Monday, January 26, 2009

POW of 1971 : AVM Pethia

Challenge can be called Air Vice Marshal Aditya Vikram Pethia’s, middle name. AVM AV Pethia, Vir Charkra, was born on 24th Sept 1943 in the Siankheda village in Gadarwala district of MP in a family of zamindars. Son of an IAS officer, AVM Pethia joined the Indian Air Force as a as a fighter pilot in 1964. He was married to Geeta in the year 1973. She has the rare distinction of representing India both in Basketball and Volleyball. His elder son is an Air Force officer like him while his younger son is a computer engineer in the United States of America.

AVM Pethia’s first posting as Flight Squadron was at Kharagpur where he used to fly the old British Vampires Aircrafts. He then moved to Siliguri, where he flied French aircrafts. He was posted in the eastern sector during the war of 1965. Later he was posted at Adampur Air Force station in Punjab. He was then selected for a flying instructor’s course in 1970.After finishing the course he came back to his fighter squadron.

The war of 1971 was a turning point in the life of AVM Pethia, as it was in the lives of twelve other Indian fighter pilots, whose planes were shot down and were taken as Prisoners of War (POW) in Pakistani jails. AVM Pethia’s nightmare lasted for five months, three days and eight hours to be precise. The memories and the torture at the hands of the enemies during his detention were enough to last for a lifetime. The reminiscences are movingly fresh and wounds still throb. Prisoners were made to sleep on a bare stone platform with no clothes and hands and feet tied up at a temperature as low as 5 degrees in Rawalpindi. Meal was offered once a day and lavatories were a figment of the imagination. Hearing such ordeals one is forced to question that what are we fighting for? Just a few peaks more or a few acres of land!! What we overlook is that we end up losing precious lives of our soldiers. If by chance a soldier is a POW then life is a series of never ending nightmares, which people like us dread even to envision. AVM Pethia was lucky to be repatriated because of his grave injuries which included broken knees, a broken collar, damaged lungs and large number of other wounds as a result of the torture. Back home doctors advised him against flying but here again his immense will power thrived and within months he went back to his first love, flying!

He was later posted as an instructor in Iraq from 1979 to 1981, where he saw the Iran- Iraq war from close quarters. A commander from a very young age AVM Pethia has commanded various stations like Lucknow, Amritsar, Secundrabad, and Jodhpur. He has the honour of being the first commandant of the Basic Flying Training School. His last posting was as a Director General of Air Force Naval Housing Board.

Even though his service was full of crests and troughs, this man of steel says that if given a chance he would again join the Indian Air Force. AVM Pethia believes that the future wars will not be based on ammunition but on economy. According to him officers today have to be more diplomat than warriors. Emphasis should be given to IT, latest technology and man management.

Presently AVM Pethia is presently settled in Bhopal and associated with the Purva Sainik Seva Parishad. He is also a frequent visitor to Matra Chaya an orphanage and an old age home in Arera Colony.

In the end all I can say is AVM Pethia, you left me speechless.