Sushma Swaraj (1952-2019)

‘Sushma Swaraj was pillar of support during dark times,’ says Hamid Ansari, who was repatriated from Pakistan last year

Filled with gratitude: Hamid Ansari meets Sushma Swaraj after he was released from a prison in Pakistan last year.

Filled with gratitude: Hamid Ansari meets Sushma Swaraj after he was released from a prison in Pakistan last year.   | Photo Credit: Twitter video

Families whose lives she touched fondly recollect timely help

The news of former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s demise was received with shock and grief by professor Fauzia Ansari, whose son Hamid was repatriated from Pakistan last year after Swaraj’s tireless efforts.

Ms. Ansari had in November 2012 travelled to Pakistan to meet a woman he had befriended on Facebook. He was arrested two days after his arrival, and in 2015, a Pakistani court sent him to jail for three years. In December last year, he returned to India through the Atari–Wagah border and was reunited with his family.

Ms. Ansari said, “I still remember the moment when we met Hamid in Delhi. Swaraj asked him about his well-being and plans for the future just like a mother would enquire about her child. Hamid always said I was his mother because I gave birth to him, and she was his second mother because she gave him a second life.”

Recalling the moment when they received the sad news, Ms. Ansari said, “None of us believed it as she seemed healthy when we last saw her. It was only when AIIMS doctors confirmed her demise that the news started to sink in. None of us have slept all night. She was a pillar of support during those dark times.”

Agrata Dinakaran (30), an Indian national who is now based in Ireland, was helped by Swaraj in 2015. The digital marketing professional, who was then based in Bengaluru, had lost her passport and wallet while travelling in Berlin. She made her way to the Indian embassy, but found it shut. She then took to Twitter seeking help. Though she had not tagged Swaraj, the minister reached out to her after another user brought Ms. Dinakaran’s plight to her attention.

‘Immediate response’

Ms. Dinakaran said, “I assumed the request for my mobile number came from Swaraj’s social media team and shared it on Twitter. To my surprise, Sushma Swaraj personally called me 15 minutes later and asked if I was fine. She told me that the embassy should not have been closed and assured me that she would resolve the matter immediately.”

She said 10 minutes later, she received a call from officials at the embassy, who asked her to drop in to claim a new travel document to fly back home. Ms. Dinakaran said, “It was nearly midnight in India and I was overwhelmed that a minister personally looked after my case. The next day, I visited the embassy, where officials were awaiting my arrival. I’m forever grateful for what she did and I am still shaken with the news of her demise. She still is an inspiration and always helped anyone in need as demonstrated by the countless people she helped on Twitter. The nation has lost a hardworking, efficient, and a selfless minister. I have lost a hero.”

Subhash Jadhav, a retired assistant commissioner of police, whose nephew Kulbhushan Jadhav is still imprisoned in Pakistan, said, “It was mostly my elder brother [Kulbhushan’s father] who interacted with her. She was a constant source of support and I will never forget her statements in the Lok Sabha in which she referred to him as her son.”

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 2:01:33 PM |

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