1971 war martyr's 'widow' still waiting for relief

1971 war martyr's 'widow' still waiting for relief

Government says officer is languishing in Pakistan jail

Forty-four years after the Indo-Pak war in 1971, Punjab native Jasbir Kaur is left to wonder whether her husband, Major Kanwaljit Singh, is dead or still alive.

Major Singh was honoured with the country’s third highest gallantry award — the Shaurya Chakra — for bravery. But, when his ‘widow’ applied for 10 acres of cultivable land as per policy, the Central government said that he may be still alive as prisoner of war in Pakistan.

Kaur has a letter dated February 3, 1973 written to her by then prime minister Indira Gandhi expressing condolence on the ‘death’ of her husband. She also has a letter from Gen G C Bewoor of the Army Headquarters condoling the death of the brave officer.

However, a recent affidavit filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh states that the two letters, including one by Indira Gandhi, were written on ‘presumption’ that the officer had died and the Army has in fact not declared the officer dead.

The case, which is now due to come up for hearing on April 10, was filed by Kaur sometime ago seeking 10 acres of cultivable land as per policy. But the affidavit filed by the Punjab government tends to disregard the claim of the ‘widow.’

The affidavit states that as per the communication by the Ministry of External Affairs, Major Kanwaljit Singh was languishing in a Pakistani jail as a prisoner of war. The government also says the letters sent by Indira Gandhi and the Army headquarters were demi-official letters on the presumption that the officer was dead.

Kaur has submitted to the High Court, Indira Gandhi’s hand written letter which said: “The entire country is with you in your hour of shock and grief and crores of Indian brothers were indebted to Major Kanwaljit Singh, who sacrificed his life for the defence of the nation”.

Kaur has been seeking directions to the Punjab government to honour her husband by allotting cultivable land up to 10 acres to her under the rules that provide for such land to the legal heirs of Army personnel killed in wars with China or Pakistan.

Believed to have been captured from the Punjab border on December 3, 1971, Major Singh had displayed courage of high order the same year in February when he saved many lives by hurling a grenade back at Pakistani soldiers.

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