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Bhullar smuggles out 3 Sikh youths from Pak
Rashmi Talwar

Attari, April 15
After five years of torture, three Sikh youths stranded in Pakistan for a year were today smuggled out of Pakistan to India by Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, president of the International Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, on a special train of Sikh devotees that arrived here.

Avtar Singh, Jagminder Singh and Balbir Chand were jubilant. Posing as langar distributors for the mammoth Sikh jatha that had gone to Pakistan for the Baisakhi celebrations, the three boarded the running train and locked themselves in bathrooms. “The ordeal was over in less than 10 minutes but it seemed endless”, said Jagminder Singh.

They had gone to seek greener pastures in Lebanon five years ago. Bogus travel agents promised to take them to Greece but took them to Turkey where the Turkish security not only confiscated $ 2,500 from them but also took away their passports and travel documents. They were tortured in a Turkey jail before being pushed into Iran where their agony continued under the Iranian security. They were later pushed into Pakistan through the Kaptan border from where they were arrested by Pakistan securitymen. Some Pakistani youths travelling with them saved them by disguising them as Pakistani Muslims and left them at Gurdwara Dera Sahib (Lahore) last year. “We implored every Sikh jatha to help us reach our homes in India”, he said.

In June last year Mr Bhullar had tried to sneak them into India through the Wagah land route but Pakistan intelligence agencies intercepted them and detained the youths. They were released following the intervention of Mr Sham Singh, co-chairperson of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee, and sent back to the gurdwara.

“We were confined to a room and could only go for langar or to pay obeisance. However, whenever any Pakistan official came to the gurdwara, we were made to shift at short intervals from room to room to evade detection”, said Avtar Singh.

Balbir Chand said: “We had virtually turned into beggars.” Having information about the attempt to sneak their sons back into India, the families of the youths had come with passport copies and other identification paraphernalia.

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