With moist eyes, families of 17 youth from Punjab sat on the pavements of Jantar Mantar here reciting hymns from scriptures seeking intervention from "God and Government" to save their loved ones facing death penalty in UAE.
The families of the youth facing death sentence in UAE for murdering a Pakistani man today took their fight for release of their relatives to the capital seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention in the matter.
They sat for a prayer meeting at Jantar Mantar, the dharna hotspot of the capital, reciting verses from scriptures.
"We are here to beg for the lives of our children. Please do something immediately to save their lives. They are our breadwinners," said Manjeet Kaur, mother of Sukhjinder Singh (22) who is on death row.
Sukhjinder, a carpenter from Karnal, left for the Gulf two-and-half years ago and the family heard his voice last on March 28, a day before he was awarded death sentence by a Sharia court in UAE.
"He spoke to us. He did not tell us that he was in jail and we did not suspect anything amiss. But the next day, the news in television and newspapers struck us like lightning," Kaur said.
Jaswinder Singh, brother of another convict, said, "We are here to beg to God and Government to save the lives of our loved ones."
Similar was the case of other families also. Most of them received telephone calls a day before the awarding of death sentence and none of them told that they were in jail and were to be sentenced the next day.
Most of the 17 men on death row are labourers or carpenters and used to call their unsuspecting families once a week. "He never told us that he was in trouble," Rajwinder, sister of labourer Navjot Singh (27) from Riakot, said.
The jailed Indians used to call them every week from the jail, the families claimed.
Arjesh Kumar, whose brother-in-law Sachin Verma (24) is among the convicts, said they received a two-minute call from him on March 31 in which he asked whether they knew about the conviction.
"He asked us whether we saw the news in the newspaper and then he told us he was also convicted," Kumar said, adding they did not inform Verma's mother as she was paralysed.
"Now she knows about it from newspaper and TV channels," he said. Kumar said his brother tried to meet Verma in jail but was not allowed as he was not a blood relation.
"We were earlier told in July by UAE authorities that he was jailed due to some fight after having alcohol," he said adding Verma spent Rs 95,000 to go to UAE for work.
Jagdeep, a relative of another convict Dharampal Singh (27), said his brother used to call every week and used to tell them that he will be back soon. "He used to tell us that his work was going good and he was staying near the sea-side."
The families have demanded that the government bear all expenses involved in filing the appeal in Sharjah besides appointing an experienced lawyer.
In a letter written to the Prime Minister by former Union Minister B S Ramoowalia on behalf of the families, it was also demanded that a nodal officer be appointed in Delhi to keep the victims' families updated about the cases.