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HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Sarabjit Singh's body reaches India, handed over to family; state funeral today

PTI  Amritsar/New Delhi, May 02, 2013
First Published: 19:51 IST(2/5/2013) | Last Updated: 02:53 IST(3/5/2013)

The body of Sarabjit Singh, who died after a brutal attack by inmates in a Pakistani jail, was on Thursday night handed over to his family after the post-mortem.

A contingent of Punjab Police led by SSP Tarn-Taran Raj Jeet Singh handed over Sarabjit's body to his family at Bikhiwind village for a state funeral on Friday.

Earlier, Sarabjit's body was airlifted to his village and sent to Government Hospital at Patti where a team of six doctors of government-run Amritsar Medical college conducted the second post-mortem.

His body was on Thursday night brought in Amritsar onboard a special Air India aircraft from Lahore, where he died following a murderous assault in a jail.

It was a grim end to the battle waged by his family to secure his release after he had spent over two decades in Pakistani jails as the plane landed at Rajasansi Airport where political leaders, including Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur, were present to receive the body.

The body is to be taken to Government Hospital for autopsy and would be handed over to the family at village Bhikhiwind for a state funeral on Friday.

Punjab government has announced a financial assistance of Rs. one crore for the family of Sarabjit and declared a three-day state mourning.

Flags will fly half mast on all government buildings and there will be no official ceremonial functions during this period, an official spokesman said.

The body was flown out of the Lahore International Airport after receiving clearance from Pakistani authorities.

Indian High Commission officials had earlier in the day received the body of Sarabjit after an autopsy was performed at the Jinnah Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries today at 1:30 AM (IST).

Meanwhile, the second post mortem of Sarabjit's body as per his family's wish to "know the cause behind his death" is being conducted at Patti by a team of six doctors of government-run Amritsar Medical college, officials said.

Sarabjit's body was airlifted from Rajasansi airport by a chopper for Patti, National Commission for SC Vice Chairman Raj Kumar Verka told PTI.

He said the postmortem will be over by 10 pm and after which the body will be taken to Sarabjit's native Bikhiwind village in Tarn Taran district, 10-km away from the Indo-Pak border, by road.

Meanwhile, people from all walks of life turned up to get a glimpse of Sarabjit's body.

The cremation will take place on Friday in the afternoon and will be attended by Union minister Preneet Kaur, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and several key personalities from all sections of the society.

Family members of Sarabjit Singh have already reached their hometown Bhikhiwind where his body will be brought to from Amritsar.


Sarabjit Singh's family mourn his death in Bhikhiwind about 40km from Amritsar. Munish Byala/HT

According to reports, Sarabjit's body will first be kept in a hospital mortuary for further post-mortem tests. The body will be released by the unidentified hospital on Friday morning and flown by helicopter to Bhikhiwind.

The funeral rites of the dead Indian prisoner are expected to take place around 2pm on Friday, reportedly with full state honours

The Punjab government has declared him a martyr and decided to give him a state funeral at his ancestral village.

External affairs minister Salman Khurshid earlier in the day said he was "extremely anguished" by the death of Sarabjit Singh, who died in a Lahore hospital following a brutal attack on him in a high-security jail.

"We are extremely anguished by the death" of the Indian prisoner, Khurshid told media in New Delhi.

Khurshid also said that the government are extremely distressed by the death, and said that they would share the details of what has happened with Parliament.

"We are going to issue a statement in Parliament. It is a terrible psychological and emotional setback for us. We deeply regret his death. We are extremely angry," Khurshid added.

He further said Sarabjit's death was a setback to people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan.

"A sustainable and long lasting relationship between two countries has to be between people. That relation has been hurt by what has happened today," Khurshid added.


Sarabjit Singh's sister Dalbir Kaur, on Thursday lashed out at Pakistan for her brother's death and called for a war against the country.

Chanting "Pakistan Murdabad", Kaur said she was appealing to all parties to come together to give Pakistan an 'appropriate answer'.

"I appeal to all political parties to come together and support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. Earlier, Pakistan stabbed Vajpayee's (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) back and today they have stabbed Manmohan Singh. It's time to wage a war against Pakistan," she said.

She also alleged that human rights activist Ansar Burney had asked for a huge amount to get Sarabjit back to India.

She also said that her brother had been dead even while he was in hospital in Lahore, and doctors and nurses had laughed at them.

"When we were almost in hysterics and we asked hospital authorities how Sarabjit is, they laughed at us. Nurses, doctors at the Pakistan hospital laughed at us because they knew he was dead. Pakistan murdered him", she said.

Sarabjit died of cardiac arrest in a Pakistani hospital in the wee hours on Thursday after being comatose for nearly a week following a brutal assault by fellow inmates in a high- security jail.

Sarabjit had been admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital, where four of his family members - his sister, wife and two daughters - had visited him.

They returned to India on Wednesday, and condemned the Indian Government for not taking up their cause in right earnest.

Dalbir Kaur even called on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to resign over the issue.

Sarabjit had been on death row since 1991 after he was convicted of espionage and links to a series of bombings in the Punjab province of Pakistan.

India outraged
India erupted in anger on Thursday overthe death of Sarabjit Singh after a "barbaric" attack in a Lahore jail with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding justice from Pakistan and BJP calling for scaling down diplomatic ties with that country.

As an outraged government and political parties across the spectrum targeted Pakistan and showed solidarity with Sarabjit's family, questions were also raised on future of Indo-Pakistan ties.

A shattered Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit, urged political parties to unite for a strong collective response to Pakistan. Kaur wanted her brother to be declared a martyr.

Hailing Sarabjit as a "brave son of India", Singh said it was "particularly regrettable" that Pakistan did not heed pleas to take a humanitarian view of the prisoner's case.

The Prime Minister underlined that the criminals responsible for "the barbaric and murderous attack must be brought to justice".


Candles are placed in front Sarabjit Singh's photographs in Amritsar. Reuters

Asserting that Sarabjit's death was a killing of an Indian citizen while in the custody of Pakistan jail authorities, the external affairs ministry demanded that Pakistan conduct a thorough probe into the incident to ensure that those who are responsible were punished.

BJP while condemning the death of Sarabjit as a "cold blooded murder" assumed a strident tone demanding that India call back its high commissioner in Pakistan and scale down diplomatic relations with that country.

"The Indian high commissioner in Pakistan should be called back for the time being until Pakistan gives credible assurances that it will not allow its territory to be used to promote terrorism against India and that all Indian prisoners are safe in Pakistani jails," he told reporters.

While there was unanimity in holding Pakistan responsible for Sarabjit's death, the Indian government also came under attack from BJP, Trinamool Congress and Akali Dal for its "indifference" in handling of the Sarabjit episode.


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