Subedar Assa Singh, Indian Army
Subedar Assa Singh

Jammu, July 18, 2001, Nirmal Kaur(60) has been waiting for her husband, Subedar Assa Singh, to return home since 1971 despite the fact that she has received a telegram from the Defence Ministry informing her that Assa Singh sacrificed his life while fighting the enemy.

What has sustained her hope about the survival of her husband is the report from a caller in 1988. The man was in Pak jails and he had met an Army man who was ill in a Pak hospital. He had been shifted to the hospital from a Pak jail. The caller informed Nirmal Kaur that the man on the bed informed him that he was Assa Singh and it was on the basis of the address given by him that he (the caller) had come to Nanak Nagar in Jammu to convey the message.

When Nirmal Kour refuted the army's claim that her husband had been killed in the 1971 war, her son-in-law serving in the army became a target of harassment. Crusty government officials grilled Nirmal and forced her into revealing the name of her husband's former fellow prisoner in a Pakistan jail who had given her information about him. "They harassed him so much that he snapped all links with us," says she.

Nirmal has informed members of the Defence Personnel Relatives Association about it and despite the association having taken up the matter with the government along with 54 other prisoners of war Nirmal has felt disheartened.

When Assa Singh went to the battlefield in Chhamb in 1971 Nirmal had two sons and five daughters. All children are married. Her one son is an auto driver. She says had not her husband been “kept a prisoner of war my children would have been well off. “

She hoped that Pakistan President, General Musharraf, would do something but the fate of Agra summit has left her hopeless. She and Kamlesh Jamwal whose husband, Dalgir Singh, too is stated to be a PoW since 1971 explained that most of these war prisoners had been jailed for espionage. Hence Musharraf’s order for probe about these PoWs would yield nothing because he too would be informed by the official agencies that some of Indian prisoners were in jails on charge of espionage activities.

They said if President Musharraf ordered the release of all, those Indians languishing in Pak jails, irrespective of the charges they were facing, “our husbands will be back”.