After receiving the remains of Balbir Chand (51), who hailed from village Selkiana in Ludhiana, his family said that they had finally accepted his death, adding that their four-year search from the day he was reported missing had come to an end.
On his way back from Ludhiana from Amritsar airport, Shinder Singh, his brother, told The Indian Express, “There is no other option now than believing that my brother is no more. We have been given the DNA report and death certificate. We have also requested naib-tehsildar who is accompanying us, to let us open the remains once before cremation. We are thankful to the government that at least my brother’s remains have reached his land for last rites.”
Balbir Chand was working as a labourer at a steel company in Mosul. He had gone to Iraq eight years ago and had last spoken to his family on June 15, 2014.
His nephew, Baljit Singh, said that though they know there is nothing more than partial remains of his uncle in the coffin handed over to them, they will open it once before cremation.
“His wife is still unconscious, while his sister has gone into a shock hearing that remains are finally on the way to home. He is coming home after eight years, but in a way that we never imagined. We are satisfied with the efforts of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who at least made efforts to bring the remains back. Had we not got the remains, it would have been really difficult to believe death and our hope would have never ended. Today, finally after four years a search has ended. However, family will go through an ordeal for entire life now,” he said.
Balbir in his last call had told his wife, Babli, that it might be his last call as they have been kidnapped by Islamic State terrorists.
His eldest daughter, Kawaljit Kaur (23), went into shock after Chand was kidnapped and never called again. She has been undergoing treatment since then and believes her father is still alive.
Two other daughters, Amandeep (21) and Paramjit (18), and a son, Hansraj, are students. “The last time I spoke to him, he has told me and my sisters to study well. He had said that he is working hard in Iraq only for us,” said Hansraj.
During his first year in Iraq, Chand was not even given salary by hotel owner where he worked. Later, he shifted to a steel company where he started earning Rs 20,000 per month.
Navdeep Singh, naib-tehsildar Koomkalan, who accompanied the family to Amritsar, said that if family would express a wish to cremate remains on Tuesday, they would be kept at a mortuary overnight. “We have received death certificate and DNA report stating the details of the test and samples matched. It is up to the family if they want to see the remains once before cremation. We won’t stop them,” he said.
The remains of Balbir Chand were cremated Monday late at his village Selkiana in Ludhiana in presence of naib-tehsildar Navdeep Singh.
Heart rending scenes were witnessed as family kept on insisting to open the coffin but district administration officials denied permission at last moment saying it would be ‘too disturbing’ and remains were then cremated within the coffin.
Family said that they cremated the remains after sunset as Chand’s wife wasn’t well and wouldn’t have been able to bear the grief overnight.