New Delhi: In 2013, Satwinder Singh left his home in Hoshiarpur to move to Saudi Arabia to work as a driver, leaving his wife and daughter behind. Cut to 2019, Seema Rani, is fighting a battle to save her husband’s image as someone who was beheaded by the Saudi Arabian government for murdering a fellow Indian in 2015.
The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday confirmed that Satwinder and another man had been executed by the Saudi authorities on charges of murder. The ministry also said that it was not informed by the Saudi government about their beheading. For Seema, however, the fight started three years ago and as far as she is concerned, the statement from the MEA changes nothing on that front.
It was in 2016 that Seema found out that her husband had been jailed in connection with a murder and robbery. Speaking to News18, Seema said she ran to every possible leader. “We sought help from Avinash Rai Khanna (senior BJP leader) in 2016. We even sent an email to Sushma Swaraj. Khanna took up our case with the MEA. Our file number is 19. But nothing was done and soon they shut our case down,” she said.
She was in touch with Satwinder, whom she married thirteen years ago, throughout the ordeal. They would talk about his time in jail, and he would assure her of his safe return. “He told me that he was eating well and that he was fine. It was his word against mine. I had no option but to believe him since I did not see his condition personally,” Seema said.
The last time Seema spoke to Satwinder was on February 21, a conversation in which he told Seema that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was making efforts to get Indians out from Saudi Arabian jails. “I might also get out,” he had told Seema.
Things took an unexpected turn when, on March 1, Seema said she received a phone call from another prisoner who was kept at the same jail as Satwinder that the latter had been taken away from prison.
“I got a call the next day also when this person told me my husband had been killed,” she said, adding that she went back to Khanna and also brought up the matter with Vijay Sampla (MoS for social justice and empowerment). “Nobody heard us and that’s when we decided to go the High Court,” she added.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the central government to respond to Seema’s query—whether her husband was alive or dead. The MEA sent in its reply through the HC counsel confirming that her husband had indeed been beheaded, adding that it was not informed by the Saudi officials.
Seema is however not happy with the way things were handled by the MEA. “Our case has been with them for the last three years. We did not receive any official statement from them. They have my address and contact details. Had they informed us at some point about my husband’s case or condition, I would have gone to the PM myself to save him,” Seema said.
She has also raised questions about the charges filed against her husband. “He had gone there to make a living for all of us. I don’t believe it. Our government should ask the Saudi government why such cases were slapped against my government. Where is Sushma Swaraj now?” she said.
Seema is not the only one who has raised questions on how the case was handled at the MEA. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh called the incident barbaric, adding that he would seek a detailed report from the MEA. He also slammed the MEA for not disclosing details of the execution with the family earlier.
Seema said that her relative tried to contact the Saudi government through the embassy, but the officials told them that they were not aware of her husband’s case. “Our government must ask the Saudi government. Is our government only sitting here for votes?” Seema added. For now, however, Seema’s immediate concern is her daughter. The 13-year-old knows everything that’s going on about her father, Seema said, adding that her priority was to educate her child.
“As far as Satwinder is concerned, give me evidence, I will believe everything that the government says. But for now, I believe, he was falsely implicated and the government now is evading the truth. I will wait for my husband till my last breath. If I am lucky, he will come back.”