At 8 on Friday morning, when farmers from Punjab were preparing to march towards Delhi, Kulwant Singh, a marginal farmer in Tarn Taran district of Punjab, got a phone call from the Army informing him that his son had been killed in the line of duty on the LoC in Rajouri sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
Rifleman Sukhbir Singh of 18 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (JAK RIF) was just 22 years old and had spent one year and 11 months in the Army. He was among two jawans who died in the cross-border firing with Pakistan Army in the early hours of the day.
“Main taa bas che kanal zameen vich kheti karda haan. Sukhbir to saari aas si. Hun mainu pata nahi lag reya kee hoyega (I till only six kanals of land. I had pinned all my hopes on Sukhbir. Now I do not know what will happen),” said Kulwant over the phone from his village Khawaspur.
Sukhbir had come home on leave just four months ago. “Apni bhen da vyah enne hee keeta chhutti aa ke, sara kujh enne keeta. Panj lakh rupaya udhaar lae ke aaya unit ton vyah layi (He had come on leave and got his sister married. He did everything. He took a Rs 5 lakh loan from the unit for the wedding),” Kulwant said.
Youngest of four children, Sukhbir has two elder sisters and an elder brother who works as a labourer in Malaysia. Only one sister is married among the siblings.
“Cheevein sattvin ch seega te kehnda si main fauj vich jaana. Bada cha si ennu. Maharaj ne badi kirpa keeti te ae fauj vich select ho gaya. Te hun ae ho gaya hai (He was in class six or seven when he used to say I want to join the Army. He really wanted to join the Army. God was kind that he got selected. And now this has happened),” the father said with his voice breaking.
The family is not aware of the farmer protests near Delhi. “Main ta kamman vich lagga rehna. TV te vekheya si kujh raula pae reya. Sadde pindon koi nayi gaya (I remain busy in my work. I had seen on TV that there was some trouble. No one from our village has gone there),” Kulwant said.
Rifleman Sukhbir’s body is expected to reach his village Khawaspur in Khadoor Sahib Tehsil by Saturday afternoon and the cremation will take place in the evening.
The Punjab Chief Minister has announced an ex gratia of Rs 50 lakh for the next of his kin along with a government job for a member of the family.
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