Chandigarh: Almost 31 years after the search to find him was given up, an elated Surjeet Singh on Thursday crossed the Wagah border from Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore and stepped on Indian soil. His return came just a day after the hopes of the family of another prisoner Sarabjit Singh of seeing him were dashed after it was clarified by Pakistan that it was Surjeet and not Sarabjit who was being released.
The entire village turned up at the Attari-Wagah border on Thursday to welcome 70-year-old Surjeet. "I am happy to be back home," Surjeet said as he met his family and friends after 31 years. For his family, who had given up hope of ever seeing him again, it was a moment when words weren't enough.
"I am very happy. I will give him a hug, what is the big deal about that! I went through a tough time," said Surjeet's wife Harbans Kaur.
Soon after his return, Surjeet and his family went to Amritsar to offer prayers at Golden Temple. Speaking to CNN-IBN, Surjeet blamed the Pakistani media for creating the confusion over his release. The Pakistani media had initially reported that it was Sarabjit who would be released.
"That was Pakistani media's fault. The name Sarabjit and Surjeet seem similar in Urdu. It caused confusion," said Surjeet.
When asked why he crossed the border, Surjeet hesitated to reply but later said that he was a RAW agent and he went for spying. "I was a RAW agent but after I got arrested no one bothered about my release," Surjeet told CNN-IBN.
His death sentence was commuted to life term imprisonment in 1989. For two decades his family thought he was dead. It was only in 2005 that they came to know from another freed prisoner that Surjeet was alive.
Surjeet told that he was treated well in Pakistan and hoped that other prisoners like Sarabjit would be released soon.