TODAY -

Cessation of hostilities to POW

Kamal Baruah *



POWs are either slaughtered or enslaved since human history. We saw Gladiators go violent confrontation in Roman Empire. And in history there lies no glory. Such genocides by Nazis have no place in 21st century. Our neighbour is a no-good either who liked to cause trouble and made some real gaffes.

They were left at the other side of the hill. With 303 Rifle, camouflage Uniform, a pair of combat Boot and survival Kitbag things made worse to make way through the thick rainforest. They were literally trapped in dense forest.

During Jungle Warfare, trainee witnesses such harsh adventure that needed for military to survive and fight in jungle terrain. We learned survival techniques STOP. If you get lost in the jungle then follow STOP. It stands for Stop Think Observe Plan. We were trained to look Orientation in the jungle, walks in one general direction, follow animal trails and establish priorities to stay alive. That helped us incredibly.

There is always an official way of doing something. That is Procedure. As combatant soldier, we studied POW - Prisoner of War at Basic Training very attentively. We closed our eyes, imagining warrior captured by a belligerent power during war. We fought one war Kargil in 1999 during the span of 20 years with Blue Uniform. Now India faces another war after Pulwama. During a war, a soldier faces four possibilities namely victorious and safe, wounded, killed in action or Prisoner of War and life of a POW is simply horrific and humiliating.

In the early history of warfare there was no recognition of a status of POW, for the defeated enemy was either killed or enslaved by the victor. During religious wars, it was considered nonbelievers to death, but in the time of the Julius Caesar a captive could get freedman within the Roman Empire.

As warfare changed during Middle Ages, European philosopher Hugo Grotius in his On the Law of War and Peace 1625 says that victors had the right to enslave their enemies, but he advocated exchange and ransom instead. The Treaty of Westphalia 1648 marked the end of the era of widespread enslavement. The French Montesquieu in his 1748 The Spirit of Laws wrote that the only right in war that the captor had over a prisoner was to prevent him from doing harm.

During American Civil War (1861–65) and in the Franco-German War (1870–71) it improved a lot for wounded soldiers and of prisoners. In 1874 a conference at Brussels prepared a declaration. In 1899 and again in 1907 international conferences at The Hague drew up rules of conduct.

During World War I, POWs were numbered in the millions. Soon after the war the world gathered at Geneva 1929 that ratified by France, Germany, Great Britain, US and many other nations, but not by Japan or the Soviet Union.

During World War II millions of prisoner from Soviet Union to Nazi, France, Poland UK and USSR experienced excellent to barbaric treatment. The US and Great Britain maintained the standards set by The Hague and Geneva conventions for Axis POWs. Germany treated its British, French, and American prisoners well but treated Soviet, Polish, and other Slavic POWs with genocidal brutality. 6 million of Jews were systematically murdered by Nazi regime at Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of European Jews still survived and their suffering exposed Hitler’s state-sponsored persecution.

During the German invasion in 1941, 5.7 million Red Army POWs were starved to death. The Japanese treated British, American, and Australian harshly, and only 60 percent of POWs survived. Soon after the end of World War II the Geneva Convention of 1929 was revised and set forth in the Geneva Convention of 1949. During the conflict prisoners might be repatriated to a neutral nation for custody.

At the end of hostilities all prisoners are to be released without delay, except those held for trial or serving sentences imposed by judicial processes. Article 13 states that any unlawful captivity that leads to seriously endanger the health of POW is prohibited. It also prohibits POWs from being intimidated and insulted.

In Vietnam War, US POWs were tortured, isolated and psychologically abused. They were paraded and forced to confess to war crimes. 55 American servicemen died in captivity and 1600 were still designated MIA - missing in action. When American POWs surrendered in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, they feared the worst.

However masses of Iraqi gave up later and 1.7 Lakh of Iraqi were taken by Coalition Forces. The stakes are enormous where more than 2.5 Lakh people have died in Syria recently. Syria’s cessation of hostilities is well known. Half the country has been uprooted and fled.

At Bangladesh Liberation War 90,368 Pakistani were released by India in accordance with the Simla Agreement. China took 3968 India’s POW during 1962 Chinese aggression. During the 1999 Kargil War, fighter pilot Flight Lt K Nachiketa was a POW for eight days custody at Pakistan. Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja was shot dead by the Pakistani soldiers after he ejected that hit by a missile.

In another instance, Captain Saurabh Kalia and five other soldiers were tortured and mutilated their bodies. After Pulwama incident, India bombarded terror camps Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti inside Pakistan. The enemy tried misadventure at India’s air space. An F16 gunned down by Wg Cdr Abhinandan who later got captive in Pakistan as POW. Later he was released with honor after international pressure.

POWs are either slaughtered or enslaved since human history. We saw Gladiators go violent confrontation in Roman Empire. And in history there lies no glory. Such genocides by Nazis have no place in 21st century.

Our neighbour is a no-good either who liked to cause trouble and made some real gaffes. Abhinandan isn’t the only POW, there are 54 others remain forgotten in time. The Missing 54’ were given the status of MIA or killed in action after the 1971 Indo-Pak war. They might be languishing in Pak jails.

Upon return, they might reveal those physical and mental tortures someday. For them torture is bad, but death is simpler and third degree part is messages from the beyond. The world should call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
TThe writer is an Ex Air Warrior and currently working for SBI Dispur and can be contacted at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 09, 2019.



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