So near yet so far. Just when Dalbir Kaur (58) was getting ready to welcome her brother Sarabjit Singh back to India after a 22-year-long struggle, she got the shock of her life.With Pakistan clarifying on Tuesday that it was Surjeet Singh, not Sarabjit, who was to be released, Dalbir has braced herself for the battle ahead.
"I felt hurt when I heard that Pakistan had taken a U-turn, but now I have regained my composure," she said.
"Mera jazba aur bhi mazboot ho gaya hai. Jab tak main zinda hoon main ladti rahoongi. Ek din main apne bhai ko jail se nikal ghar le aaoongi (My passion has become even stronger. I will continue to fight as long as I am alive. One day I will get my brother out of jail)," she asserted.
The struggle for her brother's freedom has become her life's mission. Single-mindedly and almost single-handedly, Dalbir has been fighting against all odds.
It was a letter that changed her life back in 1991, when she learnt that Sarabjit was in a Pakistani jail and had been awarded the death sentence for his alleged involvement in the 1990 Multan and Lahore bomb blasts.
Dalbir could have resigned herself to her fate, but she chose the thorny path. Dalbir has knocked at the doors of top politicians on both sides of the border, held demonstrations, offered prayers and even gone to Pakistan twice (2008 and 2011).
According to her family, she has met as many as 126 politicians so far, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. She has also approached Pakistani human rights activists Ansar Burney and Asma Jahangir.
Talking to HT on the phone, Dalbir said, "I will accomplish my mission. Sooner or later, I will welcome my brother with open arms."
On how she has kept herself motivated, the gritty woman said, "He is my only brother. His arrest in Pakistan was a huge shock for me. His daughters were too young when he disappeared. And I just want to bring my brother and their father back."
Thanking the citizens of India as well as Pakistan, she said, "People have been supporting me to the hilt. What I have done so far is not special. Every sister would have done it."
Lauding her aunt Dalbir Kaur's efforts, Sarabjit's elder daughter Swapandeep Kaur said, "She has led from the front and kept us all motivated."