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Three homes, united in horror
Between two calls, world changes

Shimla, July 22: Her eldest son died four years ago. Now, a sword hangs on the head of her youngest, 33-year-old Antaryami.

Bhago Devi, 55, swooned when a reporter from Chandigarh called asking about Antaryami, who had set out to look for greener pastures in the deserts of Kuwait eight months ago.

In the modest house at Upper Dehla village on the Chandigarh-Dharamsala highway in Una district, 60-year-old Ram Murti Bains, a retired Punjab civil servant, took the call around 11.15 this morning.

Antaryami is among the three Indians taken hostage in Iraq, the reporter said. Their captors have threatened to behead them unless the Kuwaiti firm they work for withdraws from the war-torn country.

Day before yesterday, around the same time, Antaryami had called his father. All was well, he said, and promised to call again soon. He was captured yesterday.

“We learnt about Antaryami having been taken hostage through the media. His mother has been (falling) unconscious since,” says uncle Ram Das.

“We had high hopes from this boy, who is very hard working. We pray to god to spare his life,” he adds, breaking down.

Spending the hours of terror together with Antaryami is Tilak Raj of Dharampur village, about 30 km from Antaryami’s in the same district. The 40-year-old is a truck driver by profession and the sole support for his mother, 33-year-old wife and three children — two girls, 11 and 5, and a boy, 7.

When brother Shingara Singh died, Antaryami, too, had had to take over the responsibility of the household. He married 21-year-old Kusumlata and went away when his daughter was only two months old.

A matriculate, Antaryami worked as a taxi driver in Delhi before leaving for Kuwait on November 18 last year. He had joined Kuwaiti transport firm KGL.

Tilak Raj followed him on December 1 after being recruited by a Punjab-based agency, which also picked Antaryami.

This morning, his family learnt about the hostage crisis and approached Hardoli police post. To their horror, they saw Tilak Raj’s picture in a Delhi paper.

Antaryami’s wife was at her parents’ house in Jogi Panga, not too far from Upper Dehla, when Ram Murti learnt about the capture. He has asked her to return, without breaking the news.

Una DSP Anupam Sharma has contacted the two families and promised to keep them abreast of the latest developments.

Antaryami’s uncle called on the Indian government to do all it can to save the hostages.

Chief minister Veerbhadra Singh made a double appeal, urging the Centre to use all diplomatic channels to ensure the safe release of the hostages and requesting the Iraqi insurgents to release the abducted drivers.

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