The mortal remains of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, who died after being brutally assaulted in a Pakistani jail, were on Friday consigned to flames in his village with full state honours amid emotional scenes.
A contingent of Punjab Police reversed their arms and then fired shots in the air as a mark of respect to 49-year-old Sarabjit, who died on Thursday in a Lahore hospital.
The pyre was lit by Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur in the presence of his wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Swapandeep and Poonam and son-in-law Sanjay. Dalbir Kaur was assisted by local SAD MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha.
A large crowd comprising villagers and VIPs, including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, bid a heartfelt adieu to Sarabjit, whose body was brought to Bikhiwind late Thursday night 23 years after he inadvertently crossed over to Pakistan.
Massive crowd during Sarabjit Singh's funeral procession at his native village Bhikhiwind near Amritsar on Friday. (PTI)
The final journey of Sarabjit commenced at around 1.15 pm with his coffin, wrapped in the tricolour, being taken to a flower-bedecked hearse van stationed adjacent to a government school ground where the body had been placed for the people to pay their last respects.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi hugs Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit Singh, during his cremation at his native village Bhikhiwind in Amritsar. (PTI)
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur were among others present. Badal had announced a state funeral and three-day state mourning besides financial aid to the family and government jobs for his daughters.
A Granthi recited prayers at the cremation ground before the pyre was lit. People climbed rooftops of nearby houses to have a last glimpse of Sarabjit.
· Return of the native: Ex-spies left in the cold
· Did India miss chance to get Sarabjit safe?
Others present included Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal, state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, vice chairman of National SC Commission Raj Kumar Verka, Punjab BJP President Kamal Sharma and leaders representing various parties, including SAD, BJP and Congress.
Villagers consoled sobbing members of Sarabjit's family as the body was taken for last rites. His distraught daughters felt unwell during the funeral and had to be helped by the locals.
Slogans like 'Pakistan Murdabad' and 'Sarabjit Amar Rahe' (Long live Sarabjit) rent the air as his body was placed in the school ground to enable people to pay their respects. The mortal remains were later taken in a procession to the nearby village cremation ground.
· The Pakistani who stood up to their govt for Sarabjit
· Punish those responsible for Sarabjit's death: Pak media
Tight security arrangements were made at the cremation site in view of the presence of a large number of VIPs and additional police contingents were brought from Tarn Taran and other adjoining districts, including Amritsar.
Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarabjit Singh, reacts near Singh's funeral pyre at Bikhiwind village.(AFP)
The funeral procession took some 45 minutes to reach the cremation ground, about 400 metres from the school ground, after taking a round of the village.
· Concerns mount for other Indian prisoners in Pak
· Teary village rages in silence
· Pakistan gets into damage control mode
· Sarabjit's skull was broken into two pieces: autopsy panel