Prisoner of War – India went over this term as of late as on 27 February 2019 when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was kidnapped by the Pakistani Army. His discharge only two days after the fact on 1 March was hailed as a “harmony motion” by Pakistan and Pakistani sympathizers in India and abroad. It is something else that Pakistan was feeling the squeeze to discharge the gutsy IAF pilot because of a large group of reasons including the Geneva Convention.
However, this isn’t about the saint Wing Commander who shot down a F-16 with his MiG-21 Bison before losing his own flying machine. This article is around a departure endeavor by three Indian Air Force pilots practically like the 1963 war motion picture ‘The Great Escape’.
PoWs are essentially serving officers of any customary armed force who are gotten by the adversary and kept in imprisonment till the finish of the war, following which they are required to be repatriated to their nations of origin. While India, being a decent vote based system, kept up the tenets of commitment and regarded the standards administering war, Pakistan, which has regularly acted as a maverick state, is accepted to be as yet holding in bondage 54 Indian fighters since 1971.
Fortunately, Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) Dilip Parulkar, Flight Lieutenant MS Grewal and Flying Officer Harish Sinhji did not finish up among the Missing 54. This is their story.
A top Pakistani officer unknowingly gave them tools to escape
It was 1971. India was occupied with a noteworthy war with Pakistan on both the eastern and western fronts. Each of the three administrations of the Indian military were exacting overwhelming harm to the adversary.
The IAF was running different forays over the outskirt and besieging focuses in Pakistan and East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh). It was amid one of these missions that an IAF Sukhoi 7 air ship was brought somewhere around adversary gunfire close Zafarwal, found east of Lahore. The flying machine was steered by Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) Dilip Parulkar of the Adampur-based 26 Squadron. He parachuted down in adversary domain and was thrashed by local people before he was taken prisoner by the Pakistani powers. When he was sent to PoW camp in Rawalpindi, Parulkar was oblivious.
Each PoW camp is laid hold of by a positioned officer. The equivalent was the situation with the PoW camp at Rawalpindi. The man in control was a Pakistani Air Force officer called Squadron Leader Osman Amin. Dissimilar to other PAF officers, Amin was caring to the detainees. He kept up an expert association with the Indian PoWs and treated them with the regard they merited as troopers.
Parulkar, in 2017, would uncover what Amin talked about with the Indian PoWs.
“We used to talk about Bollywood films and our families. Other Pakistani officers had become unhappy because of the preferential treatment the Indian pilots were getting from him. Amin once gave us a cassette player so that we could listen to music. He also gave me a map out of the Atlas book which later helped us escape.”
At the PoW camp, Parulkar met other IAF PoWs: Wg Cdr BA Coelho, Sqn Ldr DS Jafa, Sqn Ldr Kamat, Flight Lieutenant MS Grewal, Flt Lt Tejwant Singh, Flt Lt Bhargava, Flt Lt Aditya Vikram Pethia, and Flying Officer Harish Sinhji, Fg Offr Chati, Fg Offr K.C. Kuruvilla, Fg Offr H.N.D. Mulla Feroze and Flight Lieutenant (later Air Chief Marshal) PC Lal. Two of the pilots, Mulla Feroze and Vikram were repatriated because of sick wellbeing in February 72 and July 72, individually.
They made a hole in an 18-inch thick prison wall
It was on 25 December 1971 when the Indian PoWs, who were for the most part individuals from the IAF, were welcomed by Amin to a Christmas party. Exploiting the casual occasion, the PoWs accumulated data on the war and were satisfied to realize that it had finished with a definitive triumph for India.
By then Parulkar had brought forth up a thrill seeker plan – to get away from the camp. In 1968, Parulkar had told his leader MS Bawa that on the off chance that he ever gets caught, he will get away.
“We fight deep inside enemy territory, and one bullet can cripple an aircraft. If I ever become a prisoner of war, I will escape.”
The time was to demonstrate the words right.
Parulkar attempted to persuade everybody to join his central goal. The others dismissed the arrangement calling it rashness and everybody realized that disappointment would mean unavoidable passing. Unflinching, Parulkar continued enduring and persuaded two regarding them: Grewal and Sinhji.
They started execution of their arrangement. The trio originally found a cell near a passage where security was not extremely high. They figured out how to move themselves to that cell and started by dealing with a 18-inch-thick divider on one side of the jail.
