A battle fought hard, but lost

A battle fought hard, but lost

For Sarabjit Singh’s beleaguered family, Dalbir Kaur personified grit and perseverance.

For Sarabjit’s daughters, Swapandeep and Pooman, Dalbir was more than a father. Poonam was just a few months old when her father strayed into Pakistan and was subsequently arrested. That was 23 years ago. Today, as Dalbir’s pursuit to save her brother ends in utmost grief and anger, the ailing woman looks back at an unforgiving journey marked by a resolve to fill the void created by Sarabjit’s absence at home.
On Sarabjit’s death, Dalbir could do little but apologise to his daughters for failing to bring their father back, alive.

The numerous occasions when the family spent sleepless nights, consoling each other and praying for Sarabjit’s well being, was one part of their doleful predicament. Another facet was Dalbir’s nerve-racking journey to bring justice to her brother and his family, which was staring at an imminent crisis in absence of a breadwinner.

On Thursday, Dalbir admitted that she got scared many a times, but never let it show before Sarabjit’s wife and daughters. “At times, even when the phone rang or there were developments in Pakistan, I used to get scared,” she said. Days turned into weeks, years into decades and Sarabjit’s daughters grew up without a father, making the wait for her brother’s return even more odious.

Family members said Dalbir kept the spirits alive at home. “She would never let the daughters sink. She made them study. She always told them that their father will return and they believed her,” they said.

Running from pillar to post for years together did not dampen Dalbir’s spirits. But, her brother’s death has left her heartbroken. “People are saying that my brother was a brave son of India. They say he will be given a state funeral. But why is everything happening after he’s dead? He could have been saved,” she said.

In 2008, she met Sarabjit at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. During the 90-minute meeting, Sarabjit enquired about his wife, daughters and relatives. Then he broke down. Dalbir had tied a rakhi on Sarabjit’s wrist and promised to get him out of jail soon.

On Thursday, Sarabjit’s mortal remains were sent to India. Dalbir vows to continue the fight, this time for others like Sarabjit who are languishing in Pakistani jails.

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