‘I want nothing from govt, only the body of my dead husband’

Only last month, 40-year-old Kamlesh Devi had received a letter from her "missing" husband, saying he was in Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan, and would return home soon as his five-year prison term was close to ending. Earlier this week, Kamlesh came to know that she would in fact never see her husband alive again.

News reports from Pakistan on Friday quoted a lawyer as saying he had seen Kamlesh's husband Chamail Singh being "mercilessly beaten" by two wardens in jail on January 15, two days before the Indian prisoner died at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore.

However, PTI quoted unnamed Indian high commission sources as saying that the Pakistanis had informed the mission that Singh had in fact died on January 15. A note verbale on the matter did not mention the cause of death, PTI said.

Pakistani media reports quoted lawyer Tehseen Khan, who was released from Kot Lakhpat jail on January 18, as saying he had seen prison staff assaulting Singh for using water from a tap to wash clothes on January 15. Khan was quoted as saying that Singh was "mercilessly beaten" by the wardens, who also made "racial remarks against Indians and minorities".

Khan was reported to have said that other Indians in Kot Lakhpat jail, including death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, faced a "grave threat".

In Chamail Singh's home at Bhalwal Mula village in Pargal near Akhnoor, an inconsolable Kamlesh Devi said all that she now wanted was that Pakistan should return her husband's body so she could see him one last time and perform his last rites.

"I want nothing from (the Indian) government, but the body of my late husband," Kamlesh said. No one from the police or administration had visited her so far, Kamlesh said.

PTI, quoting Indian high commission sources, said Islamabad had asked the mission to inform Singh's family of his death, and that the information had been relayed to the external affairs ministry in New Delhi. The officials told PTI that a response from New Delhi was awaited. They knew nothing about Singh having been beaten in jail, they said.

Singh's body is currently in a hospital mortuary in Lahore, PTI said.

Kamlesh and her son Dara Singh said that they had gone to the police after Chamail Singh failed to return home from the fields one evening in 2008. The police had failed to find him, and the family had had no news of Singh till December 2012, when a letter suddenly arrived, saying he was at Kot Lakhpat jail. Singh told his family that he had inadvertently crossed the border into Pakistan and given a five-year jail term, but that he would return soon.

Singh asked Kamlesh to take care of herself, and told their two sons, Dara and Deepak not to quarrel, the family said. They added that Singh had written that this was his fifth letter to them, but said that they had not received any letters earlier.

The family's joy had known no bounds after the letter, Dara said. They had been planning a grand reception for him, and the sons had been decorating a room for him at home. "We had thought that we would ask him to rest at home while we went about earning the family's livelihood," Dara said.

Dara said that he had seen newspaper reports naming two wardens, Mohammad Nawaz and Mohammad Sadiq, who had beaten Singh on January 15 morning when he was washing clothes at a tap outside his barracks. No jail official had come to Singh's rescue, Dara alleged.

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