An Indian mother awaits compensation for Pakistani son’s death

May 26th, 2008 - 11:53 am ICT by admin  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) She lost her son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren on a single night - all wiped out by the terror blasts on the Samjhauta Express train last year. Today Maimuna Khatoon’s family is still running from pillar to post for compensation. Based in Gaya in Bihar, 70-year-old Maimuna’s family has hardly come to terms with the loss of the eldest son who used to live in Pakistan even as her second son Mohammad Jawaid’s feet are beginning to ache from the endless trips to government offices here.

“The authorities are not denying compensation but making us run around from one office to another. We are poor people; how many times can I visit Delhi and Panipat to talk to officials?” Jawaid asked, his eyes filled with tears.

It was near Panipat in the capital’s neighbouring state of Haryana on the night of Feb 18/ 19 that terror blasts hit the Samjhauta Express, the friendship train between India and Pakistan that journeys twice a week carrying people from both sides.

The incident left 68 dead and scores injured. Among the dead were Maimuna’s son Shabbir, daughter-in-law Samina and four grandchildren who were on their way back to Pakistan after spending a few happy weeks in India.

“After the tragedy, I identified four of the six members of my family who were on the train. The government promised to give Rs.1 million to the family of the deceased but we are still running from one office to another,” said Jawaid, 24.

Jawaid was in Delhi to meet some officials.

“I have visited Panipat, the railway office in Delhi and the Pakistan high commission many times but we are yet to receive the compensation amount. I am unemployed and managing our family with my mother’s pension. We expect the government to keep its word,” Jawaid, a graduate from Gaya, told IANS.

He said the Haryana police in Panipat gave him the death certificates of his brother and other family members. “They gave us Rs.400,000 for identifying four bodies and promised to give the rest later,” he added.

His brother Shabbir had settled in Pakistan and had obtained Pakistani nationality. Jawaid has another brother.

In a letter to the external affairs ministry dated Dec 6, 2007, Maimuna Khatoon said: “My son Shabbir Ahmad during his childhood visited his aunt in Karachi. Subsequently, he settled down in Pakistan. My son occasionally visited India to meet me and other family members.”

On the possibility of someone else in Pakistan claiming compensation, Jawaid said the Pakistan embassy in New Delhi had already handed them the death certificates of Shabbir and his family.

“It clears all doubt that they were my brother and his family. We have even furnished many documents establishing that Shabbir is my brother,” he said.

He said G. Balasubramaniam, the deputy secretary (Pakistan division) in the Indian external affairs ministry, had been assuring them of compensation but nothing concrete had come through.

“I have told the Indian embassy in Pakistan to facilitate the compensation. Don’t worry, I will tell them again,” Balasubramaniam told Jawaid over phone last week. Jawaid had called Balasubramaniam from the IANS office.

Said Jawaid: “I don’t know how many months we have to wait. Who will pay us to visit Delhi every 15 days and stay here for a few days.”

(Prashant K. Nanda can be contacted at prashant.n@ians.in)

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