons after the 1971 war.
Mohan Lal Bhaskar detained in Fort Attock Jail wrote ‘Main Pakistani Jasoos Tha ‘after he was repatriated in 1974. He writes that while he was in jail, he happened to meet Pakistani Major Ayaz Ahmed Sipra who told him about 40-odd Indian POWs in Fort Attock. Bhaskar later gave a sworn affidavit to this effect to the Government of India. Sipra was in the same prison till 1978 for the Bhutto Conspiracy case.
Manish Jain, son-in-law of Sqn. Leader Jain met one Col. Asif Shafi in Minneapolis, the USA in 2000. Shafi told Manish Jain that he was in Attock Jail for seven years for conspiring against Bhutto. There, he met Wing Cdr. H.S. Gill in the same cell. There were other Indian prisoners in jail but in different cells.
Mrs Tambay, the wife of Pilot OfficerTambay, happened to meet one T.A. Yusuf, a Bangladeshi naval officer in Jamnagar who was imprisoned at Lyallpur Jail in 1974 for supporting the cause of Bangladesh Independence. He met Pilot Tambay there who he recalls as having written his name on the wall. He saw other prisoners. One of them said that that they were Indian Prisoners of the War of 1971.
The story goes that Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Latif Malik was the Commandant of the POW camp at Lyallpur.
Right at the outset, he took the POW’s on a tour of the 'camp' to show off the security arrangements. It was indeed a formidable jail, with three rings of 10 feet high walls, and watchtowers with machine guns and searchlights.
He then told the Prisoners of War that they were well within their moral right to attempt to escape, and his right was to shoot at sight if caught.
Frankly, the formidable security made most give up any notions of escape….however, most of these men were repatriated…….
But what about some that were not?..... 54 POWs, young Indian personnel of the Armed Forces were lost in transition in the post-war hyperbolic euphoria….And are lost to date…… Of the 54 POWs in Pakistani jails, 29 are from the Indian Army while 25 belong to the Indian Air Force.
90 Villages Situated there.
These Indian Soldiers in West Pakistan were abandoned by the Government causing endless pain and suffering for their Families … Indira Gandhi was the PM…
These families have fought a lonely and a losing battle for almost 40 years, all to no avail…. Their Holi and Diwali for four decades have been sans colour and light……..
The story of Diwali is the festival of lights when, according to Indian lore, Lord Rama returned home after destroying the demon god Ravana who had taken away Rama’s wife, Sita.
Sikhs celebration of Diwali coincides with the “This coincidence has resulted in a similarity of celebrations.
Bandhi Chhorh day is celebrated to mark the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind after he was freed from imprisonment and he also exacted a release 52 Hindu Kings…who were held as political prisoners at the same time at the infamous fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir in October 1619.
So the Kings/rajahs were freed and the Guru became known popularly as the "Bandhi Chhorh" –a deliverer from prison.
He arrived at on the Diwali day and the Harmandir Sahib ….also known as the Golden Temple was lit with hundreds of lamps to celebrate his return. Hence the day came to be known as the "Bandi Chhorh Divas" …the day of freedom….The victory of truth over evil.
Hargobind was 11 years old when his father …Guru Arjan Dev attained martyrdom due to conspiracy synchronized by the hangers-on of the court of Mughal Empire in India. In a bit of parting advice to his only son, Guru Arjan Dev warned him of the turbulent period ahead and suggested that he should take appropriate measures to protect himself and the Sikhs to the best of his ability.
Even though a little boy Hargobind took this advice very seriously. Guru Hargobind always wore two swords, representing his obligation to resist oppression and uphold spirituality both at the same time.
A doctrine of ‘Miree-Piree’ was born. Guru Hargobind wore a saffron-coloured princely outfit and people started calling him ‘Sachha Padshah’ ….True King.
Soon after assuming the mantle of a guru….Guru Hargobind sent out an edict to his followers that he would welcome a gift of finest horses and weapons in addition to the provisions for the Langar; he set up intensive training camps for swordsmanship, archery, and physical endurance. A program for the militarization of the community thus began in earnest.
Soon Guru Hargobind led a small army of 800 horses, 300 troops on horseback, and 60 men with firearms.
When Murtaja Khan…. Nawab of noticed that Guru Ji had constructed the , 'The Throne of the Almighty', at , and was also strengthening his army, he informed the Mughal Emperor Jahangir about this. He also erroneously, emphasized that the Sikh Guru was making preparations to take revenge for his father's torture and martyrdom.
