Monday, 19 July, 2010

‘Spy’ plans plight protest at PM door


GAJINDER SINGH
Chandigarh, July 18: A former Indian “spy” to Pakistan, who is jobless and cannot pay his medical bills, has decided to stage a sit-in outside the Prime Minister’s house to highlight the plight of secret agents in the country.

“I will try to sit outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence to demand better conditions for our families. That is the least the government can do for us,” Balbir Singh said over phone from his home at Mahal in Amritsar.

Frail and in his 60s, Balbir had to give up his job as a night watchman last year after a heart ailment confined him to bed for months. His son Jaswant, 18, was forced to drop out of school and do odd jobs to run the home. So was his daughter Jaswinder, 17, who once dreamt of being a software engineer.

Balbir was apparently sent to Peshawar on a spying mission in the late sixties along with Kashmir Singh, who was freed from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail in 2008 after prolonged legal proceedings. They were arrested on their way back to Lahore after their mission, Balbir claimed.

“We were arrested on June 19, 1974, on the outskirts of Rawalpindi. While Kashmir got the death sentence, I was sentenced to 10 years and released in 1986 along with some other agents. We were simply pushed into India by the Pakistanis from an area in Abohar,” he said.

Balbir claimed the Indian government had never bothered to care for its former spies or even acknowledge their existence. Although Kashmir Singh was accorded a hero’s welcome in 2008, felicitated by the Punjab government and given money and a plot of land, nothing similar has come Balbir’s way.

“We are only seeking a future for our children,” he said. “We have launched court cases demanding compensation, but have not been able to get any rulings in our favour. Lawyers say any legal endorsement will mean that the government engages in espionage. But there are countries who have accepted their spies.”

Balbir said he was trying to get other former spies to accompany him at the proposed sit-in outside the Prime Minister’s house. “We can even squat in Jantar Mantar to highlight our plight. There are many who are completely bed-ridden, some pull rickshaws to sustain their families.”

Balbir said that after Partition most secret agents had been hired through word of mouth, given language training and sent across the border on specific missions. “We used to mostly cross when people were busy with their prayers. Sometimes we were sent with no specific mission.”