Flight-Lieutenant Sudhesh Kumar Chibber, Indian Airforce

Flight Lieutenant Sudhesh Kumar Chibber

During the 1971 Indo-Pak war Flt.Lt S.K Chibber was based with Squadron 108 "Hawkeyes".
"I can't come now. The enemy is being hit hard... I'm having fun," wrote Flight-Lieutenant Sudhesh Kumar Chibber to his elder brother Naresh on December 8, 1971. Naresh had informed him about their mother being ill, and had asked him to come down to Delhi.

Three days later Sudhesh went missing. His Sukhoi Su-7 on a mission to Mianwali in Pakistan to target a tanker train carrying fuel was hit by a missile. The aircraft went down, but not before accomplishing its mission. As the other planes in his formation returned to Indian airspace, they saw something popping out of Sudhesh's aircraft. "They said it looked like a parachute," recalls Naresh. Later, Pakistan Radio confirmed that he along with some others had been captured. That was in 1971. "Till today, we are living in the hope that he will return," says Naresh, whose parents died soon after Sudhesh's disappearance.

For Sudhesh's sister Sudarshan, each ring of the doorbell holds the promise of his return. At every Rakshabandhan, she ties a rakhi around a tulsi plant. "We showed Sudhesh's picture to Roop Lal and he recognised him and said they had been in the same jail for some time," says Sudarshan. "He is alive. Why doesn't anyone listen?"

Their grief aside, the government's attitude, they say, is one of apathy. "To date we have never been called for Independence Day or Republic Day functions. It's as if we don't exist," says Naresh. The family has turned to faith. They travelled across the country showing Sudhesh's photo to pundits. "All of them said he was alive," says Sudarshan. "Some said he had lost his memory. I don't know what to believe?"

Sudarshan and Naresh Chibber