Thousands of miles from the arid deserts of Arizona, where six-year-old Indian girl Gurpreet Kaur died reportedly of heat stroke while on her way with her mother to the US, a village in Haryana is still in shock. Amid preparations for her bhog (last rites) to be held on Sunday, a video has emerged from the US, of a happy Gurpreet and her mother alighting from a bus in the desert.
The Sunday Express spoke to her family members and others in Gurpreet’s Hasanpur village in Thanesar sub-division of Kurukshetra district of Haryana.
Gurpreet’s paternal grandfather Gurmit Singh said his daughter-in-law Satwinder Kaur, 27, got in touch with him after the incident and told him that after their bus entered the US, they were walking when Gurpreet asked for water.
Satwinder, he said, left her with others immigrants, who had alighted from the bus, to look for water. But Satwinder got lost in the desert and did not return for long, upon which their fellow travellers “left Gurpreet alone and walked away”. The US Border Patrol later found Gurupreet’s body west of Lukeville, Arizona, where temperatures had reached a high of 42 Celsius.
Gurpreet parents could not be contacted despite several attempts by The Sunday Express to do so.
Gurpreet’s grandfather Gurmit Singh, a farmer, said the girl, a Class 1 student, was excited about meeting her father “for the first time”. Her parents, Satwinder Kaur and Avtar Singh, 33, last met in 2013 – a year after their marriage, with Gurpreet barely six months old — when Avtar Singh left for the US. A month and a half ago, Satwinder, a panchayat member in Hasanpur, and Gurpreet left for the US.
Sikh Coalition, a US-based organisation that has taken up the case of Gurpreet’s parents, told The Sunday Express that the girl’s mother Satwinder was released from the Eloy Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing facility on June 18. Sources said she was permitted to travel by bus from Arizona to New York City, where her husband is residing. She arrived in New York City on June 21 and Gurpreet’s funeral was conducted on June 28.
A statement issued by the Sikh Coalition on behalf of Gurpreet’s parents read: “Our family is heartbroken by the loss of our daughter, Gurpreet Kaur. We wanted a safer and better life for our daughter and we made the extremely difficult decision to seek asylum here in the United States.”