India erupts in anger as Sarabjit’s body reaches Amritsar

published on May 2, 2013

The body of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh was brought on Thursday evening Amritsar onboard a special Air India aircraft from Lahore, where he died following a murderous assault in a jail.

It was a grim end to the battle waged by his family to secure his release after he had spent over two decades in Pakistani jails as the plane landed at Rajasansi Airport where political leaders, including Punjab Deputy Chief MinisterSukhbir Singh Badal and minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur, were present to receive the body.

The body is to be taken to Government Hospital for autopsy and would be handed over to the family at village Bikhiwind for a state funeral tomorrow.

Punjab government has announced a financial assistance of Rs one crore for the family of Sarabjit and declared a three-day state mourning.

Flags will fly half mast on all government buildings and there will be no official ceremonial functions during this period, an official spokesman said.

The body was flown out of the Lahore International Airport after receiving clearance from Pakistani authorities.

Indian high commission officials had earlier in the day received the body of Sarabjit after an autopsy was performed at the Jinnah Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries today at 1.30am (IST).

Sarabjit, the second Indian prisoner to die in Pakistan’s notorious Kot Lakhpat jail here in Lahore this year, was brutally attacked on Friday by six fellow inmates when he and other prisoners were brought out of their cells for a break.

Sarabjit died of cardiac arrest after being comatose for nearly a week following the assault.

He was convicted of alleged involvement in bomb attacks in Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990 and spent about 22 years in Pakistani prisons. His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former President Pervez Musharraf.

The previous Pakistan Peoples Party-led government put off Sarabjit’s execution for an indefinite period in 2008.

Sarabjit’s family says he was the victim of mistaken identity and had strayed across the border in an inebriated state.

Outrage in India

India erupted in anger on Thursday over the death of Sarabjit Singh after a barbaric attack in a Lahore jail with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding justice from Pakistan and BJP calling for scaling down diplomatic ties with that country.

As an outraged government and political parties across the spectrum targeted Pakistan and showed solidarity with 49-year-old Sarabjit’s family, questions were also raised on future of India-Pakistan ties. A shattered Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit, urged political parties to unite for a strong collective response to Pakistan.

Kaur wanted her brother to be declared a martyr.

Hailing Sarabjit as a “brave son of India”, Singh said it was “particularly regrettable” that Pakistan did not heed pleas to take a humanitarian view of the prisoner’s case. The Prime Minister underlined that the criminals responsible for “the barbaric and murderous attack must be brought to justice”.

Asserting that Sarabjit’s death was a killing of an Indian citizen while in the custody of Pakistan jail authorities, the external affairs ministry demanded that Pakistan conduct a thorough probe into the incident to ensure that those who are responsible were punished. BJP while condemning the death of Sarabjit as a “cold blooded murder” assumed a strident tone demanding that India call back its high commissioner in Pakistan and scale down diplomatic relations with that country.

“The Indian high commissioner in Pakistan should be called back for the time being until Pakistan gives credible assurances that it will not allow its territory to be used to promote terrorism against India and that all Indian prisoners are safe in Pakistani jails,” he told reporters. External affairs minister Salman Khurshid when asked whether ties between India and Pakistan will be normal in the backdrop of Sarabjit death said, “I think it is a big question that in coming days we will have to examine and see how do we work.”

Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the distraught family of Sarabjit at the residence of Rajumar Verka, vice-chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes. Rahul hugged Dalbir while offering his condolences.

While there was unanimity in holding Pakistan responsible for Sarabjit’s death, the Indian government also came under attack from BJP, Trinamool Congress and Akali Dal for its “indifference” in handling of the Sarabjit episode.

‘ISI killed Sarabjit’

A former Indian spy, who had spent some time with Pakistan President Zardari behind bars in a Pakistani jail, feels Sarabjit Singh may have been killed in an attack planned by the ISI.

“I don’t have any doubt that the attack on Sarabjit was pre-planned and was the handiwork of ISI and jail officials though other people attacked him. Now, two prisoners are being made sacrificial goats,” said Elahi who was Zardari’s jailmate at the Karachi Central Jail for a few months between 1986-87 during the Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq regime.

Elahi claimed that in 1977 he was given a blank cheque by jail and ISI officials to assassinate a top Pakistani leader who was then in Lahore jail.

“It is impossible for other prisoners to attack Sarabjit. I myself had been in Pakistani jails for 20 years. I know very well that Pakistani prisoners never attack Indian or Bangladeshi prisoners who are kept in separate cells,” Elahi told PTI in Kolkata.

Elahi, who claims to have crossed over to Pakistan in the ’60s and ’70s, was in jail in Pakistan from 1977-1996 on the charge of spying for India.

“Death row convicts and convicts of foreign origin are always kept separately and handcuffed when taken out of their cells. So, how is it possible for them to attack someone?” said Elahi who returned to India in the late nineties after serving his sentence.

“These jails have very high security and it is impossible to import blades and other things from outside without the knowledge of jail officials,” he added.

Sarabjit died in a Lahore hospital in the early hours of Thursday after being comatose for nearly a week following a brutal assault by fellow prisoners in a high-security jail.

‘India should recall envoy to Pak’

Meanwhile, BJP on Thursday demanded that India call back its high commissioner in Pakistan and scale down diplomatic relations with Islamabad in the wake of the death of Sarabjit Singh after a brutal attack.

BJP president Rajnath Singh told reporters in Delhi that Sarabjit’s murder is unfortunate. Condemning the incident, he said had India taken effective diplomatic steps in the past, such an incident would not have taken place.

“The Indian high commissioner in Pakistan should be called back and diplomatic relations should be scaled down till Pakistan gives full assurance that there will be no provocation or protection to any terror activities against India and full protection will be given to Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails,” Singh said.

He said India should lodge a strong protest at the international fora against Pakistan on Sarabjit’s murder.

Condemning the incident, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, “It is a cold blooded murder. This is not the way civilised nations behave.”

The BJP President alleged that the attack on Sarabjit in a Pakistani jail is the outcome of India’s weak foreign policy.

“I consider this a diplomatic failure. It is well known what kind of anti-India activities are taking place in Pakistan. Had India taken effective diplomatic steps in the past such incidents would not have taken place,” Singh said.

He referred to the earlier attack by Pakistan forces in which the heads of two Indian soldiers Hemraj and Sudhakar were smashed and Hemraj’s head was taken away by them.

Singh pointed out that after this incident he had suggested that India call back its high commissioner in Islamabad and scale down diplomatic relations but the government did not pay heed to his advice.

Welcome to Haindava Keralam! Register for Free or Login as a privileged HK member to enjoy auto-approval of your comments and to receive periodic updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

four × three =


Latest Articles from Bharath Focus

Did You Know?