Days before he was taken captive by the Pakistani Taliban,Jaspal Singh,whose beheading near Peshawar on Sunday has shocked and outraged Sikhs on both sides of the border,had been issued a visa to India. He was excited and had been drawing up plans because he had promised his mother that he would take her to the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
But that pilgrimage was never to be,said his cousin Taranjit Singh who today cut short his own trip to Amritsar and returned to Pakistan to be with the grieving family.
Reports emanating from Pakistan say Taliban militants,after executing Jaspal Singh for refusing to convert to Islam,sent his severed head to the Bhai Joga Singh Gurdwara in Peshawar.
Taranjit said the family had been upset ever since Jaspal,who ran a grocery shop,was taken captive by the Pakistani Taliban. But they never imagined that he would be killed so brutally for his religious belief.
According to Taranjit,Jaspal and his mother were to accompany him to India,but after his capture a month ago,his mother decided to stay back. They did not hear of any demand for ransom and prayed that he would return home safe and sound.
Taranjit and others were persuaded by relatives to undertake the pilgrimage and they set out half-heartedly on February 2.
At the back of our mind,there was always this fear for the safety of Jaspal. This came true yesterday when we received a call from home in Pakistan that he had been killed… I am proud of my brother. He was being forced to convert and he died protecting his religious identity. He is a martyr of the Panth, Taranjit told The Indian Express at the Wagah border.
He said his cousin was a simple,religious man who could never think of harming anyone. Jaspal is survived by his mother,wife,two sons and two daughters.
Taranjit,a journalist from Peshawar who has been living in Lahore,said Sikhs had been living in the shadow of the gun in the FATA along the Afghan border. There is a strong sense of insecurity among Sikhs in FATA where kidnapping for ransom is not so uncommon. We often pay the ransom. I wonder why they did not ask for the money this time and killed him so brutally.
Jaspal Singhs brother-in-law Kirpal Singh,a doctor in Peshawar,said: We are living in a highly insecure and fragile environment in and near Peshawar. There are usually posters and pamphlets that appear,demanding money or threatening persecution for not paying up. Kidnapping is a way of life. We collect money many times to get people released from the clutches of the Taliban, he said.