Friday, May 3, 2013

At Bhikhiwind, anger & gloom

CHANDIGARH, May 3, 2013

The body of Sarabjit Singh, who succumbed to his injuries after some inmates at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore attacked him a week ago, would be cremated on Friday with full State honours at his native village Bhikhiwind in Tarn Taran district. The Punjab government has declared him a "national martyr".

The State government has declared three days of mourning, when the National tricolour shall fly half-mast. An ex-gratia relief of Rs. one crore was announced for the family, while Sarabjit Singh's daughters have been assured government jobs based on their educational qualifications. The State Assembly which is scheduled to meet for a single-day session on Friday, shall also mourn his death and pass an appropriate resolution.

The special aircraft carrying Sarabjit's body landed at the Rajasansi Airport, where it was received by the Union Minister of state for External Affairs, Preneet Kaur and Punjab's Minister for Revenue and Public Relations, Bikram Singh Majithia. The body was transferred into a helicopter, which took off for Patti town, where a second autopsy would be carried out at the civil hospital. In the morning, a flower bedecked vehicle would carry Sarabjit's mortal remains to his native village for the cremation, which is scheduled for early afternoon.

Led by the head of the surgery department of the Government Medical College at Amritsar, Dr N. C. Chachi, a five-member team of doctors would conduct the second autopsy on Sarabjit's body to confirm the cause of his death. Doctors at Jinnah hospital in Lahore are said to have announced that a "cardiac arrest" caused the death of a comatose Sarabjit Singh past midnight. Sarabjit's family, which reached Amritsar in the evening, has consented for the second autopsy.

A statement quoting the Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal described Sarabjit as a "national martyr" who suffered unspeakable repression and torture with dignity.

Reflecting the resentment among the general public on the issue, the president of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, Sukhbir Singh, demanded an independent probe by an international committee of the Red Cross into what he described as cold blooded murder. The former Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, said it was an officially decreed cold-blooded murder.

Meanwhile, a pall of gloom descended on his native village, Bhikhiwind, which is close to the Indo-Pakistan border and about 40 kms from Amritsar city. As the news of his death spread, people voluntarily shut down their commercial establishments and educational institutions were closed. As at various places in the border towns, people at Bhikhiwind organised processions, held Sarabjit's photographs, and raised slogans such as "Sarabjit Amar Rahe".

Angry protestors greeted television crews by burning Pakistani flags and effigies of the Indian and Pakistani governments. Many people charged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with heading a "soft State", which could not save Sarabjit Singh. Bhikhiwind, part of the border region that prided in "son of the soil" Dr. Manmohan Singh becoming the Prime Minister, had been expecting that Sarabjit would eventually be released. In 2012, the village had organised a major celebration on the "news" of his being released that proved to be incorrect subsequently.
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