Angrez Kaur is hope personified. For the last forty-one years,the woman,now in her sixties,is waiting to meet her husband,Surjit Singh,an ex-BSF Jawan who was captured by the Pakistan Army in 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Most of her family members have lost hope that Surjit will ever return from Pakistan,but not Angrez. Her hope got a renewed strength last year in April,when the family,residing at Faridkot,received a reports that Surjit Singh was alive.
Thirty-six Indian prisoners were freed last year by the Pakistan government. I met them and showed my fathers photograph. They recognised him and told me that he was alive. My mother always knew that my father was alive, says Amrik Singh,Surjits son. Amrik was only one-and-a-half months old when his father went missing in action.
However,now the family says that former Pakistan minister and human rights activist Ansar Burney,whom they met recently in Delhi,told them that he could not locate Surjit in Pakistan jails. In fact,as per Burney,Surjit may now be one of the 53 packs of ashes (of unclaimed soldiers who died in various jails) lying with the Pakistan government.
Burney told us that our only hope was if the prisoners freed by the Pakistan recently recognize or tell us something about my father, Amrik adds.
It was the human rights activist only who had told the family last year that Surjit was alive and lodged in Pakistans Quetta Jail. He had even assured the family of getting Surjit freed as soon as possible. Surjit was a part of 57 Battalion and was fighting in Chama district of Jammu and Kashmir when he was captured by the enemy. The Indian Army later declared him dead and the family has been receiving pension since then.
It was in early 2000 that we first came to know that my father was alive. Since that day I have been hunting for my father and have met almost all the alleged spies and other prisoners who have come back from Pakistan jails.
They had told me that they had seen my father in a Pak jail. Satish Kumar Marwaha,a soldier from Ferozepur who was also captured by the Pakistani Army and returned in the 80s,lived with my father in Kotlakhpat Jail, Amrik adds.
Even as the family swings between despair and hope,Angrez is steadfast in her belief. She has never let me hang a garland on my dads photo, adds Amrik.