There was anger and resentment at Sarabjit Singh’s native town of Bhikhiwind as it woke up to the news of his death at a Lahore hospital.
Pulling down shutters of shops in the entire town, residents held a vociferous protest slamming both India and Pakistan for failing to save Sarabjit. ‘Pakistan murdabad’, ‘Sarabjit Singh Amar Rahe’, and slogans against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh captured the scenes when the day started.
Holding pictures of Sarabjit Singh, the people in Bhikhiwind criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for doing nothing to rescue Sarabjit.
The residents alleged that Sarabjit has been murdered by Pakistan and India watched like a mute spectator. Effigies of India and Pakistan were burnt.
“This is something that has pained us a lot. India just kept watching and Pakistan firstly attacked Sarabjit and then murdered him. For how long we will be a soft nation and lose our citizens like this?” said angry resident Swaranjit Singh.
"Sarabjit is the son of the soil. His family has been fighting a lonely battle for two decades only to lose. Had the Indian government pressurised the Pakistani government, this would not have happened," he added.
Another resident, Balwinder Singh, who slammed Pakistan said, “ We should severe relations with Pakistan. First, they behead our soldiers and now kill our friend Sarabjit. We will not tolerate this. He is our hero.”
Schools were shut down and people gathered in Sarabjit's ancestral house. Although the family was not at home, neighbours gathered to mourn the death.
Talking to HT, Gurbeer Singh, nephew of Sarabjit said, “ My uncle spent all his life in jail and we fought. But we cannot understand that why the government of India remained mum all these years.”
"We want the body back so that we can cremate it with full honours," he added.
Not only elders, even children gathered at the Bhikhiwind bazaar and raised slogans. They demanded that the government support the family and declare Sarabjit a martyr.
Preparation for cremation begins
Even though family members of Sarabjit Singh are in New Delhi, local residents gathered at Sarabjit's ancestral house. Anticipating that the body of Sarabjit would be brought back soon, the preparation for his cremation has started.
People erected tents and made other arrangements and claimed that the body will be kept in the house before the last rites.
“This house has been waiting for Sarabjit for 22 years. The wait ended today in the most unfortunate and painful manner. We are in shock,” said Bachchittar Singh, another nephew of Sarabjit Singh. "India needs to take responsibility for being a soft state. Pakistan should be exposed at the international level," he added.