The Ulema ….the fundamentalists at the Court… suggested to Emperor Jehangir that Guru Hargobind may lead a revolt against his empire and he be arrested
When Jahangir heard about this he at once sent Wazir Khan and Guncha Beg to in order to arrest
But Wazir Khan, who was an admirer of Guru Hargobind, requested the Guru to accompany them to telling him that Emperor Jahangir wanted to meet him. Guru Sahib accepted the invitation and reached Delhi…..Here he has levied a penalty and asked to pay a fine of rupees two lakhs, which had been imposed on his father, this, of course, he refused to pay.... just as vehemently as his father had done prior to martyrdom.
|Bandhi Chhorh Jail|
As Guru Hargobind showed little inclination to pay the fine, he was sent for detention to the nefarious Gwalior Fort where the Mughal Emperors kept their political prisoners...This was the Fort out of which no prisoner came out alive. Obviously, the cause of detention was political as it was a political prison. Nonpayment of the fine was merely an excuse.
Guru Hargobind’s period of internment at Gwalior is put at between 40 days to 60 days.
The 52 Rajas and princes imprisoned were there for their failure to pay tribute monies to the Mughal rulers. In the fort, Guru Ji met many Hindu Princes who were detained there due to political reasons. Their living conditions in the fort were very deplorable. With the help of Hari Dass, the governor of the fort, the Guru had their conditions improved. The princes soon joined the Guru in his daily prayers.
Hari Daas was a Sikh faithful of and he had become an ardent devotee of
When several months had passed without their Guru being released, Baba Budha Ji and a group of Sikh devotees travelled to the fort to meet with the Guru. They told the Guru that the whole of Amritsar, his family, devotees and all the pilgrims who had come, from near and far to visit him, were missing his presence dearly. In reality, they were worried that their Guru might never leave prison. The memory of his father's recent imprisonment, torture and death weighed heavily on their minds.
The Guru assured them that they should not worry, he would join them soon. Outside the for,t Sikhs gathered and began to carry out Parbhaat-Pheris …singing Gurbani, as they walked around Gwalior Fort waiting for their beloved Guru's release.
|Baba Buddha went to see a Muslim sufi saint…. Mian Mir|
The story is that Mata Ganga Devi and Baba Buddha went to see a Muslim sufi saint…. Mian Mir at Lahore, who was a great admirer of Guru Arjan and had laid the foundation stone of Harmandir at Amritsar. Baba Buddha related the story of Guru Hargobind’s unlawful arrest on a suspicion that he may be encouraging a rebellion against Emperor Jehangir to avenge the death of his father.
It so happened that Noor Jehan the, favourite wife of the Emperor was a devotee of Mian Mir. She assisted Mian Mir in presenting a case to Jehangir… that perhaps he had acted in haste and committed a serious crime. Mian Mir stated, “What can be more shameful for an Emperor to think that a young lad could confront your mighty force?”
Emperor Jehangir ….who had by now moderated his views on religion accepted their advice and then ordered Wazir Khan to release Guru Sahib. Reaching Gwalior Fort Wazir Khan informed Hari Daas of the Emperor's order to release the Guru. Hari Daas was very pleased to hear this and quickly informed Guru Ji about the message from the Emperor.
But the Guru refused to leave the fort unless the 52 princes were released as well.
When Wazir Khan informed the Emperor of the Guru's desire, the Emperor first refused, but finally agreed, after Wazir Khan reminded him of the debt he owed the Guru for his recovery. Not really wanting to free the prisoners the Emperor cleverly added the following condition:
"whoever can hold on to the Guru's cloak can be released."
A face-saving compromise was devised by which anyone who could hold on to Guru Hargobind’s coattails could go free with him! A special robe was made for Guru Hargobind with 52 tails and the matter was resolved.
His deeply grateful friends called Guru Hargobind ‘Bandhi Chhorh, the Liberator.’
What do we learn from this……
Guru Sahib could have left the Fort when he was offered liberation. ….But to the Guru others' freedom and rights were more important than just his own. For him liberation and upholding everyone’s Human rights was significant. This is the attitude and virtue Guru Hargobind ingrained in his Sikhs
This positive message…..Be prepared to sacrifice your own freedom for the sake of other innocent people.
Today once again we the countrymen have to evoke the long-forgotten message of Guru Hargobind and give a wake-up call to the sleeping August heads of the polity ruling the country…. BANDHI CHORHH- Bring our
How have we let it pass?
Please now bring our soldiers home…. at the least to die in peace.
Families search Pakistan for lost PoWs
Suman Purohit has an uphill struggle, and so do her 13 other companions who are searching Pakistani jails for their relatives, missing since 1971.
