For Nanak Singh’s parents, international boundaries do more than just separate countries. Sometimes, they gobble up loved ones.
Nanak was just seven years old in 1984 when he playfully chased his father through the fields and ended up crossing the India-Pakistan border. It was an understandable mistake, given that their house in Shanna Bedi village was located barely two kilometres from the boundary line.
The Pakistani authorities, however, seemed to care neither for Nanak’s innocence, nor his tender age. His parents haven’t seen him since.
Nanak must be 39 today, and his parents don’t know if they will recognise him if he shows up at their doorstep one day. “My only wish is to see him before I die,” his mother Pyari says as tears well up in her eyes. “I appeal to the government to help us bring him home.”
She still recalls the day Nanak ran after his father, Rattan Singh, never to return. “We lodged a police complaint quickly. There was no border security fence then, so it was easy to stray over to the other side. We may be poor and without much influence, but we still have hope,” says Pyari.
For a long time, Nanak’s family was unsure of his whereabouts. But then, in 2002, Ramdas police came over to tell them that he was lodged in a Pakistan jail under a different name — Kakar Singh.
“His name figured on the list of prisoners as Kakar Singh, but we were searching for Nanak,” says his younger brother, Baldev Singh.
“The Border Security Force later sent the Pakistani authorities a letter seeking his release, but that didn’t help. Nanak is the oldest of nine siblings, and the government is our only hope of getting him back,” he says.
The Punjab and Haryana high court’s recent notice to the Centre on a petition to ensure Nanak’s return has come as a ray of hope. “I approached many people, seeking help for this family, but to no avail. Finally, filing a public interest litigation seemed to be the only option left. It has been a long time since Pakistan sent over that list with Kakar Singh’s name in it. I will try and take the family to meet external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj soon,” the petitioner, Swaran Singh, said.