All roads led to Bhikhiwind on Friday as the Punjab border town bid farewell to Sarabjit Singh, its son who finally came home after 22 years in a Pakistani jail.
As sister Dalbir Kaur lit the pyre, thousands lined the narrow road to the cremation ground, perched on walls, rooftops and any spare space. Some cried, some raised their voices in anger, none were unaffected.
That anger resulted in a possibly retaliatory attack on a Pakistani man jailed in Jammu and prompted an immediate response from Islamabad.
Politicians also made a beeline for Singh’s funeral. Among those present were Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, his deputy Sukhbir Badal and minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur.
Sanaullah, a convicted terrorist and murderer serving a life sentence in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail, is in a coma at PGI Chandigarh, where he was shifted after he was hit with a brick by fellow inmate and ex-armyman Vinod Kumar, also serving a life term for murder.
“He is not responding to treatment and chances of his survival are slim,” said a doctor. The state government ordered an inquiry.
“Sanaullah and Kumar were assigned gardening duty. At 8am, they had an altercation and Kumar hit him on the head and face with a brick,” said jail superintendent Rajni Sehgal, who has been suspended.
But a jail official said on condition of anonymity, “Sanaullah made some remarks about Sarabjit, which probably infuriated Vinod Kumar.”
“This obvious retaliation to the death of Sarabjit Singh is condemnable. We call upon the government of India to ensure Sanaullah receives the best medical care, investigate the matter thoroughly and punish the perpetrators,” the Pakistan foreign office said in a statement.
The external affairs ministry called the incident regrettable and said it would be thoroughly investigated and the guilty punished. "It was not a pre-meditated attack," said a home ministry official.
A second post-mortem report concluded that Sarabjit Singh had been attacked with the motive of killing him. Preliminary findings on cause and time of death were similar to those on the death certificate issued by Lahore's Jinnah hospital.
Dr Gurmanjit Rai, head of forensic medicine at the Government Medical College, Patti, said Singh's stomach, gall bladder, heart and kidneys were missing and a request had been sent to Lahore for these. He explained it was standard practice to extract viscera for post-mortem.
Dr Rai also said they had asked Pakistani authorities for the first post-mortem report but had been sent the death certificate instead. "If we'd got the first report, we could have come out with several other facts about the death."