Thirty years after he went missing, the news of Surjeet Singh’s release from a Pakistan jail was received in his native village amid tears and celebration.
“Tun murh suhagan ho gayi” (you’ve got your husband back), an excited villager told Surjeet’s wife Harbans Kaur.
“He has got a second life, and so have I,” said Harbans with tears of joy in her eyes.
In the three decades that her husband has been away much has changed. She has had to sell off their old home and moved into a new one, couldn’t educate their four children as she and Surjeet had planned to, and married off two of their daughters Parminder and Rani.The list of people who have gone missing from their lives permanently has also grown. Harbans has lost one son to a brain disease, seven of Surjeet’s nine brothers and sisters have died, and his father too passed away in 2003.
Nevertheless on Wednesday, nothing and no one could dampen their joy. “We are planning a grand welcome. We will go to the Attari to receive him. We have started collecting funds to arrange for his welcome,” said Joginder Singh, a villager of Fidda.
Surjeet’s son Kulwinder told media, “We are all eagerly awaiting my father’s release from Lahore jail. He completed his term years ago. Finally, he is being released. We will welcome him at Attari border.”
“Though we are very happy that my father is being released, we appeal to the Pakistan government to release Sarabjit Singh also,” he added.
The family had lost all hope of seeing Surjeet again when a prisoner released from Pakistan in 2005, Gurjit Singh, told them that he had met Surjeet in Kot Lakhpat jail. Gurjit also brought a letter written by Surjeet, in which the latter stated that he was due to be released in 2010.
According to Kulwinder, his father, who was a Border Security Force trooper had inadvertently crossed over into Pakistan in 1981 and was arrested there. He was charged with spying and sent to prison.
(With inputs from agencies)