Sarabjit should be declared a martyr, demands family; Punjab mourns

Last Updated: Thu, May 02, 2013 05:36 hrs

Bhikhiwind (Punjab): The family of Sarabjit Singh, who succumbed to injuries after being brutally assaulted in a Lahore jail, has demanded that his body be handed over to them and he should be declared a "martyr".

The family has set forth the demand to the Union Home Ministry. They have also demanded that his body be cremated with full state honours, Raj Kumar Verka, Vice Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes, told PTI.

They have also demanded that the Centre take full responsibility of the family, he said.

Verka said he has forwarded the demands to the Union Home Ministry and is in touch with the Central leaders, including Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde himself.

The government will hold a meeting today to consider the demands of Sarabjit's family, he said.

Verka said Sarabjit's family members, who are with him at his New Delhi residence, are in a state of shock after receiving the news of his death.

Sarabjit's family, which had had gone to Pakistan on a 15-day visa on Sunday, two days after the assault, returned to India yesterday.

His wife Sukhpreet Kaur, daughters Poonam and Swapandeep Kaur and sister Dalbir Kaur had crossed over into India from Lahore through land border.

Sarabjit's hometown Bhikhiwind Thursday mourned his death in a hospital in Lahore.

Establishments in the town remained shut since morning.

The town, which had burst into a celebration mode in June 2012 by bursting of crackers and distributing sweets when incorrect reports came that Sarabjit was being released by the Pakistan government, Thursday woke up to receive the sad news of his death.

"We were expecting a miracle to happen. We wanted Sarabjit to recover. What the Pakistanis have done is cowardly. He had suffered in their jails for nearly 23 years and now they have murdered him," a visibly upset Bhikhiwind resident Kirpal Singh said as he and some others gathered outside the house of Sarabjit Singh.

Some residents also gathered outside the local gurdwara and protested against Pakistan.

With the family away in New Delhi, there was no one at their house here, 280 km from Chandigarh. The town is located close to the India-Pakistan international border.

Shops and other establishments in the town remained closed Thursday to mourn his death.

"Residents of the town were hoping and praying that Sarabjit would return in their midst one day. The Pakistani authorities have killed him by conspiracy," another resident Amrit Kaur said.

Sarabjit, 49, had suffered critical head injuries after an unprovoked and sudden assault by prisoners April 26.

Sarabjit was on death row in Pakistan since 1990 after being convicted by Pakistani courts for bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan, which left 14 people dead.

Sarabjit's family claimed that he was innocent and was arrested when he crossed over to Pakistan in an inebriated state.

Police in Pakistan, however, claimed that Sarabjit Singh, was involved in terror strikes.

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