OVER THE last two decades, he wrote many letters to his family in Mustafabad Saidan village of Gurdaspur district, all saying the same thing — that he wanted to return to India before he died. But that was not be. Kirpal Singh, 54, arrested in Pakistan on spying charges in 1992, died at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore on Monday.
His family received Singh’s last letter on February 10. “I want to return to my motherland before I die… I have been facing a difficult time here,” he said in his letter.
“He said he was well, and asked us to plead before the Indian government to get him released,” said Singh’s sister, Jagiro Kaur, adding that they have been fighting for his release. “I got a call from a journalist on Monday night, informing me that he had died in jail. I contacted some officials in Pakistan, who told me that he had suffered a cardiac arrest,” said Ashwini Kumar, Singh’s nephew.
“Kirpal Singh was found dead in his cell in the early hours of Monday,” said an official of Kot Lakhpat Jail, according to a PTI report from Lahore. “The inmates of the cell near Kirpal’s cell stated that he complained about pain in his chest and died instantly,” he said.
“Apparently, it seems the Indian prisoner died a natural death. However, an autopsy will tell the exact cause of death,” Kot Lakhpat Jail police station head Nafees Ahmed was quoted as saying. But his family has alleged foul play and sought the government’s help in bringing back the body.
“After my father’s death in 1988, Kirpal Singh adopted me as his son. He was serving in the Indian Army at that time, in the Punjab Regiment,” recalled Kumar.
According to the family, Singh made two trips to Pakistan after he left the Army, before he was caught in 1992. They suspect that he was spying for the Indian government. “We came to know that he had been jailed in Pakistan almost three years after he went missing,” said Kanta Devi, Kumar’s mother. According to the PTI report from Lahore, Singh was sentenced to death in a serial bomb blasts case in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Later, he was reportedly acquitted by the Lahore High Court, but continued to remain in jail.
Family members said that after the death of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh at Kot Lakhpat Jail in April 2013, Kirpal Singh was put in a separate cell. “He was not getting proper food and other facilities,” said Kanta Devi.
Singh’s family went to Wagha border today to demand that the body be handed over. “We are now going to Delhi to meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh,” said Kumar.