Should India celebrate Kashmir Singh’s freedom?
Aneez Shaikh | 09 Mar 2008

When the news of Kashmir Singh's release saw the first light of the day, it was welcomed with warm hearts and extended hands by practically every Indian. Some people even went to the extent of comparing his saga with the Bollywood film Veer-Zaara. Obviously, after serving 35 years in Pakistani prisons on charges of espionage, and literally sacrificing the golden years of his life for his nation, any Indian, or for that matter a citizen of any country, is bound to receive a hero's welcome in his country. And that’s what Kashmir Singh got from Indians. As citizens of India, we were overwhelmed by the moving saga of this Sikh spy; and either explicitly or in the silent boundaries of his heart, every Indian uttered these words – “We are proud of you, Kashmir Singh!” But, what has India given to Kashmir Singh? A pretty tough question for anyone to answer, especially for the Government of India.

The recent admission by Kashmir Singh that he was an agent for Indian military intelligence has posed some tough questions for all of us, not to mention the problem he has created for the Pakistani minister who was instrumental in his release. Kashmir Singh told reporters at a news conference in Chandigarh, “I did the duty assigned to me as a spy ... I was a regular recruit. I did not open my mouth for 35 years in Pakistan.” Yes, Kashmir Singh was a spy with the Indian military intelligence services, but why would a man, who was strong enough to keep his lips sealed for 35 years, suddenly become so overwhelmed by his release that he decides to open his mouth and confirm his identity? Was he overjoyed? Or was he trying to gain some publicity by portraying himself as a real-life hero?

Well, none of the two reasons made him utter those words. The only reason that made this strong man behave in a childish manner was the plight of his family. His wife and son were totally neglected by the Indian authorities and were forced to live in poverty. “The government after my arrest did not bother to spend a single penny for my family,” Kashmir Singh said. It is quite easy to understand the pain of this Indian spy who even went to the extent of getting circumcised so that he could pass as a Muslim. To live undetected in the enemy country, he changed from Kashmir Singh to Ibrahim and started eating beef and fasting during the month of Ramadan (Ramzan). He defied the rules of his religion for the sake of his country, but what did he get in return? Instead of taking care of his family after his arrest, the Indian government turned a blind eye towards his family. Is this the way to treat someone who risks his life for his nation? Obviously not!

Kashmir Singh’s statement has stirred the hornets’ nest, and now we should expect some diplomatic sparks from both India and Pakistan. As Mr. Ansar Burney, Pakistan’s federal minister for human rights, has said, it will surely make it difficult for Indian prisoners in Pakistan and Pakistani prisoners in India. So, who is to be blamed for all this? Obviously, the blame goes to Indian government, whose failure prompted Kashmir Singh to come out with his statement.

Moreover, keeping in mind the dirty ways of Indian politicians and bureaucrats, it won’t come as a surprise if the Indian government tries to give a totally different twist to this story by declaring that Kashmir Singh was not a spy!