The Punjab government has told the Punjab and Haryana high court that the condolence letter sent by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi to an army officer’s ‘widow’ was written on “presumption” and the army had not declared the officer dead.
In an affidavit filed by the district defence services welfare officer (DSWO), Tarn Taran, Lt Col Gurinderjit Singh (retd), the government has submitted that the condolence letters from the then prime minister Indira Gandhi and the army headquarters sent to the ‘widow’ of Major Kanwaljit Singh were “demi-official letters” sent in routine, based on “presumption”. His death has not been declared by the army headquarters, the DSWO has said.
The affidavit was filed on a petition by Jasbir Kaur, seeking allotment of 10 acres of land to her for honouring the martyrdom of Shaurya Chakra awardee Major Kanwaljit Singh, who had gone missing during the Indo-Pak war of 1971.
Major Kanwaljit was awarded the Shaurya Chakra, a peace-time gallantry award, for an incident in 1971 before the Indo-Pak war in which he had saved the lives of his fellow soldiers during a grenade attack. He had picked up the grenade and thrown it away, and had lost his fingers in the process.
The petitioner had submitted a hand-written letter in Hindi of 1973, signed by Indira Gandhi and addressed to Jasbir Kaur, saying “The entire country is with you in your hour of shock and grief and crores of Indian brothers are indebted to Major Kanwaljit Singh, who sacrificed his life for the defence of the nation.”
Another letter produced by the petitioner is from Gen GG Bewoor from the army headquarters sent to Kaur in 1973, condoling Singh’s death.
The affidavit says that as per the communication received by the ministry of external affairs, Major Kanwaljit was languishing in a Pakistani jail. “He is presumed to be held as a prisoner of war in Pakistan. Neither the husband of the petitioner has been declared dead by the army authorities, nor the petitioner has submitted any such authority to this office,” says the affidavit.
The case will come up for hearing on April 10.
Earlier, the government had said that Kaur’s case could not be considered for allotment of land to her under the Punjab Package Deal Properties (Disposal) Rules, as the name of Major Kanwaljit was included in the list of prisoners of the 1971 war, as per the records of the defence ministry, and the petitioner had not produced any evidence of his death.