Cutting across party lines, central and state political leaders paid rich tributes to Sarabjit Singh at his 'bhog' in his ancestral Bhikhiwind town on Saturday.
Almost all political leaders, and even the family members of the Indian prisoner who was fatally assaulted in a Lahore jail, vented anger against Pakistan and stressed that time had come to fight for the release of other Indian prisoners languishing in jails across the border.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal termed the act "very cowardly" and said, "Sarabjit spend 23 dark years in a Pakistani jail.
And in the end, he was killed brutally. We all can understand the pain of the family, which kept on fighting for two decades for his release."
As promised, the chief minister handed over cheques of Rs 25 lakh each to Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur, wife Sukhpreet Kaur and daughters Swapandeep and Poonam. Badal also announced that one daughter of Sarabjit would be recruited as naib tehsildar whereas the other would be given the job of a school teacher.
The state had always stood by this family and all help would be extended to it, he assured.
Senior Congress leader and former union minister Ambika Soni, who was also present, said, "We feel for this family that fought a long battle but could not bring Sarabjit home. Efforts were made by everyone to fight for the release of Sarabjit Singh but Pakistan remained adamant.
"The way Sarabjit was treated and later attacked in a Pakistani jail is highly unfortunate and will not be tolerated. The Congress high command and the UPA government will take up the matter with Pakistan and also fight for other Indian prisoners lodged in Pak jails."
Speaking on the occasion, Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur said, "It is a relief that the state and union governments are standing by the family today. But still I feel that had the Congress-led UPA government, especially the prime minister, taken up the matter with Pakistan seriously, Sarabjit would have returned home."
She even mentioned that her meetings with numerous national leaders did not bear results just because the matter was not taken seriously.
Stressing that her brother was tortured in Kot Lakhpat jail, Dalbir Kaur said, "My mission has not ended. Now, I will raise my voice for many such Sarabjits languishing in Pakistani jails. I appeal to the union government that since we have already lost one life, now please take up the issue of release of many other Indians languishing in Pakistani jails."
She also appealed to the suffering families of such persons to unitedly fight for their release from Pakistani jails.
Cabinet ministers Bikram Majithia, Gulzar Singh Ranike, Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Bhagat Chunni Lal, MP Rattan Singh Ajanla, state BJP chief Kamal Sharma, state BJP vice-president Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna, CLP leader Sunil Jakhar, National Commission for SC/ST vice-chairman Dr Raj Kumar Verka, Congress MLA OPSoni and others were also present at the 'bhog' ceremony, held on the premises of a school.
Another daughter cries for help
During the 'bhog' ceremony, a woman identified as Harjit Kaur tried to attract attention of the gathered politicians and sought their help to get her father released from Pakistani jail. She slammed the successive governments for "ignoring" many similar cases.
As she was whisked out of the 'pandal' by Punjab Police women personnel, Harjit told media persons, "My father Joginder Singh was in BSF and was taken away by the Pakistanis while on duty on the border in 1971. Many people who have been released from Pakistan jails have told me that my father is languishing there and had been badly tortured." she lamented that the family had not received any help.