Kashmir accorded hero's welcome in native village

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Hoshiarpur, Mar 4 (UNI) A hero's welcome awaited Kashmir Singh, who was re-united with his family and came home in Nangal Choran village in this district, after spending 35 long years on death row in various Pakistani jails.

Singh was brought in a marriage-like procession, accompanied by the traditional 'dhol', with jubilant people often breaking into vigorous ''bhangra''.

A visibly happy Singh, however, made straight to the village Gurdwara with his family to pay obeisance before being led to a function organised in the village school where he was honoured.

Not only the people from his native village joined his family in welcoming him but the inhabitants of adjoining villages too, thronged his village to make the occasion a memorable one.

Earlier, talking to mediapersons at Toll-Plaza Lachowal near here, Singh said throughout his ordeal in various jails in Pakistan, he had never ''lost hope.'' He was on death row, on espionage charges by the Army Court there.

''I had complete faith in Wah-E-Guru and at last he came in form of Ansar Burney, caretaker Human Rights Minister to get me released from the jail and re-unite me with my family,'' he said.

In an emotion-choked voice, Singh added,''I have spent the prime period of my life in Pakistan Jails. It is my new birth and I am going to start a new chapter of my life.'' He said he was arrested by the army on espionage and smuggling charges while going from Rawalpindi to Peshawar.

During his initial imprisonment, he was badly tortured, but after the announcement of capital punishment he was banished to solitary confinement.

''In the beginning, it was very difficult to remain alone round the clock, but later, I adjusted myself. I found solace in reciting the name of Wahe-E-Guru and did not change my religion, '' he stressed.

Sarabjit Singh of Bhikhiwind and Kirpal Singh of Gurdaspur, who had also been awarded capital punishment, were with him in Mianpur jail from where he was released, he said.

''Indian government should make some efforts for getting them released,'' he added.

Singh's cheerful wife Paramjit Kaur, who was accompanying him along with MP Avinash Rai Khanna, said she had no words to express her joy.

Earlier, Singh was received by the Deputy Commissioner, N K Wadhawan and SSP, Hoshiarpur Sukhchain Singh and other officers of the district administration.

Mr Khanna told mediapersons that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had assured the rehabilitation of Singh.

''Efforts would also be made to get released Sarabjit Singh and Kirpal Singh, who were still languishing in Pakistan jail,'' he said.

UNI XC JN SY AS2101

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