Kashmir thanks god for ''light and fresh air''

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Wagah-Attari, Mar 4 (UNI) Indian national Kashmir Singh after languishing in Pakistan death cells for 35 years, today thanked god that he was able to ''see light and breathe fresh air.'' "I am seeing light after a long long time and thank god that I am back home a free man,'' said Kashmir, who as the oldest Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan had been confined to solitary cell in conditions the Pakistan Human Rights minister Ansar Burney had described as a ''hell on Earth.'' Kashmir was also full of gratitude for Burney, whom he described as a god-sent ''farishta'' (an angel), for being instrumental in his release from Kot Lakhpat in Lahore yesterday.

Mr Burney himself escorted Kashmir Singh from Lahore to the Wagah-Attari border and supervised his repatriation to India.

The Pakistani minister hugged Kashmir Singh on the zero-line and bade him a farewell.

As Kashmir, clad neatly in a pant and shirt, crossed the Radcliffe line to end his 35-year-long ordeal, Kashmir and his wife Paramjit were overwhelmed with emotions.

Apart from Paramjit, Kashmir's physically-challenged son Shishpal, Sarpanch Satnam Singh of his village Nangal Choran, relatives as well as families of Serbjit Singh and Kirpal Singh, who are also death-row prisoners in Pakistan, had also gathered to welcome him.

Punjab ministers Bikram Majithia and Gulzar Singh Ranike, IG (Border Range) Raj Pal Meena and other Border Security Force and civil officials were present to receive him.

After a brief and emotional meeting with his family, Kashmir was promptly whisked away by officials in a police vehicle. He was also examined by a team of doctors from Amritsar.

As the family waited to finally take him home, where he was scheduled to get a rousing welcome at a function in the village gurdwara, Kashmir's wife said, ''Finally, God has accepted the prayers of the family. This is a new birth of my husband. All pain and suffering that I went through is over''.

When Kashmir was re-united with the family, he told Dalbir Kaur, who is also fighting for the release of her brother Serbjit Singh from Pakistani Jail, that he had met Serbjit and expressed hope that he would also return home soon.

However, he said he had no idea how many other Indian prisoners were there in Pakistan.

Later, Kashmir left in a convoy, for his home in Nangal Choran village in Mahilpur block of Hoshiarpur district, where a large number of people were eagerly awaiting his return.


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