Sarabjit cremated in Bhikhiwind
The mortal remains of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who died after being brutally assaulted in a Pakistani jail, were on Friday consigned to flames...
The mortal remains of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who died after being brutally assaulted in a Pakistani jail, were on Friday consigned to flames in his village with full state honours amid emotional scenes. A contingent of Punjab Police reversed their arms and then fired shots in the air as a mark of respect to 49-year-old Sarabjit, who died yesterday in a Lahore hospital. The pyre was lit by Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur in the presence of his wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Swapandeep and Poonam and son-in-law Sanjay. Dalbir Kaur was assisted by local SAD MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha. A large crowd comprising villagers and VIPs, including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, bid a heartfelt adieu to Sarabjit, whose body was brought here late last night 23 years after he inadvertently crossed over to Pakistan. The final journey of Sarabjit commenced at around 1.15pm with his coffin, wrapped in the tricolour, being taken to a flower-bedecked hearse van stationed adjacent to a government school ground where the body had been placed for the people to pay their last respect. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Union minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur were among others present. Badal had announced a state funeral and three-day state mourning besides financial aid to the family and government jobs for his daughters. A Granthi recited prayers at the cremation ground before the pyre was lit. People climbed rooftops of nearby houses to have a last glimpse of Sarabjit. Others present included Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, vice chairman of National SC Commission Raj Kumar Verka, Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma and leaders representing various parties, including SAD, BJP and Congress. Villagers consoled sobbing members of Sarabjit's family as the body was taken for the last rites. His distraught daughters felt unwell during the funeral and had to be helped by the locals. Slogans like 'Pakistan Murdabad' and 'Sarabjit Amar Rahe' (Long live Sarabjit) rent the air as his body was placed in the school ground to enable people to pay their respects. The mortal remains were later taken in a procession to the nearby village cremation ground. Tight security arrangements were made at the cremation site in view of the presence of a large number of VIPs and additional police contingents were brought from Tarn Taran and other adjoining districts, including Amritsar. The funeral procession took some 45 minutes to reach the cremation ground, about 400 metres from the school ground, after taking a round of the village. The village with a population of around 11,000 and located about 36 km from Amritsar, was in a state of mourning since Thursday with residents gathering near the house of the family after the news of the Indian prisoner's death spread. Shops and commercial establishments in this area remained shut today. The village witnessed some angry protests with locals raising anti-Pakistan slogans and burning effigies. Meanwhile, a second autopsy was conducted on Thursday night by a team of six doctors at the government-run Amritsar Medical College to ascertain the cause of Sarabjit's death. The first postmortem was carried out at the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore. Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has demanded an independent probe by an international agency into the circumstances leading to Sarabjit's death. According to his family, Sarabjit had inadvertently crossed the zero-line near here in an inebriated state while working in his fields which run along the border. Sarabjit was arrested in 1990 by the name of Manjit Singh by Pakistan army in 1990. He was accused of being an Indian spy and was charged with plotting series of bomb blasts in 1989 at Lahore and Multan. He was tried by courts and was awarded death penalty. Sarabjit's trial in Pakistan was based on a statement which Pakistani authorities had claimed was given by him during the course of investigation. However, Sarabjit had said during his trial in court that he was a farmer on the Indian side of the border and had strayed into Pakistan while he was drunk, a stand which was also taken by his family members. His 54-year-old sister Dalbir Kaur had unsuccessfully led a campaign to secure Sarabjit's freedom. She was joined by Sarabjit's wife Sukhpreet Kaur (around 45-year-old) and daughters Swapandeep Kaur and Poonam, both in their mid twenties. The two daughters were minors when their father crossed over to Pakistan and they had their first glimpse of their father in 2008 when they went to Pakistan with their mother and aunt. Dalbir Kaur had gone to Pakistan a couple of times as part of her attempts since 1991 to get her brother freed. Sarabjit, the second Indian prisoner to die in Pakistan's notorious Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore this year, was brutally attacked on Friday last by six fellow inmates when he and other prisoners were brought out of their cells for a break. Sarabjit 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 Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. The previous Pakistan Peoples Party-led government had put off Sarabjit's execution for an indefinite period in 2008.