The Indian Experience With Geneva Convention: Alive Only in Talks, Dead in Reality

The experience of India with the Geneva Convention has always been substandard. This so-called set of rules has always been inadequate in terms of serving justice to the victims.
This article emphases on the violations of “Article 13 of the Geneva Convention” which states that “Prisoner Of Wars (POW) must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the country, under whose captivity, the POW is in, which leads to death or seriously endangers the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited.”

Torture of Indian Soldiers by PLA

In the year 1975 when Indian Army and PLA was preparing for the exchange of military dialogues a horrifying incident was reported by the commanding officer of 3/ Gurkha Rifles, Lt. Col. B.R Shah in Tulung La, Arunachal Pradesh.

These reports were about the tortured bodies of soldiers of Assam Rifles retrieved by Lt Col. B.R Shah after they were suspected of being absconding for days. He promptly reported how these soldiers were tortured by the PLA when he went there to recover their bodies. In an interview, Lt Col. Shah stated that “there were marks from cigarette burns all over, and at odd places, they had been punctured by bayonets. This was the only indication that at least some of them had been alive when they were captured, and not killed in the firing.”

Following lackadaisical approach to the issue the government of the day took no steps regarding the matter of torture of Indian soldiers by the PLA and not only this, the issue was never raised as any violation of law by the Indian government on any international forum.

There can be more such incidents that might not have been reported in the open domain. The recent skirmish in Galwan Valley came with the sacrifice of Colonel Santosh Babu along with 20 other soldiers during the India-China disengagement process in Eastern Ladakh. The Chinese Army deceived with disengagement consent and attacked Indian commanding officer Colonel Santosh Babu and his 20 compeers with stones and clubs wrapped in barbed wire.

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Torture of Indian Soldiers by Pakistan Soldiers

The torture of Indian soldiers by the Pakistan Army is a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention. Even by the fact that during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, over 90 thousand Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the Indian Army following the defeat of Pakistan, the Indian Army was reported to be considerate and genuine with Pakistani prisoners of war but on other hand, Pakistan Army mercilessly massacred civilians and kidnapped soldiers of Indian Army. In a report, it was said that over 54 Indian soldiers were incarcerated after Bangladesh Liberation War, and never came back to India. The captivation of these soldiers was not enough for them, that Pakistan kept delegations of India from the reach of the location of these soldiers so that India could not intervene to release them.

The Case of Captain Saurabh Kalia and Five other Soldiers in Kargil war, 1999

During the year 1999, the India-Pakistan standoff made a violent turn in Tiger hills that resulted in a full-fledged war in Kargil. The war of Kargil was bravely won by India without having any territorial changes and even today. But, Pakistan brutally tortured and killed 5 Indian soldiers and a Captain of Indian Army. Around May 14th, 1999, Captain Saurabh Kalia along with Sepoy Mula Ram Bidiasar, Naresh Singh Sinsinwar, Arjunram Baswana, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, and Bhika Ram Mudh of 4 Jat Regiment were doing a reconnaissance patrol when they all were captured being unaware of the presence of Pakistani Army at those heights.

The post-mortem report revealed about third-degree torture of these Indian soldiers. The autopsy report revealed that “When their bodies were handed over to India, the autopsy reports revealed extreme torture including cigarette burns, ear drums pierced with hot iron rods and amputated limbs”

This incident is still regarded as the “worst case of violations of the Geneva Convention”. But, even being 22 years of Kargil War, no step has been taken by the Indian Government to serve justice for Indian brave-hearts.

The Case of Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa and Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja in Kargil War, 1999

The words of Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa, who survived the Pakistan Army’s atrocity after being captured during the 1999 conflict, still haunt the ears when he said “death would have been a better solution”.

Flight Lieutenant Kambapati Nachiketa Rao was fighting alone against the troops of Pakistan when his aircraft engine flamed out. Nachiketa was later captured after he ran out of bullets. He was sent to a prison in Rawalpindi, Pakistan where he was mistreated and mercilessly beaten up by frustrated Pakistani soldiers. Luckily, he survived and returned to India after the intervention of Indian government and International authorities but the fate did not gone same with the Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, who was thrashed and killed while attempting to rescue Nachiketa.

The autopsy report of the brave Squadron Leader revealed that he was shot multiple times in the head, chest and abdomen. This case was also regarded as a violation of Article 13 of the Geneva Convention but no significant efforts have taken in this issue by the Indian Government

Another incident of violation of the Geneva Convention about the Indian soldier Chandu Chavan, who was brutally tortured by the Pakistan Army after crossing the border accidentally in 2016. He came out from Pakistan custody after interventions made by Indian Army official’s. He was drugged heavily with injections during captivity that even made him unable to walk after his release.

Furthermore, not only soldiers but also innocent civilians were not speared. One of the incident of Arunachal Pradesh, where a 21-year-old boy was abducted by Chinese Army and beaten up badly while tied up in a bed. There are many more incidents reported till date where civilians from Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh were abducted, tortured and even blunt to death by PLA.

Pakistan’s Army not only has a poor record on following the Geneva Convention but have blood on their hands for targeting unarmed civilians along with Indian Army personnel. The Mirpur Massacre of 1947, is one such incident when more than thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees were killed by Pakistan Army and their proxy Pathan tribesmen in Kashmir.

Way Forward

These incidents of torture of Indian soldiers and ignorance of the Indian government are those major issues that have given advantages to enemies while it somehow puts down the morale of Indian spirit on law and justice. We cannot even appurtenant famous saying, “Justice Delayed is Justice Delayed” in the case as “Justice is still not served”. India suffered violent standoffs on borders since the day of independence and lost many soldiers in violations of ceasefires over the decades and still, nothing has been changed in the government policies regarding the concerns over such violations which still continue as seen in the recent Galwan clash with China which also regrettably was put under the carpet.

During an interview, Lt. Col. B.R. Shah who reported the matter of abuse of soldiers of Assam Rifles by Chinese Army said that “we never learn any lessons. I felt terrible at what had happened, and how we just accepted it. Is this how we accept loss every time? The problem with us is we cry for seven days, and then go back to sleep.” The government policies failed to handle such issues in most of times, the justice still remained repudiated for these brave warriors.

The first thing that should have been done is the ‘Acknowledgement’ of these incidents by the Indian government. Also there needs to be standard tactic of retaliation in such cases especially when Indian soldiers are keep getting kidnapped and tortured by enemies should be there. As we know our neighbour are not inclined to follow the right line at one fell swoop.

Secondly, there is need of raising voice against such incidents on international platforms by Indian Authorities, especially when international law has been adopted and enforced regarding fair treatment of prisoners of war (POW).

Thirdly, An autonomous organization should have been set up to protect the “Human Rights” and welfare of soldiers who have been taken in captivate.


  • Aditi Dubey

    A graduate in Economics from Delhi University. A master in defence and strategic studies from NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. She worked with Janes Defence as a research analyst in the defence data development domain. An ethical hacker, she takes interest in issues related to military tactics, international laws, arms acts and tribunals.

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