Even as Punjab and Haryana are fighting over Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, Arvind Kaur, daughter of Avtar Singh Aulakh, a superintendent engineer who was posted in the SYL Canal project, said: “Can I get my father back?”
Aulakh was killed by terrorists on July 23, 1990, in his Sector-26 office in Chandigarh when he was attending a meeting with other engineers.
“The Punjab government has now announced to give back farmers’ land. The farmers are rejoicing, but who would bring back my father who was killed for no fault of his. I feel the vacuum which no one can fill,” said Arvind with tears in her eyes. “The very mention of SYL Canal brings gloom in the family,” she said.
Aulakh was 54 when he was shot dead. “It was no age for a person to go. There has been not a single day when I have not remembered him,” said Arvind.
“Why security was not provided to him and other engineers of the SYL Canal project when it was such a controversial issue?” she questioned.
Arvind’s husband Capt BS Gurunay (retd) chose to stay in the house which Aulakh built about three decades ago at Phase 3, SAS Nagar, and as a tribute to his father-in-law, he has named the house “Avtarasheesh” (Avtar’s blessings). He had not done many changes in the house. Aulakh’s life-size portrait hangs on the lobby wall of the house.
Gurunay, who remembers his father-in-law as a brave person, says the issues are raked by politicians for which the common people suffer. “He was getting threats but he never let his family know about that,” he added. “We experience the same grief every time an innocent person is killed,” said Gurunay, who had married Arvind over a year ago when Aulakh was shot dead.
Their daughter Divya, who was four-month-old then, is 26 now. “I missed an important part of my life as I did not get the love and company of my grandfather,” said Divya, for whom Aulakh’s old photo album is a priced possession.
Aulakh was an engineering graduate in civil trade from the Indian institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, and was a thorough professional and a good human being, said Arvind.
Aulakh’s wife Amarjeet Kaur died four years ago. “Each day of her life after my father’s death passed in grief and she was inconsolable,” said Arvind.
Arvind, who is MSc in zoology and PhD, has a grouse from then government that her request for a job on compassionate grounds was turned down on a plea that after getting married, she was not dependent on her father.
“The untimely death of my father shattered our family. Relatives who used to respect my father, stood against my mother, seeking a share in the property. I had to fight a long legal battle to save our property,” she said.
Aulakh tried to stop terrorists
The then chief engineer of the project, ML Sekhri, died on the spot while another engineer SK Goel was injured in the terror attack. When Aulakh tried to intervene and asked terrorists not to resort to violence, they fired bullets at him from a point-blank range. He died on the way to Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. A Class 4 employee jumped out of the window to save his life. The construction of the canal was stopped after the attack.
Goel, who was injured in the attack, was attached with the irrigation department as consultant to advice the state government on inter-state water issues after retirement. He is camping in Delhi these days and supervising Punjab’s case in the Supreme Court.