Gautam Dheer, Apr 28, 2012 : Deccan Herald —For over three decades, 61-year old and ailing Angrez Kaur lived a life in tremulous dilemma unsure if her husband was alive or if she was a widow.
Her son Amrik Singh has only seen his father Surjit Kumar, a Border Security Force constable, in pictures hung on the walls in the house.
He was barely a month-old when Surjit went ‘missing’ in the 1971 war with Pakistan from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
He was a Prisoner of War (Pow) in Pakistan. Three years after the war, the BSF declared Singh dead, a martyr in records.
But then the unexpected happened.
Indian prisoners repatriated from Pakistan jails in 2004 revealed that Surjit Singh was still alive and languishing in a Pakistan jail. Seven years later, the family’s endless wait for Surjit to return continues.
Kaur and his son Amrik have little choice but to cling on to hope of being one with Singh in this lifetime. BSF records still read him as a martyr and the Indian authorities haven’t been able to make tangible headway to secure the release of a martyr”.
“It has been over 40 years of pain. It’s not entirely impossible to reconcile with the loss of a loved one if you are sure of it. But it’s the prolonged uncertainty over your husband’s life that haunts me everyday,’’ Kaur said.
Ferozepur resident Satish Kumar Marwaha vouches for the fact that Surijit is alive. Surjit and Satish were in the same barrack for several years until Satish was released from a Pakistan jail.
But Surjit’s family hasn’t given up. And hope comes from Pakistan’s former
Federal Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney.
Amrik and his uncle Dr Ajay Mehra, a medical practitioner in Faridkot, met Burney a few days ago. Hope rekindled after Burney assured them of all possible help to secure Surjit’s release.
Talking to Deccan Herald, Amrik said:
“ My mother at times gets up past midnight and wants me to talk to her about my father. She feels happy when I tell her that her prayers will be heard soon. She tells me to visit every Baba (godman) who comes to the village.’’
Kaur’s marriage was just two years old when her world fell apart after Surjit Singh went missing.
All she was then told by the BSF that her husband could have been captured as a PoW by Pakistan, or perhaps, may have even died in gunfire. His fate was sealed in 1974 when the BSF officially declared him dead, a martyr in their records.
Burney has been pursuing the matter in Pakistan since last year. In fact, it was Burney who called up Surjit’s family last year to reconfirm that the Indian soldier was alive and in a jail. Singh was awarded death penalty as a PoW in Pakistan. But, his sentence was eventually converted into life imprisonment.
All these decades he was kept at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore. His jail term ended in December last year, said sources. The family has repeatedly taken up the matter with the BSF. The organisation says it has held meetings with the Pakistani Rangers to facilitate Singh’s deportation.
After Surjit did not return from the border and news of Surjit going missing poured in, Kaur returned to her parents in Faridkot town in Punjab. Kaur chose not to remarry. Amrik said, he has approached all agencies for help, but his father still languishes in Pakistan jail.
The Ministry of External Affairs had told Kaur in August 2005 that the BSF had taken up the matter with the Pakistan Rangers in October 2004. But nothing worked out.
Burney said he would meet Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani for the early release of Surjit.
Angrez Kaur recalls the ordeal when her husband went missing in 1971. The government told her that Surjit went missing on December 3, 1971 night from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
“Amrik was in my lap when my world crashed. Nobody was sure where my husband was. Something kept my belief that my husband was alive, despite the BSF formally declaring him dead in 1974. His photographs are the only memories. My son Amrik has picked up photography to make a living,” Kaur said.
Ashes of Indians in Pakistan
Ashes of at least 53 Indians, who died languishing in Pakistan jails, are still kept in Pakistan prisons.
The revelation was made by Ansar Burney during his recent visit to India last week.
Burney said he will take up the matter with the Pakistan government so that the ashes are brought to India and last rites can be performed by families here.