Sarabjit Singhs unfortunate death has created outrage. But,that outrage is giving way to jingoism.
While it is sad that Sarabjit,who had been on death row in the Lahore jail,has died after being brutally assaulted by fellow prisoners,a calmer look needs to be taken at the issue.
India and Pakistan have prisoners in each others jails. At last count,there were about 600 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails,and about 300 Indian prisoners in Pakistans jails.
Unfortunately,with the ups and downs in the relations between India and Pakistan,the welfare and treatment of prisoners suffer the most.
For instance,after the Mumbai terror attacks,the apex Indo-Pak judicial committee comprising of retired judges from both sides –meant to act as an oversight body — did not meet even once between 2008 to 2011.
Thankfully,the mechanism has been revived after a three-year lull and in the last two years,they have already met thrice.
A reasonable achievement of the committees work has been the considerable reduction in the number of prisoners in both countries — in India,they came down from 1300 to 600,while in Pakistan,the numbers of Indian nationals dropped from 800 to about 300.
Sarabjit,unfortunately,became the victim of the high-profile attention in the exchange of prisoners. Being accused in a terrorist attack and espionage,didn’t help matters.
While his death has caused an outrage and the circumstances of the death should be investigated and culprits brought to book,it would not be out of place to remember that last year three such Pakistani prisoners died in Indian jails — one of them a young man — and the Pakistani media too got agitated in a similar manner because of the ‘suspicious circumstances’. What further complicated the matter is the delay in giving postmortem reports of these victims.
So,a greater transparency is indeed the need of the hour,along with protection of their interests need to be implemented through concrete and time-bound institutionalised mechanism.
If that can be done,that will be the biggest takeaway from Sarabjits unfortunate demise.