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As the 31 convicted in the Maruti violence case walked into the Gurgaon district court premises on Saturday, with policemen by their side, family and friends lined the path to the courtroom waiting to catch a glimpse of them. Scattered hands went up in greeting as the convicts passed by. Amongst those who stood at the front of the crowd was Avtar Singh, a retired postman from Kurukshetra and the father of Sarabjit — one of those charged with murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Singh, however, is still convinced that his son, in his mid-20s and the father of a five-year-old girl, is innocent. Having returned home disappointed last Friday after Sarabjit was convicted, Singh stood outside the courtroom on Saturday afternoon waiting for his son.
As Sarabjit walked past, a smile played on Singh’s lips, despite the situation, and he nodded at his son as a sign of greeting and reassurance.
“When I went home last week, Sarabjit’s wife and mother were very upset to see he was not with me. But we have not lost faith,” said Singh after the sentencing on Saturday. “There will be an appeal in the High Court and we believe we will get justice there… It may take some time, but our son will return home. We are sure of that,” he added.
Also standing in the crowd, with a black haversack hoisted on his back, was Sandeep Kumar, the younger brother of Jia Lal who has been sentenced to life imprisonment. “My brother is not someone who can commit any act of violence, especially murder. This is something everyone in our village can vouch for. Everyone knows he is innocent. He has always been a balanced, work-oriented person,” he said.
However, Kumar alleged that the managers of the Manesar plant “mentally harassed” his brother on a regular basis.
“On the day of the incident too, they were troubling him and he got into a fight with them. But it was all verbal, he never slapped anybody. The allegations against him are false; he has been made a scapegoat,” said Kumar, adding that he is hopeful of taking Lal home to Jind, where his wife and five-year-old son await his arrival, after the appeal is filed in the HC.
Balwan, the brother of Ram Meher, another convict sentenced to life, reiterated this sentiment. But could not control his tears after hearing the punishment his brother had received. A farmer from Kaithal, Balwan said, “This sentence is a let down, I will not deny that. But I am optimistic that we will win in the High Court. The entire world lives on hope, and that is what we are doing too.”