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‘Spy’ complains of family’s neglect

Chandigarh, March 7: The media spotlight has left him speechless and a twinkle has settled in his eyes.

But if Kashmir Singh can’t find words to thank the Pakistani government for letting him return after three decades of captivity, he can’t help but lament how his own country failed to take care of his family while he was away.

The 67-year-old, released three days ago, today admitted for the first time that he was a spy, and not a smuggler as was earlier believed.

“I had been going to Pakistan on espionage duty for five years before I was arrested on June 17, 1974, at Rawalpindi. My job was to take pictures of sensitive areas and collect information on the Pakistani army and pass them on,” Kashmir told reporters, wife Paramjit Kaur by his side.

“I did what was expected of me like a true Indian. But nobody took care of my family after my arrest. No money was given to my wife to sustain the family. That is my biggest regret.”

A Punjab police constable doubling as a spy, Kashmir said he received a meagre Rs 480 a month for putting his life at risk. “My duty took me to areas near Afghanistan and even Iran.”

Kashmir said he would file a petition in Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking better treatment for the families of spies and compensation.

His wife Paramjit worked as a maid and did menial jobs to bring up their children. “I faced a lot of humiliation but I never asked for anything from the authorities Kashmir worked for nor was I offered any help,” she said.

Kashmir may not be a spy anymore, but his lips are still sealed. Asked about his employers, he retorted: “Why should I divulge their names? I held back the information from the Pakistani authorities for 34 years. I can’t give the secret away now.”

Kashmir said he was grateful to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and especially human rights minister Ansar Burney for locating him and setting him free. “He came to me like God’s farishta and ensured I was sent back to my country within 45 days of our first meeting. He has given me a new birth.”

Kashmir had met Sarabjit Singh in a Lahore jail a few days before his release. He said efforts should also be made to get Sarabjit out of prison.

“There are many Indians in Pakistan who are facing the death sentence. If they are released, it will add to the growing friendship between the two nations. We are one people who speak and dress the same way,” he said, wiping away a tear.

Kashmir, who worked under the name Ibrahim in Pakistan, said he was kept in solitary confinement for 17 years with chains tied to his feet. “But I did not crack.”

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced a pension of Rs 10,000 for Kashmir. Badal also promised to build him a house in Mahilpur near his village, Nangal Charoran.

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