There was joy, there were tears as the three Indian prisoners who escaped the gallows of a jail in Sharjah returned home into the arms of their near and dear ones who were waiting for them at the Sri Guru Ram Dass ji International Airport in Amritsat on a warm Tuesday morning.
As the Jet Airways flight landed and the three Punjabi youths-- Kashmiri Lal, Trilochan Singh and Pradeep Kumar emerged from the airport terminal they heaved a sigh of relief as did their parents and brothers and sisters, who had lost all hope of their return after they sentenced to be hanged on charges of murder. The one man these three youngsters from the Doaba belt of Punjab and their families had to thank was Dubai based businessman and philanthropist S.P. Singh Oberoi, who paid blood money in Dinars equivalent to Rs18 lakh Indian currency in a court in Sharjah.They were freed on May 29 from the Sharjah Central Jail.
While Rs 12 lakh was the contribution of Oberoi, the remain amount of the blood money was collected by the families of the three freed prisoners. Besides arranging for the money, Oberoi put in a great deal of efforts including arranging for lawyers to argue the case of the three in court.
"Our 'parmata' (god) is Oberoi uncle, without him we could not have come back," the three said as their relatives and panchayat members of their respective villages garlanded and hugged them. Their aged fathers and mothers just stood still with folded hands before the Dubai based businessman who told them to thank the 'waheguru'.
The three convicts were involved in bootlegging, which led to the murder of a fellow Indian Bikram Jeet Singh in October 2008. They were given a death sentence in 2009. Nobody came forward to help the poor boys who were victims of circumstances as they arrived in Dubai to work for betterment for their families back home but were not able to sustain themselves or payback the loans which their families taken for sending them to the 'green pastures' of the Middle East.
Oberoi saw the plight of these boys and made it an aim to get them a new lease of life. He even supported their families in India and sponsored their trips to Dubai and Sharjah to meet their sons in jail.
The story of all the three as narrated to the media was almost the same. While Pradeep Kumar of Hoshiarpur district and Kashmiri Lal of Nawanshahar district worked in companies, Trilochan also of Hoshiarpur was a carpenter who set up his own little shop. The two who were employed in companies took to brewing and selling illicit liquor after their employers stopped paying their salaries after a couple of months of their landing in Sharjah. Trilochan on the other hand also took to bootlegging to earn some extra money to send back home.
"A murder took place in a locality where we were staying and cops then picked us up and threw us behind bars. We were tortured and forced to sign a confessional statement, which led to our being sentenced to death," they said.
The three have got a message for their Punjabi brethren who are anxious to go abroad for earning dollars and dinars----" If you get a job for even Rs 3000-5000 a month, do it but do not go abroad".
Indians in Dubai/ Sharjah
According to Oberoi in some labour camps on the outskirts of Dubai, procuring and selling liquor is a flourishing, albeit illegal trade. Different groups of workers operate in their own areas, and understandably, one group doesn’t allow the other to enter their area and trouble erupts when this unwritten rule is breached. " Intrusions lead to clashes and violence. When the fight becomes really brutal, deaths occur. The Dubai police keep a close eye on such activities", said Oberoi, who is the chairman and managing director of Apex Group of Companies. Back in Punjab he organises mass marriages for the less privileged.
He said presently there were 60 Indians lodged in 11 different cases in jails in Dubai and Sharjah. This includes the 17 who were convicted about two years back on charges of murdering a Pakistani after a brawl.
"We are hopeful that the case of the 17 will be settled soon as after the last three court hearings, a decision has practically been arrived at. The blood money in this case will be around Rs one crore in Indian currency to be paid to the family of the victim", he added while praising the efforts of the Indian Consulate in Dubai for their efforts in following up the cases of all Indian nationals who were behind bars.