The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Freedom fighter home, a lifetime too late

Srinagar, Nov. 7: Sant Singh Teg’s dream to visit his birthplace across the Line of Control died with him but his last wish that his ashes be taken there has been fulfilled.

One of the founder members of the National Conference and a colleague of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Kashmir’s oldest freedom fighter died on September 16 at the age of 100. He was jailed for years in undivided Kashmir for fighting Dogra rulers.

Family members, led by Teg’s nephew Jagjeet Singh Soodan, arrived with the ashes in Hattian Dupatta village in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on Tuesday. The group had left the Valley on Saturday but had to take the longer route through the Wagah border, near Amritsar.

Teg had left his village, 25km from PoK capital Muzaffarabad, in the wake of the 1947 tribal invasion. For the rest of his life, he kept trying to go back to Hattian Dupatta but couldn’t.

“His last wish was that he should be cremated in his village or at least his ashes should be taken there. We couldn’t take his body but his ashes have reached. His soul will rest in peace now,” son Harbhajan Singh told The Telegraph over the phone from Jammu, where much of the extended family now lives.

Singh said his father’s ashes would be immersed in the Jhelum. Family sources said PoK prime minister Sardar Attique Khan was likely to attend the ritual.

Teg, who fathered four sons and four daughters, had been bed-ridden since falling off a horse and injuring himself critically two years ago.

Hattian Dupatta, where many of Teg’s relatives still live but have since converted to Islam, never lost its appeal for him. “In the past six decades, he made tireless efforts to visit the village. Even when the first bus (from Srinagar) left for Muzaffarabad, he rushed to Uri to board it but was told his documents were incomplete. He made two more attempts,” Harbhajan said.

The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route was opened to people in 2005 but cumbersome formalities on both sides have stopped many from making the trip.

In 1962, Teg was close to visiting his village when he went to Pakistan and met President Ayub Khan. “But he could not visit PoK and had to return,” Harbhajan said.

Granddaughter Amanpreet Kaur said from Jammu that Teg would often speak nostalgically about his early days in Hattian Dupatta.

“He really had great love for his village,” she added.

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