"I had been married 18 months, and my son, Vipul, was three months old when the India-Pakistan war of 1971 began," she recalls.
Her husband, Flt Lt Manohar Purohit of the Indian Air Force, flew a number of sorties into Bangladesh, which was then called East Pakistan, and came home a couple of times for brief intervals.
"On 9 December, the fifth day of the war, he flew from Rajasthan sector into West Pakistan. He never came back after that," she says.
She was 23 years old then. She is now 59.
For 36 years, she has been searching for clues and following trails to wherever they would lead. Relatives of as many as 53 other Indian defence personnel face the same ordeal.
Now Pakistan, which denies holding any Indian prisoners of war, has agreed to open its jails to relatives of the missing as part of peace moves.
But the relatives complain they are not allowed free access to barracks.
Instead, Indian prisoners, none of them from the 71 war, are presented to them for identification.
They have been given access to jail records.
But those records are written in Urdu script which none of the relatives can read.
All these personnel were classified as "missing in action" and were never listed as prisoners of war (POWs) by either India or Pakistan.
|Brother of Capt Kaura|
"Many of us thought they were gone, dead. But there were many clues to the contrary that kept our hopes alive," says Rajesh Kaura, the chief executive officer of a Mumbai (Bombay) based firm.
He says his brother, Capt Ravinder Kaura, was captured by Pakistani troops from an observation post on the West Pakistan front. His wireless operator escaped and told the family.
Subsequently, there were many other clues to his being alive and his whereabouts.
A number of Indians, both military and non-military, released by Pakistan over the following years said they had met Captain Kaura in one jail or another.
Most relatives of the missing Indian service personnel have come across similar clues - anecdotal evidence from other prisoners, radio and newspaper reports, letters written by other POWs, and occasional photographs of the missing persons smuggled out of Pakistani jails.
For them, this evidence was backed up in April 1979 when a list of 40 people, apparently gleaned from returned prisoners debriefed by the Indian intelligence services, was placed before the Indian parliament.
Pressure on governments
A yoga therapist, Dr Ram Swaroop Suri, whose son was among the missing, got the addresses of all the 40 people and wrote to their families, bringing them together in a campaign that has spanned three decades.
"Mr Suri also wrote a letter to my sister-in-law, and this is how I came to join the Missing Defence Personnel Relatives Association which he started," says G S Gill, a human resource professional from Chandigarh.
Mr Gill's brother, Wing Commander Harsaran Singh Gill of the Indian Air Force, went down in West Pakistan and his colleagues reported that he had ejected before his plane hit the ground.
|GS Gill brother of wing Cmd Gill|
"It has been a long struggle," he says.
"We have been meeting every prisoner that is released by Pakistan, we have been pressuring the Indian government to help us, we have been keeping the members of the association informed about our progress."
At times, the going has been frustrating.
"We have been writing to the Indian government, which has been writing to Pakistan," says Damayanty V Tambay, the wife of Flt Lt V V Tambay.
|Wife of Pilot Officer Tambay.|
"Our evidence has been going from one end to the other, and they always come back to us with the request to provide more evidence," she says.Mrs Tambay, who is the sports director at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, had been married for one year when her husband's plane was downed in West Pakistan.
According to a written statement provided by the visiting relatives, "the Indian government often states that the relatives have accumulated the proofs and that the Indian government is pressurising the Pakistan government because of the insistence of the relatives. This weakens the case."For its part, Pakistan denies altogether the presence of Indian military personnel in its jails.
But the relatives are not satisfied."Some of them may have tried to hide their identity, or may have been held on spying charges," says G S Gill.
|Maj Waraich with wife and daughters|
"They may even have landed at some mental asylum, or in a military facility such as the Attock Fort. We have no way of knowing. Only the government of Pakistan can help us."
"The longest of sentences come to an end in 36 years, including those of spies. Even if that is not the case, they should at least let us know," says Dr Simmi Waraich of Chandigarh, who is searching for her father, Major S P S Waraich.
But few observers in Pakistan can match their optimism.
The visits of the relatives to two jails in Lahore and Karachi have already proved futile. They have eight more jails to see in Sindh and Punjab provinces over the next 10 days.
For many of the relatives, this will be a nerve-wracking experience.
"I had great hope of finding my husband in the Lahore jail. It was hard to walk out of there without seeing him. But hope will give me strength," says Suman Purohit.
There is strength in her clenched teeth as tears well up in her eyes.
Simple question India needs to answer …