The Punjab government has refused to treat Major Kanwaljit Singh Sandhu — who went missing during the 1971 war against Pakistan and was awarded Shaurya Chakra (posthumously) — as a martyr for considering his wife’s application for allotment of land under a scheme for martyrs’ widows.
Major Sandhu of 15 Punjab regiment was awarded Shaurya Chakra for displaying gallantry and initiative of a high order on February 2, 1971, when a grenade attack by Pakistani soldiers was repelled by him and he was badly injured. He is reported to have been captured from the Hussainiwala border on December 3, 1971, during an attack by the Pakistani army.
The army officer’s wife, Jasbir Kaur, had approached the Punjab and Haryana high court, seeking directions to the Punjab government to honour the ‘martyr’ by allotting her cultivable land up to 10 acres under Rule 4 of the Punjab Package Deal Properties (Disposal) Rules, 1976. Kaur had submitted that since her husband is believed to have died during the 1971 war, although his name figures in the list of 54 Indian soldiers said to be in Pakistan’s custody, there is no confirmation report regarding that custody also.
However, in his reply filed on the petition, Lt Col Gurinderjit Singh Gill (retd), district defence services welfare officer, Tarn Taran, has submitted that the army authorities have not confirmed Major Sandhu’s death till date and he is still in Pakistan’s custody. Gill added that therefore, his wife’s case could not be considered for the allotment of cultivable land till her husband’s death is confirmed by the army.
Under the Punjab Package Deal Properties (Disposal) Rules, 1976, the Punjab government had offered to give up to 10 acres of cultivable land to legal heirs of army personnel who were killed during the Chinese aggression of 1962 or the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
The case would now come up for hearing on July 23.