Skip to main content

Exiling a missing soldier? How Govt of India 'disowned' human rights of a braveheart

Rann of Kutch: India's border with Pakistan 
By Pushkar Raj*
As the world celebrated the International Human Rights Day on December 10, one wondered if a missing soldier of the country has any of rights. This might sound an insulting in a country which swears by the breath, life, and death of its soldiers. But, what if a soldier not only fails to avail the basic right of identity and dignity, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also becomes a victim of violation of the Article 9 of the Indian Constitution?
Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee, SS35271W, 7/8 GR (would have been Brigadier today), is languishing in some dingy basement of a notorious Pakistan jail, being yelled at by names such as, ‘Mental’, ‘Bangali’ ‘Salim’, but certainly not ‘Tanaji’, as he was lovingly called in his unit.
Captain Sanjit left for patrolling with his platoon on the night of April 19/20, 1997, in the Rann of Kutch bordering Pakistan. The next day, 15 of platoon members returned without the Captain and his shadow, Lance Naik Ram Bahadur Thapa. They have not retuned since.
Captain Sanjit’s father died on November 28, 2020, after waiting for his youngest and dearest child for 23 years. Captain Sanjit’s mother, aged 81, still waits for her son. Lance Naik Thapa’s family whereabouts are unknown.

Army response 

The Army records – April 24-28, 1997 – reveal that Captain Sanjit was handed over by Pakistani fishermen to one Major Khiyani of Pak Army between the border post (BP) 1162 and 1165. Captain Umar of Umarkot post joined him on April 28 as “two missing persons of Indian army were taken to interog (sic) centre on outskirts of Hyderabad.”
Captain Sanjit
The Army did not apprise the ailing father about any efforts it had made to trace, one of their brightest (he was a black belt in Karate and an obstacle lead runner), who now was in enemy custody.  The Army did not share court of inquiry findings with the family till date saying, “it is merely descriptive.” However, in February 2005, Bhattacharjee Senior received a letter from the then defence minister, regretting “untimely demise of his son who was earlier declared missing”! 
In May 2010, the President’s Secretariat wrote to Kamla Bhattacharjee, mother of Captain Sanjit, a letter informing her that her son’s name, had been added to an existing missing POWs (prisoners of war) list, known as “Missing 54” , and had been taken up with Pakistani authorities at highest level, including “during Agra Summit in July 2001”, several times from 1997 onwards.
The letter had come in response to a half a dozen of petitions and reminders sent to the Army Southern Command, defence ministry, and three Prime Ministers. It was a disappointing response from the Supreme Commander of world’s second largest Army; it broke the heart of the family.

Captain Sanjit not a PoW

Paradoxically, the Captain is not a prisoner of war as he is made out to be! India was not at war with Pakistan on the night he got struck with ailing Lance Naik Ram Bahadur due to a sudden flood.
With an unpredictable tide, the Rann turned treacherous, deceiving the best map reader of the academy, who, either swept or marooned on the other side of border, rescued by Pakistani fishermen, was handed over to the authorities, a usual practice by fishermen of two countries on a shifting terrain.
Captain Sanjit’s situation was no different than a fisherman going on his usual chore, as he was on a peace time usual patrolling, except that he was carrying ammunition instead of nets, which he never used against anyone. India has swapped hundreds of its citizens with Pakistan since April 1997, agreeing that it is a humanitarian than a political issue. 
Then, is it not a worse case of a bad luck, abandonment, pain, leading to a slow death, like the hero of Veer Zaara, who had personal motives, while Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee is suffering for the nation. Captain Sanjit is a real not a reel hero, and therefore deserves a higher pedestal than other stars, whichever field they might come from. 
It is notable that Captain Sanjit is not yet dead because there is no proof of it, except a signed piece of paper from an insensitive bureaucrat, unworthy of the value of the ink it was written with. He is missing, not forgotten, at least not by her mother who has a right to know: if alive, where is he? If dead, where is his grave!

Road ahead

Without naming, to say, that the response, role, and conduct of authorities has been disappointing, is an understatement. The government argument is that Pakistan has consistently denied existence of any PoWs, therefore, it cannot do anything about it, despite knowing that they are, there. It has not shared reasons for refusing to approach the International Court of Justice and making use of Geneva Conventions (being a signatory of it) despite Gujarat High Court’s order directing it to do so in 2011.
The government’s conduct demonstrates disowning of our brave hearts amounting to exiling the missing soldiers, an act prohibited under the article nine of the UN declaration that reads, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”.
India, however, does not consist of bureaucrats and politicians who form the government. Captain Sanjit and Lance Naik Ram Bahadur belong to a 1.2 million strong family that will not forget its lost members. One is certain that the rest of 1.2 billion people acknowledge the sacrifice of their youth and support the defenders of their motherland to have a rightful place, which, certainly is not the jail of an enemy country!
A soldier might be lost, incarcerated, tortured and, like a formidable tree cut into two, die bit by bit uncared, but he/she must not be forgotten. If none other, they have a right to be remembered!
----
*Former national general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), who has taught political science in Delhi University, currently based in Melbourne, is buddy of Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee and SS-54 Officers Training Academy (then) Madras batchmate. He has also written a letter to the National Human Rights Commission to intervene

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They