From guns to gardening, Kashmir militant returns home
Do they thank god or the government? An extraordinary
question in the conflict-ridden politics of the Kashmir valley,
but the Dars in Narpora village send their heartfelt thanks to
both as they celebrate the homecoming of their son after 11 years
of being a gun-wielding militant in Pakistan..
Jammu: He was driving a
taxi in Jammu when a passenger offered him a chance to "spy for
the nation" and earn big bucks. As a 24-year-old, he grabbed the
opportunity. But now, after more than three decades and a 10-year
jail stint in Pakistan, a frail and hapless Vinod Sawhney
struggles for his livelihood.
Sawhney, 59, still curses the day when the allurement of money got
him entangled in the network of Indian intelligence that launched
him as a "spy" in Pakistan.
He is currently undergoing treatment at the Government Medical
College Hospital where the authorities lodged him after forcibly
evicting him from Press Club Thursday night. He was on a hunger
strike for over a week demanding "some means to earn a livelihood"
from the government.
Sawhney narrated his story on how Indian intelligence officers
hooked him to "spy for the nation". He used to drive a taxi in
Jammu at 24 years of age. On an August day in 1977, a passenger
asked him how much he earned. "I told him I earned around Rs.300
monthly...he said I could earn much more by doing work for him. I
"I was brainwashed and told that what I was going to do would be
of immense service to the nation," Sawhney narrated to IANS.
The next day he was taken to Suchetgarh border, about 35 km west
of Jammu, and pushed into Pakistan along with three other people
and a guide. "I was told that my code name is Vinod 22, but I was
not told the names or codes of others."
Sawhney and his group kept moving in Pakistani cities like Sialkot,
Islamabad, Faislabad and Sheikhupura. "Then one day, I don't know
what happened, the guide got me arrested. I was lodged in Sialkot
He underwent about nine months' trial and was finally lodged in
the Multan central jail. His family approached the government
seeking his release. Finally he, along with 109 others, was
repatriated in 1988. Thereafter, he kept pleading unsuccessfully
at various levels in government for rehabilitation or pension.
He asked the government to give him some job or pension as he had
"lost the prime of my life in service of the nation", but nothing
He got married to Kailash Rani in 1990 and has two sons -- Vivek,
19, and Vidur, 13. "They are studying with the support of my
brothers who are well-to-do and doing business." Sawhney lives in
his paternal house in the Bakshi Nagar area.
He says his poor condition affected his health and he even
suffered a brain haemorrhage and slipped into a coma for 21 days.
"Today after seven days of hunger strike my heart rate is 40 and
blood pressure 70/40. This is what I am getting for serving the
nation," he rues.
Sawhney is just a Class 8 pass but can converse well in English.
For this, he says, "In Multan jail, I used to interact with
intellectual and political prisoners."
Narrating his story, his voice chokes and eyes well up. "Instead
of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru, they (Indian government) should
give me the death sentence."
Deputy Commissioner of Jammu Sanjeev Verma told IANS over
telephone, "There are hundreds of such cases, and it is not
possible to help all of them. But in this case, we have taken a
lenient view and recommended to the municipal authorities to give
him a vendor's licence."
(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at email@example.com)