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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Prisoners of War in India (April 18,1973)

Format of the stamp is horizontal. A gloomy picture of a prison camp is shown in a. rect-angle at the right side of the stamp against a black background. A multitude of prisoners clad in the prisoners uniform are shown standing behind a mesh of barbed wire. In the broader panel at left of the rectangle, a sad boy is shown anxiously awaiting the return of his father. The figure 90,000 appears in pink below the figure of the boy while the caption ‘Prisoners of War in India, Challenge to World Con-science appears in two lines in white below the rectangle. The word ‘Pakistan’ in English and Urdu appears in white at top of the rectangle. The deno-mination ‘Rs. 1.25’ is placed at top in pink colour while the word ‘postage’ in Blue alongside the right side of the rectangle.
The Pakistan Post Office is issuing a Special Postage Stamp of Rs. 1.25 denomination to raise the world consci-ence to the 90,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War languishing in Indian camps for over 15 months. Over 90,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War and Civi1ian including women, children and infirm and old people are held in captivity by India even though the lndo-Pakistan war end-ed in December 1971. As required by the international law, Pakistan has released all Indian soldiers and civilians and they have already returned to their homes in India. On 17-12-71 India & Pakistan agreed to cease-fire. On 2-7-1972 India & Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement as a result of which both sides vacated each other’s territory occupied by them during the war of December 1971.
Article 118 of third Geneva Convention of 1949 about the treatment of Prisoners of War provides: “Prisoners of War shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.”
Article 134 of 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 about the treatment of civil internees provides: “The high contracting parties shall endeavour, upon the close of hostilities or occupation, to ensure the return of all internees to their last place of residence, or to facilitate their repatriation.”
India is a signatory to this Convention and India pledged:
“I should like to assure the Council that India has no territorial ambitions in Bangla Desh or in West Pakistan. During the conflict India stands committed to dealing with the enemy forces according to Geneva Con-ventions. Indian Chief of Army Staff has assured his Pakistani counterpart of this commitment of the Govern-ment of India on 7-12-71. He has gone one step further in assuring the West Pakistani troops in East Bengal of their safe evacuation to West Pakistan, if they would surrender and discontinue their repression of the civilian population of Bangla Desh.”
(Statement of Sardar Swaran Singh, External Affairs Minister of India in the Security Council on 12-12-71). “I give you my solemn assurance that the personnel who surrender shall be treated with dignity and respect all soldiers are entitled to and we shall abide by the provisions of the Geneva Convention.” (Message of General Sam Manek Shaw, Indian Army Chief of Staff broadcast by All India Radio on 15-12-71). United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 307 unanimously on 12-12-71 an extract of which is repro-duced below:
The Security Council calls upon all those concerned to take all measures necessary to preserve human life and for the observance of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and to apply in full their provisions as regards the protection of wounded & sick, prisoners of war & civilian population.”
United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 2938 unanimously on 29-11-72, an extract of which is reproduced below:
“The General Assembly expresses the desire that the parties concerned make all possible efforts in a spirit of cooperation & mutual respect to reach a fair settlement of the issues that are still pending and calls for the return of the prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conven-tions of 1949 and the relevant provisions of Security Council Resolution 307.”
The International Commission of Jurists has urged the Indian Government to take immediately all necessary steps in order to liberate and repatriate the Pakistani Prisoners of War detained in India:
“The International Commission of Jurists believes that a plan for the repatriation of the prisoners should now be prepared and carried out without delay in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Public opinion is already beginning to ask questions about the future of these prisoners.”
This cruel & barbarous treatment meted out to the Pakistani Prisoners of War by India is confirmed by the report of the International Committee of the Red Cross reproduced by “Washington Post” in their issue of 23-12-72. Some extracts are reproduced below:
“During interrogation following an escape attempt, the Prisoners of War reported they were beaten and eight were bitten by army dogs. The Red Cross Report said the Camp Commander did not deny the collective punishment but termed the dog bites ‘an accident due to the fact that the prisoners’ behavior provoked the dogs’ reaction”.
“In July, Shafqat Hussain, a POW re-captured after trying to escape, told a Red Cross doctor that during interrogation at Amritsar headquarters the nails of both his index fingers had been pulled out. He also said that he had been burnt with cigarettes on both feet and hung by his feet for an hour and a half, and that a rope had been bound around his body and wetted, causing terrible contraction:
“The Red Cross doctor said that on checking Hussain, ‘the nail of his left index finger was found totally missing, while the nail of his right index finger was partly pulled out. On both his ankles were found scars of the same size as the end of a cigarette”.
The new measures included confining all POWs to their barracks from sunset to sunrise no longer allowing them to visit the latrine at night. Later, the reports indicate, annexes were built to the barracks to serve as night Urinals. But reporting on the situation in Sep-tember at the camps at Allahabad, the Red Cross said:
‘Buckets had been placed inside the barracks’. The prisoners had to use these to relieve themselves in front of all the other prisoners. In view of the fact that the barracks were over-crowd, men had to sleep right next to the buckets. The fact that there were some cases of dysentery made matters worse. The electric fans in the barracks were switched off. All windows and doors had to be kept closed.
