‘Be strong’: When Indian man on death row made ‘last call’ to kin from Indonesia

  • Jatinder Kohli, Hindustan Times, Nakodar (Jalandhar)
  • Updated: Jul 29, 2016 18:52 IST
From left: Gurdeep Singh’s daughter Manjot Kaur, wife Kulwinder Kaur and son Sukhbir Singh at their house in Khehra Mohalla of Nakodar in Jalandhar district. (Sikander Singh Chopra/HT Photo)

Gurdip Singh, the Indian man who was to be executed by midnight along with others in Indonesia on drug charges, appeared to have given up hope when he called his wife on Thursday morning, despite the Indian government’s bid to save his life.

“This is my last call to you. They are going to kill me today. Now you will be able to see my body only. Take care of both children,” were his words to wife Kulwinder Kaur, who was undergoing treatment at a local private health centre at the time of the call.

It later came to light that he had not yet been executed.

On Tuesday, Kulwinder had fallen ill with anxiety after Gurdip informed her in another call about the planned execution on Thursday night. He also talked to daughter Manjot Kaur (17) and asked her to be strong.

Kulwinder broke down talking about the “last”, 5.30am phone call from Gurdip, who belongs to Sitalpur in Saharanpur (UP). But she said she still believed the Almighty would halt the execution.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj telephoned Kaur, 41, at 5.30 pm on Thursday and assured her the Indian government was doing its best to halt the execution. “She said she has taken up the matter with the Indonesian government and a delegation of Indian officials has already gone there. She told us to pray too,” Kaur told HT at her parents’ home in Nakodar.

Singh, 48, was found guilty of trying to smuggle 300 grams of heroin into Indonesia in 2004 and sentenced to death by a state district court in Banten province in February 2005. His appeals against the death penalty were turned down by Banten high court and the Supreme Court. Kaur said she had requested the minister during the 10-minute call to do everything possible at the earliest.

Singh, who worked as a driver, and his family belong to Uttar Pradesh but Kaur and her two children have been staying in Nakodar. Relatives and neighbours were visiting the house to express solidarity. He had wanted to go to New Zealand in 2002 to seek employment as a driver but got stuck in Indonesia “as his agent cheated him”, Kaur said.

An old photograph of Gurdip Singh. Singh was found guilty of trying to smuggle 300 grams of heroin into Indonesia in 2004 and sentenced to death by a state district court in Banten province. (HT Photo)

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According to Kaur, Singh was arrested in 2004 as the agent, who belongs to Uttar Pradesh, did not give him back his passport and then “made him do the crime”. She also blamed an unnamed “Pakistani agent” for his imprisonment.

Kaur, who works in the packing section of a local candy-manufacturing unit to support her family, said she was hoping that Gurdip would come soon and plan for the kids’ future. “In the last 12 years, he used to call every two or three months with the embassy’s help, and we had hopes that he would come soon after completion of jail sentence.”

She said his younger brother Gurpreet Singh, who lives in Dehradun, had met him in jail in Indonesia through the embassy two years ago. “We married in 1995 and he (Gurdip) went back to Libya for a driver’s job after a few months of marriage.” He returned after three years before leaving again in 2002 with the aim to reach New Zealand.

Daughter Manjot, a student of Class 11 in a local private school, said “I was four years old when my father left us here to earn better.” She said she wants to go to college and dreamt that her father would come to support her education, “but all the dreams are now shattered”.

Son Sukhbir Singh (14) — who has never met the father as he was born after his father left a pregnant Kaur behind to explore chances of going to New Zealand via the Southeast Asia route — did not speak any words to HT when asked to comment.

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