Punjab youth posthumous ‘hero of Paris metro’

26-year-old killed after defending a French woman from thief.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Tanda,hoshiarpur | Published: October 10, 2011 2:08 am

He left for France in 2005,soon after completing his high school,in the hope of making a better living. His family in Domana village,in Tanda area of Hoshiarpur district,was looking forward to his visit next year. But Rajinder Singh,26,was killed in the Paris underground last week,after defending a French woman from a thief. His family is now waiting for his body to be flown back to his village.

“We are proud of our son because he dared to stand against injustice even in a foreign country,where he is now being hailed as a hero,” said his grieving father,Balwinder Singh,a retired Armyman.

Two French groups — a foundation linked to France’s rail authority and Eclip’s,an airborne corpse delivery service — have offered to pay for the cost of flying his body back to India.

Rajinder,who went to France as an illegal immigrant,was working as a newspaper delivery man. A few months back,he took up a second job — dropping advertisements in letter boxes — to pay for his sister’s wedding in Punjab.

Rajinder was killed when he was returning home from work late on September 29,on a metro train running through northern Paris. “When he noticed that a man had stolen a cellphone and a purse from a woman on the train,he overpowered the thief and returned the stolen items to the woman,” said Balwinder Singh.

“The thief then repeated the crime as the train was nearing a station and hurriedly left the train. Rajinder,whose stop was yet to come,chased the thief and recovered the stolen items. It was after this incident,when Rajinder was waiting for another train to go home,that the thief pushed him on the electric rail where he was electrocuted,” said Singh.

“Our son,whom we use to call ‘Babu Sher’ would have been alive if the thief had dared to attack him from the front,” said Singh,adding that Rajinder was well-built and over six feet tall.

“We were preparing for the ‘shagun’ of his elder sister when we got the news on September 30,” said Rajinder’s mother, adding that she spoke to him on the phone for over an hour on the same day that he was attacked.

Rajinder’s uncle,Surinder Singh,a police officer,said an acquaintance from France had informed them that the youth had been hailed as a hero in France.

A Reuters report from Paris quoted Antoine Barret,editor of the daily Le Parisien’s online edition,where the death was first reported last Friday,as saying,“this is the first time I’ve seen such a strong reaction to the story of a death in our pages.”

A report on the youth titled “Babu,hero of the metro” drew more than 700 comments,with many readers offering to raise the 5,000 euros it would cost to send his body back home to India.

“What’s really unusual is that we had people calling the newsroom all day to ask,‘how can we help?’,” Barret said. “This type of hero tale is more popular in the United States,but the reaction to this has been quite uncommon.”

Meanwhile,the man suspected of having pushed Singh,a 23-year-old of Egyptian descent,was reported to have been arrested on Tuesday evening.

— With Reuters,Paris

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