Sarabjit returns in a coffin,PM calls him a ‘brave son of Indiahttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/sarabjit-returns-in-a-coffin-pm-calls-him-a-brave-son-of-india/

Sarabjit returns in a coffin,PM calls him a ‘brave son of India

Amidst grief and widespread outrage across the country,a special aircraft sent by New Delhi brought back the body of Sarabjit Singh from Pakistan on Thursday evening.

Amidst grief and widespread outrage across the country,a special aircraft sent by New Delhi brought back the body of Sarabjit Singh from Pakistan on Thursday evening.

Two Indian diplomats accompanied the body,which was received at Amritsar airport by Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

After an autopsy in Amritsar,Sarabjit will be cremated with full state honours in his village Bhikhiwind on Friday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called him a “brave son of India who bore his tribulations with valiant fortitude” and said it was “particularly regrettable” that Pakistan did not heed pleas to take a humanitarian view of his case.

“May his soul be granted the peace that he could not enjoy in life,” Singh said.

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Sarabjit,who was assaulted in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail by fellow inmates on April 26,died at 1.30 am India time on Thursday after a “cardiac arrest”,according to doctors at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital. The death row prisoner was reported to be in a “non-reversible coma” and close to “brain death” on Wednesday.

The PM announced an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh for the family. Punjab announced financial assistance of Rs 1 crore and declared state mourning for three days. The state government has already announced government jobs for Sarabjit’s daughters Swapandeep Kaur and Poonam.

A devastated Dalbir Kaur,sister of Sarabjit,called for her brother to be declared a martyr,and asked all political parties to unite for a strong collective response to Pakistan.

The PM said that the criminals responsible for “the barbaric and murderous attack must be brought to justice”. The Indian government demanded that Pakistan conduct a “thorough probe” and ensure punishment for those responsible.

“This was simply the killing of an Indian citizen while in the custody of Pakistani authorities,” Syed Akbaruddin,spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs,said in a statement. “The attack highlights the need for concerted action by Pakistan to safeguard Indian prisoners in Pakistan.”

Parliament observed two minutes of silence in memory of Sarabjit. Both Houses adopted a resolution expressing Parliament’s “deep sense of shock and sorrow”,and condemning the “inhuman treatment” meted out to Sarabjit. The resolution hoped that the culprits would be brought to book.

BJP president Rajnath Singh condemned the “cold blooded murder” and demanded that India call back its high commissioner in Pakistan and scale down diplomatic relations.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said,“For the present,I can only say that it is a terrible psychological and emotional setback to all of us and,I believe,to what we have been trying to do in terms of creating greater cohesion between people of India and people of Pakistan.”

Asked if normal ties with Pakistan were now possible,he 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 Sushil Kumar Shinde and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the distraught family of Sarabjit at the residence of Rajkumar Verka,vice-chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. Rahul hugged Dalbir as she wept,and offered his condolences.

In Lahore,police added murder charges to the FIR registered against two death row prisoners,Amer Aftab alias Amer Tambewala and Mudassar,who had been booked earlier for the attack on 49-year-old Sarabjit.

Najam Sethi,the caretaker chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province,assured Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal that Sarabjit’s murderers would be brought to justice. The Indian envoy met Sethi on a scheduled visit to Lahore. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani twice on Thursday to convey India’s concerns.

Sethi also ordered a judicial enquiry and directed officials to ensure that the probe was completed in 15 days. The inquiry will be conducted by a high court judge,state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

On Thursday night,the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded action against all those who played a part in the murderous assault on Sarabjit. HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf said in a statement: “Not even the most naive person can believe that a prisoner like Sarabjit in a death cell inside a jail can be targeted in such a brutal assault by prisoners without the knowledge and support of prison guards and the authorities. This is far more serious a crime than allowing someone like General Pervez Musharraf to escape from court. It was no secret that Sarabjit faced more threats than other prisoners on account of the charge that he was convicted of and yet his security was so completely compromised.

“Those in Pakistan who take pride in their vengefulness must feel some shame today,if they are capable of that. Those elements in India who are no less vengeful,intolerant and fond of jingoism than their Pakistani counterparts would no doubt write their own script now,” the HRCP chief said.

Government sources in Delhi said India would wait for the report of the Pakistani judicial inquiry before making the next move. Asked if India might take the matter to an international forum,a top source said,“First,let us get full facts. If it is felt that Pakistan’s inquiry is not satisfactory,then we will take the next step.”

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Sarabjit’s body was handed over to the Indian High Commission after an autopsy at Jinnah Hospital.

(With PTI,Islamabad,Lahore)