Consistently Parulkar and Grewal would rub off the mortar inside the divider utilizing forks, blade, scissors and a valve that they had acquired from a youthful supply kid in the jail.
Being PoWs, they were qualified for specific relaxations and were likewise provided some close to home things routinely by Red Cross. Along these lines they had the instruments expected to dive a gap in the divider. Grewal later told writer Shekhar Gupta:
“With these three-four things, we could scrape the mortar in between the bricks. We would get down to work at night, Dilip and I. I would do it for half an hour, then I would get out, then he would spend an hour there, then I would get back. We went on till 12.30 or 1 at night, while (VS) Chati and Hari Sinhji (the third person to escape with Grewal and Parulkar) kept watch.”
They wanted to escape to Afghanistan and not India
It took them right around a month to make a gap sufficiently extensive to get away. Luckily for the trio it began raining intensely on the day they made a dash for opportunity. That day was August 13, 1972. They turned out in the city beside the jail, which was associated with the Grand Trunk Road, and saw that it took after a packed commercial center. It was simple on that day in light of the fact that huge numbers of the guards were occupied with arrangements for Pakistani Independence Day which was on August 14.
Grewal reviewed that it was likely a motion picture demonstrate that had finished which drawn out “the rickshaws, tongas, yelling, and the typical Indian scene”.
“We were like anybody else on the road,” he said. The explanation for it was likewise on the grounds that they were wearing customary Pathan suits. The suits stopped by opportunity to them when Parulkar’s folks sent him three sets of garments that resembled Pathan suits.
The three had cash on them – enough to enable them to make an agreeable break. Back then, the PoWs were paid Rs 57 every month. They had with them chocolates, apricots, dense milk tins, and so forth, for the street.
The Indian Air Force officers had deliberately contemplated a guide of the district and had attracted up designs to run away to Afghanistan. The thought behind getting away to Afghanistan and not India was the precise examination that intersection the outskirt with India was excessively dangerous around then. Along these lines the three needed to move towards Landi Khana – a train station nearest to Afghanistan fringe in Peshawar – and from that point enter Afghanistan. Their arrangement was to come back to India from Afghanistan.
Yet, they submitted their greatest mix-up in the arrangement: they didn’t realize that Landi Khana had stopped to exist!
The Pak officer who helped save their lives
They took various transport rides so as to reach Landi Khana yet fizzled in light of the fact that the station had been shut by the British in 1931 and nobody in the region had any thought that there was previously a spot with that name.
They were wheeling and dealing with a cab driver at Landi Kotal, a spot some place around the old Landi Khana, when the suspicious representative of a Tehsildar came up to them.
“The tehsildar called some people, they took us to a so-called prison and locked us up. They searched us. We had PoW ID cards. They were in English. The people there, none of them could read English. So, one of them takes these three cards, he goes to the Tehsildar.”
The Tehsildar at that point took them to the workplace of a political operator called Burki in binds. The three Indian air warriors said that Burki treated them well.
At the point when the Tehsildar asked them their identity, the three guaranteed that they were aviators of the Pakistan Air Force from Lahore on a leave of 10 days and were going to Landi Khana as travelers. The three IAF officers figured out how to trick the Tehsildar into trusting that they were surely PAF pilots and made him call the ADC to the Chief of Pakistani Air Force. At this point Osman Hamid had turned into an ADC, and the trio realized that.
The motivation behind why the three called up the ADC was on the grounds that without him every one of the three would have wound up dead in the Tehsildar’s jail. The nearby experts in Pakistan were especially merciless to Indian military work force.
Dilip Parulkar addressed the ADC on telephone in a coded language. The brilliant Pakistani ADC rapidly comprehended the circumstance and, despite the fact that he realized that the three were PoWs who attempted to get away, misled the Pakistani Tehsildar about their characters.
“The ADC said, ‘Give the phone to the tehsildar’. I gave him the phone. He very calmly told him, ‘Ye hamare aadmi hain (These are our men)’.”
The three were taken back to the PoW camp after they were recognized as IAF men. At the season of the episode with the Tehsildar, the three were only five miles or around 8 kilometers from the Afghan fringe.
After three months, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at that point chief of Pakistan, tended to the PoWs and proclaimed their repatriation.
On December 1, 1972, the three were among the individuals who come back to a saint’s welcome at Wagah fringe. In any case, the account of the three IAF men had reached home before them.