Of the six prisoners killed during this incident. two at least, if not three, seemed to be cases rather of cold-blooded murder than of self-defense.
The leaders of world opinion have unanimously expres-sed their anxiety & concern for the immediate repatriation of the Pakistani POWs held in captivity in India. Two such representative opinions expressive of the concern & anxiety of the world community about the plight of the Pakistani POWs in India are reproduced below:
“The abstention of my (Belgian) delegation is to be interpreted as the expression of the serious concern of the Belgian Government at the fact that 80,000 prisoners of war and 10,000 Pakistani officials are still in camps almost nine months after the cessation of hostilities and have not been liberated nor repatriated. This regrettable state of affairs is contrary to the relevant provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Furthermore as a founding Member of the United Nations. Belgium cannot accept that human lives be used as hostages for purely political purposes and negotiations.”
AMBASSADOR, EDOUARD LONGERSTAEY, Belgian Represen-tative in the Security Council, 25 August, 1972. “There should be widespread indignation on the continued imprisonment of 92,000 Pakistanis by the Government of India more than a year after the cessation of hostilities. An estimated 20,000 of these are civilians including women and children, who are innocent of any war acts except the misfortune of being caught in the middle.
“India is a signatory to the Geneva Convention which sets forth clearly the proper procedures for the handling and treatment of prisoners of war. India shows no compassion for these unfortunate individuals and amazingly it appears that most of the nations of the world are equally unconcerned. This includes the United States.
“Hostilities between Pakistan and India ceased more than a year ago yet India has made no move to free these tens of thousands of human beings.
“Rather, India has followed the illegal path of attaching political terms to their release. India has told Pakistan it will hold these prisoners as hostages until such time as Pakistan extends formal recognition to the Government of Bangladesh. This is cruelty of the grossest sort. Many of’ those beings held in illegal bandage & Thy India are innocent children born in the prison camps. Yet India continues to tell these prisoners that, despite the war’s end, they will be held until their country meets other conditions beyond those reached at the cessa-tion of fighting.”
(MR. BOB SJKES, Member. U.S. House of Representatives. 1 February. 1973).
The world press had also expressed the concern & an-xiety of the world community through their columns & editorials. Some extracts from these world press comments are reproduced below:
“This (India’s contention that Pakistani prisoners of war had surrendered to the joint command of India and ‘Mukti Bahini’) is not supported by the historic event and also does not appear in historic photographs of the signing ceremony or the act of surrender. In these photo-graphs, no representative whatsoever or Mukti Bahini appears at the ceremony.
“India alone is bearing expenses for maintenance of Pakistani prisoners of war after the end of hostility, that is to say, for more than five months, and their expenses are almost one-third of the total expenditure met by India on Bengali refugees during the whole year. This also ex-poses India’s myth that the burden of refugees was a threat to her national economy and she had therefore invaded East Pakistan.”
(—Le Monde, Paris, 21 May, 1972)
What makes the situation uglier is that these prisoners of war include women and children many of them infants. If, for whatever reason, there is justification for holding the captured soldiers prisoners, there does not appear to be any justification whatsoever for holding Infants and civilian women as prisoners of war. It is our view that there is a pressing human problem here which transcends the realm of politics and which cannot be left exclusive to the mercy of political antagonists”.
“After the cessation of active hostilities the prisoners were to be released and repatriated without delay except those held for trial or serving sentences Imposed by judicial processes. and why are we detaining innocent women and children, even babies\".
We have no moral justification for detaining prisoners as hostages for the recognition of Bangladesh The soldiers had surrendered to our army and the joint command idea is nothing but fiction
TIMES OF INDL4, NEW DELHI, 7 January, 1973
. Letter to the Editor.
“No doubt there have been attempts at escape after so long a period of detention but in such circumstances deaths seem unduly harsh. Pakistani prisoners deserve to be released and there is no case of their continued deten-tion as a lever for any political advantage that may be obtained. India, as the guardian of prisoners must also discharge an obligation that can no longer be delayed by the concern for obstinacy in Dacca.”
THE LONDON TIMES, 29 January, 1973.
“But Bangladesh hasn’t helped matters with its vindic-tive threat of mass war crime trials of Pakistani prisoners and its rejection of President Bhutto’s conciliatory offers to have prior talks with the Bengali leader, Shaikh Mujibur Rahman.
“The release of prisoners, moreover, cannot legitima-tely be tide to the recognition issue. As some Indian jour-nalists have begun to point out, the Geneva Convention of 1949, to which both India and Pakistan are signatories, calls for the release and repatriation of prisoners without delay after the cessation of hostilities; If Shaikh Mujib cannot be persuaded to be more reasonable, the prisoners should be freed without his concurrence in accordance with the international law.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES, 31 January, 1973.
Now it is for all civilized nations and individuals who believe in the values of international law and morality to compel India to honour obligations under the Geneva Con-ventions and release 90,000 Pakistani POWs without any further delay.