Behind the execution of two Punjabi men in Saudi Arabia lies a pattern that has played with unfailing regularity – jobless youth in state borrowing money or selling land and property to pay to travel agents lured by dreams of big moolah on foreign shores. That the dreams have more often than not ended in tragedy is something that has failed to put brakes on such exodus.
Two such dreams met a brutal end – death by beheading – on February 28. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has confirmed execution of Satwinder Singh of Hoshiarpur and Harjeet Singh of Ludhiana, in an alleged murder case of 2015.
The letter from MEA confirming the execution, was received by Seema Rani on Tuesday, said her advocate Vinod Kumar, through whom she had filed a petition in Punjab and Haryana High Court to know status of her husband Satwinder Singh who was in Riyadh jail since 2015.
Scratch the surface and you come across the pattern playing out for Harjeet Singh (32), a native of village Kubba of Samrala in Ludhiana district.
Unemployed, Harjeet, then 21, had moved to Saudi in 2007 and had started working there as a driver. The family, including his father and elder brother, had arranged Rs 2 lakh taking loans from friends and relatives to pay the agent who had arranged his migration. Twelve years later, the debt still hasn’t been paid back.
Harjeet was youngest of seven siblings. His five sisters are married while the eldest brother Gurdev Singh (47), left his job in the Indian Army as hawaldar as after Harjeet moved to Saudi, there was no one to take care of old parents.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Gurdev Singh said, that he spoke to Harjeet on February 24.
He did not give any hint about any possible execution or any such action. He sounded fine. I also told him to send me his case documents so that we can look for some solution here, but he wasn’t able to. He only said ‘mera karo kuch…’ (find some solution of my problem). He had also denied murdering anyone. He said that he and Satwinder had a clash with third man but they did not murder him Gurdev said.
He added that it was extreme poverty that forced Harjeet to move to Saudi Arabia. “He went in 2007 and came home in 2012 to meet the family. He left soon after getting engaged in 2012. But the engagement was called off after he was arrested,” he added.
“Till now we have not received any official communication or letter regarding his execution from the the MEA or the Indian Embassy. On March 7, we received a call from Saudi and the person informed us that he has been executed. But there was no official confirmation. Till date, it hasn’t come. Today also, we only got to know that family of second man (Satwinder) received a letter in which Harjeet’s name is also mentioned,” said his brother.
Buddh Singh said, “We have no land, we have no means to practise agriculture. I am a landless laborer. He had gone to Saudi because we had five daughters to marry and there was no source of income here. I had taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh to pay to agent and send him. I never knew we won’t even get his mortal remains and he will meet such an end. The debt is still unpaid….” he said.
Harjeet’s Mother said that she doesn’t remember when she spoke to him last. “But when we had spoken, he sounded fine. He never used to share his issues and problems. I don’t believe that he could murder someone,” she said.
The family is now hoping for a miracle and want that his mortal remains should be brought back for cremation. The letter from MEA says that as per Saudi system, mortal remains of those who are executed are not handed over either to family or Embassy of that country. Only death certificate is issued and that too two months after the execution.
Vinod Kumar, advocate for Seema Rani, said that it was after they had filed a petition in High Court demanding a reply from the MEA that government issued the letter confirming the executions.