Justice for Chamel Singh – Part 1
Except for the family and a few villagers, no political authority over the years remembered Chamel Singh, the Indian who was tortured to death in a Pakistani jail and whose hapless family was never given any compensation despite his ‘martyrdom’. The next of kin of this poor farmer are still waiting for justice and help for survival in a country where we make so much song and dance about ’nationalism.’ After all, how can we admit that Chamel Singh was an Indian spy?
In Jammu & Kashmir, a surrendered militant can avail of compensation under the ‘healing touch’ policy, a stone-pelter is covered under the amnesty scheme, victims of cross-border firing also get generous compensation, but there exists no provision for compensation/relief to the family of victims brutally murdered inside Pakistani jails.”
We request our readers to share this story on social media so that the authorities could wake up to their forgotten promises. No less the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had promised justice for Chamel Singh during his Lok Sabha oll campaign!
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n 2008, when an Indian farmer Chamel Singh went missing from his native village in Pargwal area of Akhnoor in Jammu province, his wife Kamlesh Devi, mother of four children, had to sepnd several agonizing years before she came to know of his whereabouts.
The first communication from Chamel Singh to his wife came after four years in the form of a letter written from the Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan. It carried a vivid description of the circumstances leading to his arrest. He tried to inform his family that he would soon return home after completing a five-year jail term. But before Chamel Singh could return, he was mercilessly tortured to death by the Pakistani jail authorities on January 15, 2013.
Chamel was booked for espionage and was brutalised in custody. As media reports with details of painful torture went viral, an angry nation reacted strongly and called for firm action against those who had perpetrated this crime against a jail inmate with scant regard to human rights. Though the jail authorities planned an elaborate cover up claiming that Singh died due to a heart attack, eyewitness accounts of other inmates confirmed and exposed the brutal attack on him.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]E[/dropcap]ven after his death when Chamel’s family demanded his body, the jail authorities stalled the entire process to gain time. In Jammu, the distraught family, with meagre resources at its disposal, had to wait for 57 days before the Pakistani authorities handed over Chamel’s body to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border.
Politicians cutting across party lines made a beeline in front of TV cameras speaking passionately about the wrong done to Chamel. His torturous death became a subject matter of intense election campaign during the Lok Sabha and later Assembly polls and adequate compensation was promised to his kin.
When the compensation was unduly delayed, the BJP accused the Congress of ignoring the plight of a patriotic family. The UPA Government was also charged with going soft on Pakistan, thereby emboldening the neighbour to carry out such audacious strikes against Indian jail inmates.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]M[/dropcap]onths later, in April 2013, when another Indian citizen Sarabjeet Singh, convicted in a series of bomb blast cases in Pakistan, was attacked inside the same jail, an angry India reacted again. As Sarabjeet Singh succumbed to his injuries in a Lahore hospital, Indian authorities reacted swiftly and stationed an aircraft to airlift the body after mounting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.
Sarabjeet’s family was lucky to have received popular support in their lonely fight.
Starting from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, leaders of mainstream Opposition parties, Congress top brass, including Rahul Gandhi lined up to pay homage to Sarabjeet. A three-day mourning was announced by the Punjab Government after according him a State funeral.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he State and the Central Government reacted in time and paid hefty compensation of Rs 1.25 crore to Sarabjeet’s widow along with a State Government job for both his daughters. In contrast, Chamel’s kin continue to wait for justice and even a paltry compensation. Neither the Central leaders nor former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah found it appropriate to visit his family and offer condolences.
Local Congress MLAs cared even less to forward the demand for adequate compensation. During all these months, whenever the media has brought this issue to the fore, senior State leaders, including former Congress Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, paid lip service and termed the decision to not compensate Chamel’s kin as unfortunate. As Chief Minister, when Omar Abdullah was confronted by media persons about the plight of the family, he washed his hands off by claiming that it was for the Centre to decide the matter of awarding the compensation.
After a change of guard at the Centre and also in the State, hopes of the family were raised but the assistance is nowhere to be seen.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in an election speech in Jammu on December 1, 2013, paid homage to Chamel and even asked the media why they had highlighted the case of Sarabjeet Singh but ignored the plight of Chamel’s kin. However, Chamel’s family continues to wait for justice and compensation.
Will anyone care for them?
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