Tribune News Service
Dadwan (Gurdaspur), July 30
So, the walk to the houses of the forgotten spies of Punjab is a short one from the Dhariwal bazaar. The village is an intricate maze of “kutcha” and “pucca” streets leading to the one- and two-room semi-pucca houses all of which have a “vehda” in front with a mud-partitioned kitchen and a hand-pump.
Forty-three-year old Ashok Masih could probably act as a spokesman for the half-a-dozen spy families of the village who were disowned by both the intelligence agencies after their capture in Pakistan after short stints as spies.
Masih: “Rather than be welcomed back as heroes upon our return after our incarceration in Pakistan jails we are sent to jail deliberately to ensure we do not start demanding compensation from the agencies who sent us across the border”.
Giving his own example, he says after being “pushed back” into India in 2002 after seven years in jails in Pakistan, he was arrested and handed over to the police, which registered a case against him under the Passport Act. “They subsequently sent me to the Mall Mandi interrogation centre and I was then put in jail at Amritsar. I had to spend Rs 10,000 to get out on bail and fight the case in Amritsar courts for three years”, he adds.
Daniel, another former spy of the village, too faced the same fate saying two cases were registered against him and he had to continually go to Amritsar for court hearings.
Another method used by authorities of stonewalling all queries is to transfer the recruiting officers of Military Intelligence once a spy is caught. “So when the spy’s wife goes looking for the officer who recruited her husband she finds different officers who refuse to even acknowledge her husband worked for them”, says Masih.
The wives of Masih and other former spies of the village including David and Sunil Bhola did not receive anything from the intelligence agencies after they were sent to jail in Pakistan. Nor did the family of former spy Satyapal, who died in a Pak jail. Sunil Bhola’s wife worked as a maidservant to make ends meet, David’s elder son worked as a labourer while Masih’s wife did odd jobs.
Even after their return, the family fortunes have not changed. In case of Sunil Bhola they have become worse. The internal injuries of Bhola, who was released in December 2006, are still to heal making him unfit for any work. David is taciturn and usually sits at home with his friends saying he has become mentally disturbed since his return from Pakistan, also in December 2006, after serving seven years in jail there.
There is little hope for these former spies with even the Punjab government forsaking them. This despite a much publicized promise by then PWD minister Partap Singh Bajwa who visited the village in September, 2005 and promised a compensation of Rs two lakh from the Chief Minister’s discretionary quota as well as a government job to a family member of each of the former spies.
Daniel, who plies a rickshaw to make ends meet, has his rustic humour intact despite four years in Pak jails. He says Bajwa was sent in a helicopter by then Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to listen to their plight. “Better still he could have come in a car and given the few lakh spent on flying here to us”, he said adding “ulta asin haraan te kharcha kita” (we instead spent money on the garlands).