High drama was witnessed at the Attari border on Wednesday after Pakistan Rangers handed over the embalmed body of Indian prisoner Chamel Singh, who had died of alleged torture in Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore, in January.
Chamel Singh's family demanded that the body be handed over to them and had even brought an ambulance to take it home, but officials of the J&K government had already arranged an ambulance to take away the body.
Although the altercation over the issue had started even before the body was brought, the matter took a serious turn when J&K officials kept the body in their ambulance and Chamel Singh's family members, joined by BJP activists, squatted in front of the vehicle and did not allow it to pass. They also raised slogans against the J&K government.
"Our father was killed in the Lahore jail and we learnt about it on January 15. We requested the government to intervene, but no one listened to our pleas. This is the reason why we declined the government's offer for help when the body was brought at the border. They again disregarded us and took away the body in a non-AC ambulance. Our altercation with J&K officials and the Punjab Police continued for over half an hour. They finally had their way and took away the body in their ambulance," said Chamel Singh's sons Deepak Singh and Dara Singh. J&K officials refused to comment on the matter.
Earlier, Deepak, who reached the border along with Dara, said, "My father was a farmer and we lived together in Pargomal village of Akhnoor sector. In year 2008, my father went missing. Four years later, we received a letter from him that he was in Kot Lakhpat jail in connection with a case of spying. It came as a shock to us when we learnt that our father had died in jail in January. He was beaten to death. We want the Indian government to take up the matter with Pakistan and demand action against all those jail officials who tortured our father."
Deepak also showed his father's photographs and the letters sent by him.
"It was extremely painful for us to see the body. We never thought that our father would die in this manner and his body would be sent in a coffin," said Dara Singh with tears in his eyes.
Sat Sharma, a BJP leader from J&K who extended help to the family, said, "The Indian government must act and ask Pakistan how Chamel Singh died in jail. We will take up the matter with human rights organisations."
Chamel Singh's family members could not hold back their tears when his body was being taken out of a Pakistani ambulance and shifted to an Indian vehicle on the zero line.
The coffin in which the body was kept had "Chamel Singh-India" written on it.
Was 'missing' for four years
2008: Chamel Singh, a resident of Pargomal village of Akhnoor near Jammu, goes missing
2012: Family receives letter from Chamel that he is in a jail in Pakistan
Jan 15, 2013: They are told that Chamel has died in jail